Pitt Inducts New Members Into Cathedral of Learning Society

Issue Date: 
July 9, 2012

More than 150 people gathered on June 22 in the Cathedral of Learning Commons Room for the induction of the Cathedral of Learning Society’s newest members. Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and other senior University leaders inducted the donors into the society, which was established in 1999 to recognize individuals who have made lifetime gifts of $1 million or more to Pitt.

“As the centerpiece of our campus, the Cathedral of Learning is a beacon for those seeking the highest quality higher education from a world-class university,” said Nordenberg. “The exceptional generosity of the members of our Cathedral of Learning Society, as well as their belief in our important educational mission, likewise is a noble pinnacle from which students, faculty, staff, and community members can draw hope and inspiration. As we celebrate our 225 years of building better lives, I am touched and humbled by these individuals’ thoughtful and selfless contributions to the ongoing progress of this University.”

The 2012 Cathedral of Learning Society inductees are Leonard “Len” H. Berenfield and the late Barbara G. Berenfield, Joan and Thomas G. Bigley, Ada C. and George A. Davidson Jr., Albert B. Ferguson Jr. and the late Louise E. Ferguson, the late May M. Gregg and the late Richard F. Gregg, the late Bernice L. Lerner and the late Morton “Mort” S. Lerner, the late Edgar L. Levenson, the McKamish Family, the late Anne Salmon and the late Honorable J. Quint Salmon, Cynthia D. and David S. Shapira, Barbara and Herbert S. Shear, and Janet L. Swanson.

Barbara G. and Leonard “Len” H. Berenfield

Leonard “Len” Berenfield received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1964. He completed his program in three years, spurred in part by his desire to marry fellow Peabody High School graduate Barbara Gelman.

After his graduation from Pitt, Berenfield worked for a year at Westinghouse Electric Corporation, where he designed nuclear reactor components at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory. He then joined Berenfield Containers, founded by his grandfather in 1914. As president and chief executive officer, Berenfield led the business through periods of remarkable growth that earned Berenfield Containers a national reputation as an innovator in industrial packaging production.

As the business expanded, the Berenfields moved to Cincinnati, dedicating themselves to their family and their community. Barbara Berenfield volunteered with such organizations as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Art Museum, while Len Berenfield extended his expertise to community outreach organizations, including the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.

A family history of heart defects led the Berenfields to commit to supporting advances in cardiac research through the establishment of the Leonard H. Berenfield Graduate Fellowship in Bioengineering and the Berenfield Family Engineering Legacy Fund in the Pitt Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering. With their generosity came the hope that physician-scientists could continue pioneering life-saving techniques and products like those that saved the lives of the Berenfields’ son and grandson. Their support of important Pitt initiatives extended to other Swanson School programs, as well as to Pitt’s Department of Athletics.

Barbara Berenfield passed away in February 2012, but the legacy of generosity that she established in life with Len Berenfield will continue to benefit students at the University of Pittsburgh well into the future.

Joan and Thomas G. Bigley

Joan and Thomas Bigley grew up in Pittsburgh’s Mt. Washington neighborhood. They graduated from South Hills High School, where Thomas Bigley was a member of the school’s City League championship baseball team. His performance on the baseball diamond so impressed Ralph Mitterling, head coach of the Pitt men’s baseball team, that the coach offered Bigley a full scholarship to attend Pitt. Once enrolled, Bigley’s involvement on campus took a wide berth: catcher on the varsity baseball team, a Pitt Pathfinder, a participant in Pitt’s ROTC U.S. Air Force Reserve program, membership in numerous leadership and honor societies, and, last but not least, a spot as a walk-on quarterback for Pitt’s football team.

After Bigley earned his Pitt Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1956, he began his career as an accountant and rose to become managing partner of Ernst & Whinney’s Pittsburgh office in 1979, a role he kept when the firm merged in 1989 to become Ernst & Young.

The parents of five children, the Bigleys have remained deeply involved with the University of Pittsburgh. Thomas Bigley served more than 20 years on Pitt’s Board of Trustees, and Joan Bigley has shared the Pitt tradition of Lantern Night with new female students as well as serving as a guest coach for the women’s basketball team. They credit their successes to Thomas Bigley’s Pitt scholarship all those years ago and remain loyal fans and supporters of Pitt’s scholar-athletes. In an effort to reciprocate for Pitt’s investment in Thomas Bigley, the couple  supports a wide range of University initiatives, including the Joan Bigley Endowed Baseball Scholarship, the Coach Ralph “Sarge” Mitterling Baseball Scholarship, and the Jim and Helen Bodamer Endowed Baseball Scholarship.

