Elizabeth and John Surma Pledge $1 Million for New GSPH Building, Renovations

Issue Date: 
October 1, 2012

The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health has received a $1 million gift from Elizabeth L. Surma (GSPH ’81) and her husband, U. S. Steel CEO and chair John P. Surma Jr., to support the school’s Building a Healthier World campaign.

The Surmas’ pledge, the largest single gift received since Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) initiated the campaign in 2009, will be used to provide matching funds for other major donations. The building campaign supports the construction of a new laboratory facility and upgrades to existing classroom and administrative spaces. These improvements will help GSPH to recruit and retain the best faculty and students.

“As the University celebrates 225 years of building better lives, I am deeply grateful to Becky and John Surma for their extraordinarily generous gift to the Graduate School of Public Health,” said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. “Their well-targeted investment represents their own deep commitment to building better and healthier lives for all of us. Their exceptional gift will make it possible for our Graduate School of Public Health to continue its efforts to eliminate health disparities, promote healthy aging, and encourage disease prevention, while also serving as an inspiration to other alumni and friends to join them in supporting the school.”

“John and I feel strongly about the importance of public health and higher education,” said Elizabeth Surma. “We knew there was a pressing need for donations to the capital campaign, and we wanted to encourage others to join us in contributing to this worthy cause.”The Surmas’ gift will be offered as a dollar-for-dollar match to other major donations to Pitt Public Health’s building fund. The match will allow participating donors to double the value of their gifts and to take advantage of increased naming opportunities.

“We are tremendously grateful for the Surmas’ extraordinary commitment,” said Donald S. Burke, GSPH dean and UPMC-Jonas Salk Chair of Global Health. “Improving our facilities will increase our research capabilities, solidifying the school’s position as a global leader in public health research, education, and practice. While the renovations and new laboratory building will certainly benefit our scientists, they also will allow students and teachers to be more efficient and productive. Smart classrooms, modern computer labs, and open, inviting common spaces will create cross-disciplinary connections.”

Elizabeth Surma earned a Master in Public Health degree from GSPH, where she developed an interest in care for the aging. Her thesis was an evaluation of geriatric day care in the United States. She worked in hospital administration in area facilities before opting to serve the community through participation in several boards, including the GSPH Health’s Board of Visitors.

“The Graduate School of Public Health changed my life significantly,” she said. “My education enabled me to have a career I loved in hospital administration, and also to become an informed volunteer.”

The Graduate School of Public Health’s $87 million construction and renovation project includes a laboratory pavilion scheduled for completion in the fall of 2013, which will add 58,000 square feet of laboratory space and a 215-seat auditorium. The renovation of the school’s existing facilities, which house the majority of the school’s classrooms, offices and laboratories, will be completed in 2016.