Born and raised in northern Minnesota, Mark Nordenberg first came to Pittsburgh as a high school senior, when his father, who worked for U.S. Steel, was transferred here. Though that move was not welcomed by anyone in the family, all of the Nordenbergs quickly fell in love with this region and its people.
Less than two years later, the Chancellor’s father had been transferred again, this time to Chicago, and everyone in the family drifted back to what he calls “the true midwest.” But when the Chancellor had the chance to return to Pittsburgh as a young adult and join Pitt’s law faculty, he quickly seized that opportunity. Pitt and Pittsburgh now have been his home for more than thirty-six years.
Chancellor Nordenberg joined the faculty of Pitt’s School of Law in 1977 and quickly built a reputation as an outstanding teacher. He was the initial recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award now presented annually by the Law School’s graduating class. He also was one of the first faculty members to receive the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, recognizing teaching excellence university-wide. His area of academic specialty is civil litigation, and he has served as a member of both the U.S. Advisory Committee on Civil Rules and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee.
Earlier in his career, Chancellor Nordenberg served as Dean of the School of Law and as Interim Provost of the University. In 1994, he was elevated to the special faculty rank of Distinguished Service Professor. In 1995, he was elected Interim Chancellor by the University’s Board of Trustees, and in 1996, following a national search, he was elected Chancellor.
At the June 28, 2013 Annual Meeting of the University Board of Trustees, which also marked his eighteenth year of service as Chancellor, Chancellor Nordenberg announced that he would step down from that office in the summer of 2014. At that time, he will have led the University for 19 years, and he already is one of the most senior presidents or chancellors heading a major American research university.
In responding to that announcement, Stephen R. Tritch, Chairperson of the University’s Board of Trustees and retired Chair and CEO of the Westinghouse Electric Company, said, “The University of Pittsburgh is extremely fortunate to have been led by Chancellor Nordenberg for the last eighteen years. During this period, our University has made tremendous progress in almost every measurable way. Everyone who cares about Pitt always will be grateful for the contributions he has made to our University.”
During his tenure, Chancellor Nordenberg has led Pitt through one of the most impressive periods of progress in its 226-year history as the University achieved new levels of quality and impact on virtually every front. A report issued in the summer of 2012 by its re-accreditation team described Pitt as “an outstanding university with an extraordinarily talented and beloved leadership team.” It highlighted Pitt’s steady advance as a “world class research university” and credited its progress to “an unwavering commitment to excellence.”
Since the Chancellor assumed office in 1995, the University has experienced dramatic growth in the size and strength of its student body. Full-time-equivalent enrollment grew from 27,000 to 32,800, an increase of more than 21%. Applications for admission to the Pittsburgh undergraduate programs increased three and one-half times, from a 1995 total of less than 8,000 to nearly 28,000 for this fall. At the same time, the average SAT score of first-year students has risen from just over 1100 in 1995 to almost 1300 this year.
Pitt students also have amassed an enviable record of achievement since 1995 with undergraduates claiming four Rhodes Scholarships, five Truman Scholarships, six Marshall Scholarships, seven Udall Scholarships and forty-one Goldwater Scholarships. Pitt also is among the nation's leading producers of Fulbright Scholars, Boren Scholars, Whitaker International Fellows, National Science Foundation Fellows, Critical Language Scholars and Humanity in Action Scholars.
The record of honors bestowed upon members of the Pitt faculty is extraordinarily impressive. Faculty members have been elected to membership in such prestigious organizations as the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute for Clinical Investigation, the National Academy of Education and the National Academy of Nursing. Individual faculty members also have claimed the most prestigious prizes in their disciplines, including the National Medal of Science, the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, the MacArthur Foundation's "genius award," the Charles S. Mott Prize in cancer research and the Andrew Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award for exemplary contributions to humanistic studies.
Pitt ranks fifth among all American universities in terms of the federal research support attracted by its faculty members – trailing only Johns Hopkins, Washington, Michigan and Penn and just ahead of UC San Diego, Stanford, Columbia, Wisconsin and Duke, the fine universities in the second five of this impressive top ten. To climb into the top five from the 24th position, which is where the University ranked in 1995, Pitt needed to pass each of these fine universities: Arizona, Berkeley, Colorado, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Harvard, Minnesota, MIT, North Carolina, Penn State, Stanford, UCLA, the University of California at San Diego, the University of California at San Francisco, the University of Southern California, Washington University in St. Louis and Yale in the National Science Foundation rankings.