Ada C. and George A. Davidson Jr.

Before enrolling at Pitt, George Davidson worked in the oil fields of New Mexico and Colorado. After graduating in 1961 with his Pitt degree in petroleum engineering, Davidson took a job in Washington, D.C., as an engineer with the Federal Power Commission, where he began his professional career and met his wife, Ada.

The Davidsons returned to Pittsburgh in 1966, and George Davidson began a career with Consolidated Natural Gas that would last 30 years, spanning numerous management and executive positions as well as the company’s merger with Dominion Resources. He served as chair of Dominion’s board until his retirement in August 2000.

Ada Davidson, meanwhile, cultivated a reputation as one of the region’s finest gardeners, and her work was often the centerpiece of garden tours benefiting many civic organizations. Her love for gardening blossomed into Bridgewater Gate, a store in Beaver County that she founded with their daughter, Melissa.

George Davidson has remained active in the University community through, among other things, serving for more than 25 years on the University’s Board of Trustees and serving as chair of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and Swanson School of Engineering Boards of Visitors. In addition, he was honored by Pitt as a Swanson School of Engineering Distinguished Alumnus and a Legacy Laureate.

Together, the Davidsons have made lasting contributions to Pitt that include gifts to establish the George A. Davidson, Jr. Unit Operations Laboratory in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, the George A. Davidson, Jr. MBA Endowed Scholarship Fund, and The George Davidson Chemical Engineering Graduate Fellowship Fund.

Louise E. and Albert B. Ferguson Jr.

By 1943, Albert B. Ferguson Jr. was well on his way to establishing a life of professional and personal accomplishment: During that year, he married Louise Enequist, graduated from Harvard Medical School, and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served as a physician during the final years of World War II. Just 10 years later, the University of Pittsburgh recruited the 34-year-old physician to chair its Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

At Pitt, Ferguson established both the orthopaedic residency program and the department’s first orthopaedic research laboratory; pioneered the use of new materials for hip and knee replacements, setting the medical standard for using metals in the human body; and trained dozens of the world’s top orthopaedic surgeons. He also was a pioneer in the field of sports medicine and served as orthopaedic surgeon for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Pirates.

His leadership skills and ability earned Ferguson a variety of honors and distinctions, including election as president of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA), and receipt of both the AOA-Zimmer Award for Distinguished Contributions to Orthopaedics and the Pennsylvania Medical Society Distinguished Service Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Louise Ferguson, who passed away in March 2012, was a dedicated volunteer at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC who shared her passion for outdoor sports with her children and grandchildren. During their 70 years together, Albert and Louise crafted lives characterized by commitment to family and the greater good through philanthropy to the School of Medicine Research Fund, the Dr. Albert Ferguson Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery, and the Albert B. Ferguson Orthopaedic Residents Education Fund.

May M. and Richard F. Gregg

The late Richard F. Gregg graduated from Pittsburgh’s Peabody High School and enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1935 and was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma National Honorary Scholastic Society. Gregg began his career as a statistician at the Union Trust Company but left to answer the call of duty, serving as a communications liaison officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

The late May Masterson immigrated to the United States from Scotland as a child. She graduated from the University of Oregon, where she was a member of the Young Business Women’s Club, Kappa Delta Sorority, and the Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society. The two married in Pittsburgh in 1948.

May Gregg began a career as a schoolteacher, while Richard Gregg joined Mellon National Bank and Trust Company in 1949 as a trust investment assistant, advancing to the position of assistant vice president. His responsibilities included managing Pennsylvania’s $2.8 billion Public School Teachers Retirement Fund.

The Greggs, having benefited from Richard Gregg’s Pitt business education, left a bequest—now known as the May M. Gregg Endowed Fund — to the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business to assist aspiring graduate business students.

Bernice L. and Morton “Mort” S. Lerner

As a member of the Pitt Panthers men’s basketball team, Student Congress, Men’s Council, and Omicron Delta Kappa, Morton “Mort” Lerner took advantage of myriad opportunities the University of Pittsburgh offered. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the College of Business Administration in 1949 and his Master of Retailing degree in 1950.

When he moved to New York after graduating from Pitt to work at Bloomingdale’s, Lerner began more than just his career. He met Bernice Levenson, a summa cum laude graduate of Duke University, and the two began their 42-year marriage in 1954. Afterward, they moved to his wife’s native North Carolina and joined Phil’s Shoe Store, which was started by her father in 1922. Morton Lerner purchased the business in 1956, and he and Bernice Lerner served as chief operating officer and president, respectively.

