What’s in a Name?

Issue Date: 
April 27, 2008

The story behind how Nordy’s Place got its moniker

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia—Mark A. Nordenberg (aka Nordy to the students) is a lawyer and the seventeenth Chancellor (1995-present) of the University of Pittsburgh.


When I began my freshman year at Pitt in 2004, I didn’t know much about Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, let alone the history of the University’s chancellors. I quickly realized, however, that the buildings I visited every day were mapping that history for me. I resided in the Litchfield Towers (Edward H. Litchfield, 1956-65), had biology in Crawford Hall (Stanton Crawford, 1965-66), and would meet my friends for lunch in Posvar Hall (Wesley W. Posvar, 1967-91) after class.

As I became more involved in student activities, I heard stories from my peers about campus events and festivities in which “Nordy” participated. Finally realizing that the famous “Nordy” was, in fact, Chancellor Nordenberg, I couldn’t help but continue to reference our chancellor by this student-coined nickname. And if you don’t believe me, just check the first line of his Wikipedia entry: “Mark A. Nordenberg (aka Nordy to the students) is a lawyer and the seventeenth Chancellor (1995-present) of the University of Pittsburgh.”

Fast forward to the summer of 2007, when the University had completed multiple renovation projects within the William Pitt Union, including its Lower Level Recreation Center. Student Life administrators, acknowledging that the center would be used primarily for student events and functions, wanted Pitt students to have “naming rights.” The Student Government Board stepped up and sponsored a naming contest—the winner would be announced at the center’s grand opening. After seeing information about the contest on the popular student Web site, www.facebook.com, I began thinking of different names that students would associate with a cool, fun, and friendly atmosphere. I battled between “Pitt this” and “Panther that,” but I knew that to be the “chosen one,” my name had to be original.

One afternoon, I found myself wondering why our student-friendly chancellor didn’t have a room or building named for him. (I had not yet realized that the honor is usually reserved for chancellors who have either died or retired!) In my three-and-a-half years at Pitt, I have witnessed the chancellor toss a T-shirt over his blue-suited shoulder while shaking the hands of numerous students, attend multiple student functions, and simply take walks down Fifth Avenue with a friendly and welcoming smile. It just seemed like the perfect fit: Nordy’s Place. I quickly sent my e-mail entry to the William Pitt Union Recreation Center account and anxiously awaited the results.

The process for determining the winner was long and arduous. The Student Government Board members, along with Director of Student Life Kenyon Bonner, reviewed all entries, debated their appropriateness and catchiness, and submitted their final choice—Nordy’s Place—to Pitt Vice Provost and Dean of Students Kathy W. Humphrey.

It wasn’t until the end of the fall semester, though, that I learned a “Nordy’s Place” sign would soon be hanging outside the recreation center. When it was announced, I could hardly believe it. Not only was I surprised, but I was excited that I would be able to tell my children that I was instrumental in naming a part of the University of Pittsburgh campus! I’ve always taken great pride in my school, and I now know that this small but insightful contribution will go down in the history books… along with all the chancellors.

(Gina Scozzaro, a Pitt senior majoring in mathematics, expects to graduate in December 2008.)