Stephen R. Tritch: A Leader with a Steady and Genteel Style

Issue Date: 
July 6, 2015

Holding a young grandson in each arm, Stephen R. Tritch stood at the front of the Pitt Board of Trustees meeting room, graciously accepting expressions of thanks from trustees and members of the University community. It was the close of the June 19 board meeting, and a circle of colleagues, family, and friends gathered around Tritch to celebrate his six-year tenure of leadership as he retired as Pitt’s board chair.  

Stephen R. Tritch holds his grandsons, from left, Jack and Will DuncanMoments before the meeting’s conclusion, the board passed a resolution honoring Tritch (ENGR ’71, BUS ’77G) for his service and dedication to the University. It also voted to name the nuclear engineering program in Pitt’s Swanson School the Stephen R. Tritch Program in Nuclear Engineering. He has served as a Pitt board member since 2007. 

A visibly moved Tritch voiced his gratitude to the crowded boardroom, saying, “I have been very honored to work with this board. It’s a cohesive board, and it’s been my pleasure to be a part of it.” Tritch noted the progress that the University had achieved with the board’s oversight in recent years, including stellar national recognition for the accomplishments of many University faculty and students; continued groundbreaking research; a record-breaking capital campaign; and Pitt’s move to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The challenges were many, too, he said, citing the 2011-2012 state budget crunch and a series of bomb threats on the Oakland campus. He commended the board’s ability to “remain aligned” as it “faced the tough issues.”

In an age of technological wizardry, Tritch guided Pitt’s Board of Trustees with steady and genteel leadership honed in industry and the corporate world. Tritch worked in various capacities at Westinghouse Electric Company for 37 years, ultimately becoming president and CEO and overseeing the company’s nuclear products and services worldwide. The company experienced dramatic corporate growth during his leadership tenure. He retired from Westinghouse in 2008.

Tritch gives high praise to his University of Pittsburgh education for making his flourishing career possible. His commitment to affordable higher education is rooted even more personally. Growing up in Butler, Pa., in a family of modest means, says Tritch, he was able to attend Pitt only because of its lower tuition for in-state students, a benefit that resulted from the University’s transition to public university status the year before he enrolled.

Pitt Chancellor Emeritus Mark A. Nordenberg said, “Throughout his service as board chair, Steve Tritch distinguished himself as a highly effective and deeply committed leader. He earned the respect and gratitude of the entire senior management team for his sound advice, tireless support, and significant contributions to Pitt’s progress.”

“Steve became chair under very difficult circumstances, following the tragic death of Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, who had been serving as board chair,” Nordenberg continued. “Even before he had been formally elected as chair, Steve became personally involved in our advocacy efforts in Harrisburg as we faced a challenging budget year. And because he had played a key role in keeping Westinghouse, a major employer, in Pennsylvania, his views received special attention from elected officials. Later, he extended those efforts by formally testifying before the Senate appropriations committee, which was a first for a Pitt board chair, at least in recent history.”

“Steve made many, wide-ranging contributions. To give just two examples, he was a source of thoughtful counsel during the bomb threat siege, and he helped take Pitt past the $2 billion mark in its recent fundraising campaign,” Nordenberg said.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, speaking during the June 19 board meeting, praised Tritch’s ability to guide the board through good and bad times. “To paraphrase the words of the American journalist James Cannon, in Steve [Tritch], the University ‘had the good fortune to find the right leader … whose character, ability, and experience fit the tide of history.’

“Through it all, Steve provided the ‘right leadership’ to move us through each obstacle. … I want him to know today how deeply appreciative we are for his service,” Gallagher added.