The family business became Lerner Shoes, a leading innovator in the shoe industry that was purchased in 1984 by the German-based shoe retailer The Deichmann Group. By the time Morton Lerner retired in 1993, the former Phil’s Shoe Store had grown to become the Rack Room Shoes national chain.

The Lerners contributed generously to a number of institutions, including the University of Pittsburgh. They established the Bernice L. and Morton S. Lerner Chair in the University Honors College, the Morton S. and Bernice L. Lerner Scholarship in the Department of Athletics, as well as a gift supporting the state-of-the-art Petersen Sports Complex.

Morton Lerner, who passed away in 1996, was honored as a Pitt Varsity Letterman of Distinction, and he also received the Bicentennial Medallion of Distinction. In 1987, both Bernice Lerner, who passed away in 2010, and Morton Lerner were named Golden Panthers of the Year.

Edgar L. Levenson The late Edgar Levenson was born in 1922 to Eva Mae and David Levenson in Pittsburgh and grew up in Squirrel Hill. He graduated with honors from Taylor Allderdice High School and then enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh. He graduated from Pitt in 1943 with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology.

After graduation, Levenson served in the U.S. Navy during the final days of World War II. Upon his return to Pittsburgh in 1946, Edgar Levenson joined the wholesale furniture business started by his father, which included Retail Furniture Stores, Inc., and its subsidiaries, Standard Furniture and Reichart Furniture Company. After his father’s death in 1953, Edgar Levenson served as president of Standard Furniture until the store’s closing in 1968.

He was also among six investors in the Wheeling Antenna Company, Inc., which was founded by his brother Donald in 1952 and acquired in 1980 by Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI), then one of the largest cable systems in the United States.

During retirement, Edgar Levenson devoted himself to travel, to caring for his mother, and to philanthropy, quietly supporting a wide range of Pittsburgh institutions. He established the Edgar L. Levenson Grant Fund in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and supported several other scholarship funds as well as the Israel Heritage Classroom before he passed away in 2011.

The McKamish Family

In 1975, Harold McKamish established McKamish Metals, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based sheet metal contracting company. After his retirement in 1983, his sons, David and Dennis, partnered to expand the business into a full-service mechanical contracting company, now known as McKamish Inc. David McKamish is president and CEO, while Dennis is chief financial officer.

McKamish Inc. is one of the region’s premier mechanical contracting companies and is a pioneer and leader in building-information modeling, a technology that generates 3-D models that detect potential design problems prior to construction. In 2008, the Pittsburgh Business Times named McKamish Inc. one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in Western Pennsylvania, and in 2011, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named it one of Pittsburgh’s Top Workplaces.

McKamish Inc. has been integral in the construction of many prominent new facilities, including the CONSOL Energy Center, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Hillman Cancer Center, Google Pittsburgh’s offices at Bakery Square, Pitt’s Biomedical Science Tower 3, and Pitt’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) at Benedum Hall.

A strong corporate culture of philanthropy has encouraged McKamish Inc. employees to donate time and money to the Bethel Orphanage in Mexico and to support such nonprofit organizations as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Food for the Hungry, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Leading by example, McKamish Inc., also has supported the University of Pittsburgh through contributions to the Petersen Sports Complex and has also made gifts to establish the David “Buck” Buchanan Fund for Blood Vessel Research, The McKamish Family  Complex in MSCI, the McKamish Family Endowed Scholarship, and the McKamish Family Fox Chapel Scholarship.

Anne and the Honorable J. Quint Salmon The late J. Quint Salmon left his native New York City to study at the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1928. After earning his LLB degree from Pitt’s School of Law in 1931, Salmon established a legal practice in Beaver, commencing a career that would include the holding of executive positions in several professional societies.

The late Anne Daniels, also a New York City native, earned her master’s degree in mathematics from Columbia University. She taught school for eight years in New York before moving to Pittsburgh in 1941 to begin what would become a 65-year marriage with J. Quint Salmon.

In 1970, J. Quint Salmon was appointed Judge of Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County, the county’s first Jewish judge. One year later, he was elected to a 10-year term on the bench before being designated Senior Judge in 1977, serving assignments in 30 judicial districts.

J. Quint Salmon maintained close ties to his alma mater as a member of the Pitt Alumni Association, through service on the School of Law Board of Visitors and the Alumni Council, as a charter member of the Law Fellows, and as chair of the University of Pittsburgh Alumni Giving Fund. He actively recruited talented students from Beaver County, coordinating with the Beaver alumni group to ensure deserving students could attend Pitt.

