Pitt Trustee John Pelusi Cares Deeply About Student-Athletes’ Lives On and Off the Field

Issue Date: 
December 5, 2011

He and his wife, Cathy, commit $1.5 million to Life Skills Program for Pitt players

Cathy and John PelusiCathy and John Pelusi

University of Pittsburgh alumnus John Pelusi values the solid foundation for life that Pitt helped him build during his college days in the classroom and on the football field.

He remembers vividly the thrill of the Pitt Panthers winning an NCAA national football championship in 1976 when he was the starting center for the team. And he recalls the intellectual discipline required to obtain his two degrees from Pitt: a BA from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences in 1977 and an MPA degree in public management and policy from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in 1979.

Now a devoted family man and a successful businessman, Pelusi hasn’t forgotten the encouragement, support, and mentoring he received along the way, especially during his Pitt undergraduate and graduate years. In honor of all of those life-affirming gifts, Pelusi and his wife, Cathy, have made a commitment of $1.5 million to support the Cathy and John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program. The program helps develop and prepare Pitt student-athletes for success off the field, providing instruction in career development, life financial skills, leadership and character development, and community development.

“This is our way of continuing the proud tradition of alumni supporters helping student-athletes succeed during their playing years and beyond,” Pelusi said. “We are thrilled that the life skills program enables the University to provide comprehensive services through a team of dedicated Pitt staff who advise Panther student-athletes.”

Pelusi is the executive managing director and managing member of Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P. (HFF), a leading commercial real estate and capital market services provider, and CEO and vice chair of HFF, Incorporated, a New York Stock Exchange public holding company for HFF. He has served on the Pitt Board of Trustees for 15 years, received Pitt’s Varsity Letter Club Award of Distinction in 2005, was named a University of Pittsburgh Legacy Laureate in 2007, and also serves as a University of Pittsburgh Trustee for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). He and Cathy Pelusi, who is an active community volunteer, are also members of the Cathedral of Learning Society—a recognition society for donors who have made lifetime contributions to the University of $1 million or more.

“The Pelusis are wonderful people,” commented Penny Semaia, the Pitt assistant athletic director who manages the Pelusi Family Life Skills Program coordinating team. “They share great ideas and resources with us, and they are so passionate about developing character and supporting the community.”

Semaia said student-athletes need to balance their studies with demanding athletic schedules. The time required for workouts, practices, competitions, and travel often means that student-athletes must limit other activities, such as job opportunities and participating in other campus programs. They are also in the spotlight and therefore bear the responsibility of representing the University.

The Pelusis have a special interest in the community service aspect of the life-skills program, believing that changing people’s lives for the better today allows those individuals to change others’ lives for the better in the future.

John Pelusi recalled that former Pitt football coach John Majors insisted that football players spend time visiting Children’s Hospital. “Because of that, I learned early on how my trials and tribulations paled in comparison to those of others,” said Pelusi.

Pelusi said Majors was one of the best teachers he had. It is not surprising that Majors and his wife, Mary Lynn, were among several individuals whom the Pelusis have chosen to honor through gifts to the life skills program.

Other gifts have been made in honor of John’s parents, John and Jean Anne Pelusi, Sr.; Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and his wife, Nikki Nordenberg; Frances and Charles “Corky” Cost; Ryta and Sam Sciullo; Jacqueline and Pitt men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon; and the 1976 national championship Panther football team.

The Pelusis have also acknowledged their own four children with a gift to the program, recognizing daughters Jamie, Jacquie, and Jodie and their son, John. John and Jamie are both recent graduates of Pitt and both were student-athletes—Jamie (SOC WK ’06) was the goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team, and John (CBA ’09, KGSB ’11) was a member of the Panther football team.