One distinctive dimension of Chancellor Nordenberg’s legacy consists of the strong partnerships that he helped forge and nurture with UPMC and Carnegie Mellon University. Those three institutions, in turn, sit at the heart of the education and health services super-sector, which is the largest source of employment in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and the only sector that has added jobs every year since 1995. That sector now is responsible for more than one out of every five regional jobs. University research has been one primary driver of the region’s economic transformation, and since 1995, Pitt has attracted more than $9 billion of sponsored research support into this region.
Chancellor Nordenberg has received many important forms of recognition. Among other honors, he has been named Pittsburgh’s Person of the Year by Pittsburgh Magazine and a History Maker by the Senator John Heinz History Center. He also was awarded the Homer S. Brown Law Association’s Spirit Award, Community College of Allegheny County’s Legend in Leadership award, the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee’s Community Impact award, and the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership’s Exemplary Leader award. He is a past Chair of both the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education and the Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Universities and is a member of the executive committee of the Association of American Universities. Reflecting his role as a regional leader in higher education, he has been awarded honorary degrees by Carnegie Mellon University, the Community College of Allegheny County, LaRoche College and Thiel College.
To celebrate the remarkable progress achieved during his first decade as Chancellor, University Trustees, alumni leaders and special friends contributed $2.5 million to endow a faculty chair in his name. At the time of that announcement, the late Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy, then the Chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, stated: “This endowed chair indicates the extraordinary esteem in which we hold Mark Nordenberg, not only as an individual and a leader who has brought the University to an unprecedented level of success and achievement but also as a true academic at heart.”
Eight years later, in October 2012, Chancellor Nordenberg was again honored when the Board announced the naming of the Mark A. Nordenberg residence hall and the creation of the Mark A. Nordenberg Scholarship Fund. At the time of that announcement, Trustees and other friends of the University had contributed more than $5 million to create an endowment to support the scholarship program, which will aid the University's efforts to recruit, enroll, retain, and graduate highly motivated and academically superior undergraduate students, who will be known as Nordenberg Scholars.
That announcement came as Pitt celebrated its success in raising more than $2 billion through its historic capital campaign. In 1995, Pitt attracted less than $40 million in private philanthropy. The University has raised more than $100 million in cash received per year for eight straight years, including the years of the Great Recession. Through generous gifts received from more than 188,000 donors, the University was able to create more than 1,500 new endowments, including more than 600 for student scholarships and fellowships and nearly 150 for new faculty chairs and professorships through its campaign.
During his time in office, Chancellor Nordenberg has been very active in civic affairs. He served as co-chair of a special legislative commission charged with studying the problems facing Pennsylvania's urban schools, chaired a working group that developed an action plan for regional workforce development, chaired a record-setting United Way campaign, chaired a committee that examined issues of leadership and governance in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, and chaired a citizen's committee examining the efficiency and effectiveness of City and County government. He also served as co-chair of Governor Corbett's education transition team and as a member of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Higher Education.
Chancellor Nordenberg also has played a key role in advancing Pitt athletics, recognizing that a vibrant athletic program not only serves as a unifying force within the University but provides a critical link to the broader community. He views the University’s recent move into the Atlantic Coast Conference as an institutional milestone – providing stability in sports, an academic association with some of the country’s finest universities and visibility along the East Coast, a key region for the recruitment of students, the placement of graduates, and the nurturing of alumni relations. Among other noteworthy forms of athletic progress made during Chancellor Nordenberg tenure have been the move of home football games to Heinz Field, the construction of the Petersen Events Center, Duratz Athletic Complex, and Petersen Sports Complex and the renovation of many other facilities. The combination of those top-flight facilities, strong coaching and the University’s move to the Atlantic Coast Conference should ensure the strength and vitality of Pitt’s athletic programs for years to come.
Forging a special relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers was critical to the relocation of football to new practice and game-day facilities. In reflecting on that relationship, Chancellor Nordenberg has said, “Both the Rooney family and the entire Pittsburgh Steelers organization have been wonderful partners. In concept, our arrangement makes perfect sense, and others have tried to replicate it, but I do not know of any other place in the country where a similar partnership has worked nearly so well.”
Chancellor Nordenberg has been married to Dr. Nikki Pirillo Nordenberg, who earned her PhD from Pitt, for more than forty years. The Nordenbergs are parents to three adult children and are grandparents to three young grandsons. The Chancellor is an honors graduate of North Allegheny High School, Thiel College and the University of Wisconsin Law School.