Pitt Magazine

This CGS alumna helped bring honor to nontraditional students

Cushman stands in front of a screen displaying an image of her younger self
Along with 12 other students, Cushman helped bring Alpha Sigma Lambda, a national honor society for nontraditional students, to Pitt in 1973. Photo by Tom Altany

Five decades ago, when Carol Cushman first came to Pitt, she was 31 years old and in search of new challenges. She took night classes on the Pittsburgh campus while working full time with the public information department at Duquesne Light Company and felt energized by the excitement of learning.

Cushman majored in English and excelled — yet she also felt distanced from the Pitt community. She wanted a way to connect with and support other nontraditional students who shared her scholarly ambitions and dedication to hard work. And she wasn’t the only one. What resulted is one of her proudest achievements — and the building of a legacy that continues to bolster the advancement of Pitt students.

In 1973, along with 12 other students, Cushman helped bring Alpha Sigma Lambda (ASL), to Pitt’s College of General Studies. The national honor society recognizes the achievements of part-time and nontraditional students, provides scholarships and helps create a community in which to thrive.

Last fall marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of Pitt’s ASL charter, a landmark the chapter celebrated with a digital exhibit at Hillman Library called “The Voice of the Adult Student — ASL Alpha Chi: Celebrating 50 Years of Academic Excellence.” It features photos, newspaper clippings and archival documents chronicling events through the 1970s, with special emphasis on 1971-1975, the years the Alpha Chi chapter was finding its footing while Pitt continued to expand access, evening classes and programs for working adults.

Many of Cushman’s (CGS ’75) personal ASL memorabilia are part of the display, which is fitting. She says the support she received from ASL and Pitt were key to helping her advance in her career. Today, she’s a retired vice president of the asset management group and retirement investment services at PNC and thinks back on her Pitt memories fondly — particularly because she knows today’s nontraditional students are still benefiting from the society she helped bring to campus.