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PITTSBURGH, PA – “Pittsburghers of the Year.” They’re the best at what they do. In the January issue, PITTSBURGH magazine salutes those individuals who embodied excellence on behalf of our city in 2004 with the “Pittsburgher of the Year” award.

The “Pittsburgher of the Year” award is bestowed annually on an individual, group or organization whose accomplishments have had a huge, positive impact on the region. The award originated in 1986, when the co-recipients were Dr. Wesley Posvar of the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Richard Cyert of Carnegie Mellon University.

The award has come to define what it means to be a Pittsburgher and has provided PITTSBURGH magazine with the opportunity to share our community’s best and brightest with the rest of the city, country and world.

Past winners have included: the Perry Sextuplets, representing the children of 2003 (2003); Pittsburgh foundations (2002); Mark Nordenberg and Jared Cohon (2001); and Martin McGuinn, Carol Brown and Tom O'Brien (2000). A complete list is included at the end of this press release.

“This year, we decided to divide the winners into four categories: the Thinkers, the Champions, the Samaritans and the Philanthropist,” said Betsy Benson, PITTSBURGH magazine publisher/editor. “We felt that several Pittsburghers in several distinctly different areas deserved recognition this year.”

Here are the “Pittsburghers of the Year” for 2004:

Nobel Prize winners Wangari Maathai, Finn Kydland and Edward Prescott

In Pittsburgh’s ongoing quest to address the question, “If this is no longer an industrial town, then what is it?” one obvious answer that often goes surprisingly unstated is: “It’s a university town.” Our academically heavyweight city rarely enjoys the higher-education street credibility boasted by the likes of Boston and San Francisco—but 2004 might just have had some positive impact on that situation, as our two largest schools, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, both had alumni and/or faculty win Nobel Prizes.

Before becoming the deputy environmental minister of Kenya, Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Muta Maathai was a biologist who earned her master’s degree at Pitt in 1966. The first black African woman to win a Nobel, Maathai founded the “Green Belt Movement,” which fought throughout the 1970s and ’80s for both environmental conservation and political freedom in Africa.

Mere weeks after Maathai’s honor, Carnegie Mellon economics professor Finn Kydland and his mentor, former CMU professor Edward Prescott, were awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for their work in the 1960s and ’70s analyzing the relationship between government policy and business cycles.

Olympic medalists Lauryn Williams and Swin Cash

In a town know for its sport legends, Lauryn Williams and Swin Cash have set a first – they are the first-ever young African-American women to be celebrated as Pittsburgh
sports heroes.

When Rochester, Pa., native Lauryn Williams went to Athens as part of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field team, her hope was a pretty straightforward one: to run real fast and bring home a medal. She did that—but she also served as an inspiration to countless athletes and students, at home and around the nation. Millions more who hadn’t seen her run in August heard Williams lauded by name in the opening moments of the first presidential debate in October, when the head of her alma mater, the University of Miami, was introducing the candidates.

And while fellow Olympian Swin Cash, a McKeesport-born basketball star who plays for the Detroit Shock, enjoyed the triumph of a gold medal in Greece, the bigger emotion came three months later, when her hometown announced it would be renaming its rec center in her honor.

Pittsburghers who lent a helping hand after the Flood of ’04

When Hurricane Ivan hammered Western Pennsylvania last September, homeowners and business owners alike suffered millions of dollars worth of damage. During the weeks that followed, a number of local people, singularly and in groups, stepped forward to help their neighbors.

Leading the pack were the men and women of the Salvation Army and the Red Cross, who spent the days immediately after the flood distributing life’s basic necessities—food, water, shelter—to those who’d been deprived of them. The employees of the Allegheny Emergency Operations Center, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the Allegheny County Health Department all leapt to work addressing the most urgent safety and medical crises flood victims faced. As for the countless neighborhood organizations, churches, charities and individuals who gave of their own time and money to help rebuild the lives of those around them—a simple “Thank you” seems insufficient, but it is incredibly heartfelt.

Foundation chief and political spouse Teresa Heinz Kerry

Thirty years ago, in the fall of 1974, the Pittsburgh Symphony Association held a fashion gala at which two-dozen local socialites dressed in perfect historical replicas of American first ladies’ gowns.

In addition to dresses worn by Martha Washington, Mary Todd Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt, the lineup included an imagined glimpse at an ultra-modern gown of the sort that might adorn the as-yet undetermined first lady of 1976. Wearing that gown? None other than Teresa Heinz, who, exactly three decades later, would be deep in the home stretch of husband John Kerry’s presidential campaign.

As we know, Teresa didn’t become the first lady after all—but she did become the first lady of recent note to remind the nation that Pittsburgh is worth paying attention to. Her eloquent speeches on the campaign trail drew attention to the sorts of environmental, cultural and education issues championed by the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments. Her position as the subject of many heated media commentaries ensured constant reinforcement of the fact that even postindustrial Pittsburgh is a center of Big Money. And her visible presence—sometimes in glorious tomato-red ensembles—reminded the nation that Heinz ketchup, in addition to being one of Pittsburgh’s most enduring legacies, is still the best ketchup on earth.

Teresa was also named “Pittsburgher of the Year” by PITTSBURGH magazine in 1994 for philanthropy.

PITTSBURGH magazine, Pittsburgh’s Number One magazine, keeps readers connected to a changing region with coverage ranging from arts and culture, health care and economic development to celebrity interviews and family activities. WQED Multimedia’s publishing division includes PITTSBURGH magazine, WEDDINGS magazine, HOME AND GARDEN magazine and BEAVER COUNTY magazine. To subscribe, call 1-800-495-READ or go to

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SUMMARY: The "Pittsburgher of the Year" award is bestowed annually on an individual or organization whose accomplishments have had a positive and far-reaching impact on the region. The award originated in 1986 by western Pennsylvania’s premier award-winning PITTSBURGH magazine, when the co-recipients were Dr. Wesley Posvar of the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Richard Cyert of Carnegie Mellon University.

The award has come to define what it means to be a Pittsburgher and has provided PITTSBURGH magazine with the opportunity to share our community’s best and brightest with the rest of the country and the world.


1986 -- Dr. Wesley Posvar of the University of Pittsburgh and
Dr. Richard Cyert of Carnegie Mellon University

1987 -- Richard Caliguiri (late Mayor of Pittsburgh)

1988 -- The Pittsburgh Pirates

1989 -- August Wilson (Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright)

1990 -- George Romero (filmmaker)

1991 -- Bob Johnson (the late Pittsburgh Penguins hockey coach)

1992 -- Tom Foerster (Allegheny County Commissioner)

1993 -- Dr. Thomas Starzl (transplant surgery pioneer)

1994 -- Teresa Heinz (chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation)

1995 -- John Connelly (businessman)

1996 -- Bill Cowher (coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers)

1997 -- Fred Rogers (television legend)

1998 -- The Architects of Regionalism

1999 -- Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Penguins owner and player; philanthropist)

2000 -- Martin McGuinn, Carol Brown & Tom O'Brien

2001 -- Mark Nordenberg and Jared Cohon

2002 -- Pittsburgh foundations

2003 -- Perry Sextuplets representing the children of 2003

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