J. Quint Salmon’s belief that “the best thing alumni can do is to champion the cause of higher education” was shared by his wife, and the couple established the Judge J. Quint and Anne Salmon Chair in Law to provide support for a professor with eminence in the field of dispute resolution. Additionally, they provided support for the College of Business Administration, the Department of Athletics, and the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.

Cynthia D. and David S. Shapira

In 1971, David Shapira joined Giant Eagle, Inc.—the Southwestern Pennsylvania retail grocery chain cofounded by his grandfather, Joseph Goldstein, in 1931. During the course of a 40-year career in which he served in a number of executive positions, Shapira oversaw the grocery chain’s growth into a major fuel and food retailer that employs almost 40,000 people who serve nearly five million customers annually. Since retiring as chairman, CEO, and president in January 2012, Shapira has served as executive chairman.

Cynthia Shapira began her career as a senior consultant with KPMG Peat Marwick before joining the Pappas Consulting Group Inc. as executive vice president. She went on to serve as executive director of Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics and executive director of the National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section. Currently, she assists nonprofit organizations throughout the United States as an independent management consultant.

The Shapiras share a deep commitment to the Pittsburgh region. David Shapira serves on the boards of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the Extra Mile Education Foundation. Cynthia Shapria gives her time to the boards of the Jewish Federations of North America, the Children’s Institute, A+ Schools, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Together, they also volunteer with the United Way of Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The Shapiras have extended their generosity in multiple ways, including the establishment of the Frieda G. and Saul F. Shapira BRCA Cancer Research Fund and the Frieda G. and Saul F. Shapira BRCA Endowed Cancer Research Fund at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Both funds honor David’s mother and father—who was himself a 1934 graduate of Pitt.

Barbara and Herbert S. Shear Herbert Shear represents the third successive generation of family leadership in a business that dates back to 1898, when his grandfather Hyman Shear bought a wagon and a blind horse. That purchase laid the foundation for a business that became the H. Shear Trucking Company. Herbert Shear’s father, Samuel—a graduate of Pitt’s School of Pharmacy— eventually expanded the firm into public warehousing and distribution services and changed its name to the General Commodities Warehouse and Distribution Company (GENCO). Herbert Shear joined GENCO in 1971 and began implementing changes that would transform the firm into GENCO ATC.

Since then, Herbert Shear’s contributions, as GENCO ATC chair and CEO, to his company and the logistics industry have earned him honors that include the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Distinguished Service Award, the Salzberg Medallion from Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, and Ernst & Young’s Western Pennsylvania Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Shear’s wife, Barbara, earned her Master of Education degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1973 and taught in the McKeesport Area School District. She has been a civic leader in the region, serving on the boards of Rodef Shalom Congregation, the Pittsburgh Symphony Association, and the Jewish National Fund. As secretary of GENCO ATC, Barbara Shear has partnered with her husband, and the couple has  built the company into North America’s second-largest third-party logistics company and a leader in reverse logistics.

Together, the Shears have followed the example of Herbert Shear’s father, quietly giving back to the community with philanthropy that both the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and the Association of Fundraising Professionals have recognized with public honors. They have extended their University commitments—including Herbert Shear’s service on Pitt’s Board of Trustees —through gifts to the Petersen Sports Complex, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and the schools of the health sciences, including the School of Pharmacy, where they established the Samuel T. and Herbert S. Shear Family Scholarship.

Janet L. Swanson Janet Swanson earned her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University and lived in Israel for two years before returning to the United States. She came to Pittsburgh to pursue her master’s degree in library and information science at the University of Pittsburgh, a course of study that she completed in 1976. She met Pitt alum John Swanson at a New Year’s Eve party and when the couple married in 1983, she became a loving stepmother to John’s three sons and —later — a much-adored grandmother. Out of a desire to share with those less fortunate, the couple established a tradition of donating to each other’s favorite charities for special occasions such as anniversaries and birthdays.

In addition to devoting her attention to her family, Swanson dedicates herself to strengthening the animal-human bond, caring for a number of companion pets both in and outside of the Swanson home. Her commitment extends to her unparalleled support of some of the nation’s top wildlife health centers and veterinary programs.

Acting on her long-held belief that “education is the key to everything,” Swanson established the Janet L. Swanson Director of Jewish Life at the University of Pittsburgh in partnership with The Edward and Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh. Her gift ensures that a vibrant Jewish student campus life can continue to be nurtured, helping Pitt students to enjoy a strong community to engage in studies of Judaism, Jewish history, and Jewish culture during their time at Pitt.