Alumni endow 50th Anniversary Scholarship Fund

When it comes to loyal alumni, it's hard to beat Frank '64-'66 and Mary Cattoni Rizzo '64-'66. 

Frank, who was originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Mary, who came from Bradford, met while working on the committee for the first Winter Weekend. They're not only proud alumni who attend many events on campus, they're particularly proud of being early alumni.

"It's kind of a unique thing," said Frank, who loves to regale staff members with tales from his days on "campus," which at that time was two buildings a mile apart.

"There aren't a lot of Harvard people who can say, 'I was there when it started.'"

So when the 50th anniversary rolled around, "We got very sentimental about it. We wanted to do something or in some way be involved."

The Rizzos already have a scholarship that they began at the urging of classmate Bill Krieg '64-'66. This time, they wanted to seed a scholarship that anyone could contribute to in honor of the 50th anniversary of Pitt-Bradford.

The Rizzos donated $10,000 to endow The Pitt-Bradford 50th Anniversary Commemorative Scholarship Fund. Mary is retired from ExxonMobil, which generously matched their donation three-to-one, kicking in another $30,000.

"If we set it up as a 50th anniversary, maybe some alumni from the '60s would be willing to throw a couple of dollars in it and reconnect with the old school," Frank said. "We know that students could use the help."

The Rizzos know first-hand what scholarship help can mean to students. Mary, a good student at Bradford High, earned academic scholarships and lived at home while attending Pitt-Bradford.

For Frank, the story was a little different.

In 1964, Baby Boomers were beginning to flood colleges and Pitt was feeling the squeeze. The fall before, it had opened up three regional campuses, in Bradford, Greensburg and Titusville, to accommodate the increase in students.

"I didn't have the greatest grades," Frank admitted, "but Pitt-Bradford had openings and was taking students." Frank's father was a big football fan who was attracted to Pitt football. The family met Pitt-Bradford President Dr. Donald Swarts at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City, where he had traveled to interview students.

"Next thing I knew, we were packing up the car and driving Route 6 to Bradford," he said. "It was a struggle for me, but Pitt-Bradford was a receiving place, and the teachers were as giving as you could want. A lot of them were almost as young as we were."

After two years in the nurturing environment of Pitt-Bradford, both Frank and Mary went  on to earn the bachelor's degrees in Pittsburgh. Mary earned a Master of Library Science, then both earned Master of Business Administration degrees from the New York Institute of Technology with the help of Exxon, in Mary's case, and the G.I. Bill, in Frank's.

"The giving concept runs through our whole education and college experience, and you have to pay it forward," Frank said.

The Rizzos are not alone - 65 alumni, retirees and friends of the university have contributed to the scholarship also.

For more information on the scholarship or to donate, contact Jill Ballard, executive and managing director of the Bradford Educational Fund,jballard@pitt.eduor (814)362-5091.