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April 17, 2007
Contact: Robert Hill
412-624-8891 (office)

The Virginia Tech Tragedy

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg has sent the following message to members of the University community:

Tragedy struck—suddenly, sadly, and senselessly—at Virginia Tech yesterday. Under any circumstances, such a substantial loss of life would trigger feelings of disbelief and deep sorrow.

These events, though, have brought an even more intense form of pain to many of us, as they have to others. After all, most of those killed were young people actively engaged in the process of building the foundation for lives that they had every reason to believe would be rich and full—and of more normal length. Then, without warning, their lives were taken from them, and they were taken in the middle of a campus, a place that should reflect the best of human nature and not its worst.

It was their own desire to help nurture a positive campus culture that led our student leaders to craft the Pitt Promise, a vow now taken by incoming freshmen at our opening convocation each year. The statement introducing that pledge declares that our institutional commitment “to the advancement of learning and service to society” is “best accomplished in an atmosphere of mutual respect and civility, self-restraint, concern for others, and academic integrity.” Even more directly relevant is the first passage of the Pitt Promise, committing our students to “the concept of a civil community which abhors violence.”

Obviously, no such expression of collective aspiration could have protected his victims from the attacks of the Virginia Tech gunman. However, a shared commitment to civility and nonviolence can help set a community tone consistent with the values we seek to advance in our own University—respect for others and reverence for life, among them. Reflecting on those values at a time like this one underscores the depth of the Virginia Tech tragedy. It also can remind us of the one thing that, more than anything else, makes universities so special—the vibrancy of the people with whom we share our campus home.

Today, we mainly mourn the loss of so many precious lives at Virginia Tech. However, this also may be an especially appropriate moment for us to recommit to each other, as well as to the values that are our bond. As we move forward together, then, let me extend my best wishes for your health, your happiness, and your success. Let me also extend my thanks to each of you. By your presence and through your work, you have helped make the University of Pittsburgh an even more special place.

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