Features & Articles

Homecoming 2019: Commemorating African American Alumni, George Romero and More

It’s Homecoming season. As ever, that means reconnecting with old friends, revisiting the old stomping grounds, reminiscing on the college years — whether that was long- or not-so-long ago. 

Yearly staples like the fireworks and laser show are back, of course. The Panthers take on the University of Miami at Heinz Field on Saturday, Oct. 26. 

But this year, Pitt celebrates history in new ways with a look at 50 years of black history on campus from the African American Alumni Council (AAAC) and a new archival collection from horror-master George A. Romero at Hillman Library. 

The Pitt Alumni Association is hosting events for the entire Pitt family and schools and groups also are celebrating with their current and former members. See the full Homecoming Schedule of events, or get a taste with a few highlights below. 

African American Alumni Council

The AAAC has, for the past year, been commemorating the half-century since the historic 1969 computer center takeover, the event that led to a new era of progress and partnership with the African-American community on campus. 

This year, former AAAC president and Pitt alumna Linda Wharton Boyd is hoping for “the largest return to campus in history” for Pitt’s African American alumni community. The 50th year commemoration weekend includes a full schedule of events including the below. 

50th Celebration Computer Center History Exhibit

Thursday, Oct. 24, noon–6 p.m.
William Pitt Union, Connie Kimbo Art Gallery

Stop by the gallery for this display of documents, artifacts, photos and various memorabilia collected from Pitt alumni, University archives and others. The display covers activities from 1968 to 2019.

Time capsule ceremony 

Friday, Oct. 25, 1:30–2 p.m.
Hillman Library, Dick Thornburgh Room

The AAAC/University 2069 Time Capsule Project began as a way to codify and preserve the rich history, cultural legacy and experiences of those in the Pitt community from 1969 to the present. Through letters, photos, video, artifacts and other materials, contributors to the time capsule will share and communicate with the future their assessment of life, times and diversity at the University today and their aspirations for 2069. The capsule will be buried at a to-be-determined location on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, January 15, 2020.

Book launch and panel discussion

Friday, Oct. 25, 2–3:30 p.m.
Hillman Library, Dick Thornburgh Room

“Say It Loud” is a book of oral histories collected from people involved with the 1969 computer center takeover. The book captures and commemorates the history of black student activism at Pitt that was the catalyst of major social and political change.

Documentary film debut

Friday, Oct. 25, 8–9:30 p.m.
Alumni Hall, Room 121

This documentary concept, a sequel to “Doorway to Distinction,” is a tribute to the University of Pittsburgh African American experience as it developed, intensified and elevated in the 50-year sweep beginning with the Black-student occupation of the University computer center in 1969 to 21st-century milestones and achievements of students, alumni, faculty and administrators. The event is free and open to the public.

Sankofa Gala and Distinguished African American Alumni Awards

Saturday, Oct. 26, 6–10 p.m.
Alumni Hall, Connolly Ballroom

The crescendo event of a yearlong commemoration, the gala will celebrate distinguished alumni and achievements with food, live music, performances and more. Featuring Lamman Rucker, Pittsburgh native, film actor and star of hit Oprah Winfrey Network television drama series, “Greenleaf.” Registration is $125, $75 for students. Open to the public. Black tie attire.

Five distinguished alumni will be honored for excellence in their professional careers and for carving a national footprint with outstanding contributions to society and the University community.

  • Daniel Armanios, Rhodes Scholar and Marshall Scholar, Swanson School of Engineering
  • Yvonne Cook, president of the Pittsburgh Highmark Foundation, College of General Studies
  • Marvin Perry Jones, varsity athlete and retired Pan Am airline pilot, Swanson School of Engineering
  • Charles Smith, former NBA basketball player and Olympian. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
  • Carol Wise, chief operating officer, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

Annual Sankofa farewell fellowship brunch

Sunday, Oct. 27, 11 a.m.–1 p.m.
University Club

The public is invited to help honor six young alumni with Rising African American Leaders and Greek Leaders Awards. Registration is $65, $50 for students. 

  • Rodney Kizito (ENGR ’15)
  • Brian Burley (BUS ’13G)
  • Emiola Oriola (A&S ’13)
  • Jade Richardson (A&S ’14)
  • Lauren Wallace (BUS ’12, EDUC ’14G)
  • Christina Whittaker (BUS ’10)

George Romero Archival Collection Party

From 7–10 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, attend a party called “Living With the Dead,” celebrating the George A. Romero Archival Collection at Hillman Library. It’ll be the official grand opening of the exhibit, complete with interview and film clips of Romero and his films, zombie-themed trivia and activities, face makeup and staged readings of scenes from Romero scripts. 

The University Library System acquired the Romero Collection earlier this year. It’s a unique and comprehensive portrait of the late filmmaking pioneer who passed away in 2017 at age 77. 

“Living With the Dead” is one of a host of events taking place throughout October during Romero Lives!, an annual celebration of the beloved filmmaker. 

Panthers Forward — New class introduced

On Friday, Oct. 25, an event will be held to celebrate the students who have been accepted into the 2020 Panthers Forward program. 

Launched in fall 2018 by Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Panthers Forward is an innovative program that supports education loan debt relief and student success — just one of several new initiatives expanding Pitt’s affordability efforts. Each eligible student receives up to $5,000 in direct federal student loan relief upon graduation with a completely voluntary condition: that they pay it forward — and help other Pitt students succeed. The members of the Panthers Forward class are also connected to a group of alumni to support their professional success.