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History of the Chancellorship

Joan Gabel is the University of Pittsburgh’s 19th chancellor. Her predecessors guided Pitt’s course from a frontier school to a top 100 global research university. The achievements of past chancellors outline some key moments in Pitt’s history.

  • Robert Bruce, 1820-1835; 1836-1843

    Bruce was a Presbyterian minister, educator and a leading abolitionist in the Pittsburgh area. He is often regarded as the University’s first chancellor.

  • Gilbert Morgan, 1835-1836

    Morgan wrote a report for the Pennsylvania legislature that became the basis for the state’s education system.

  • Heman Dyer, 1843-1849

    Dyer helped create a law department and started a teacher training course at the University. He also oversaw rebuilding efforts after the Great Fire of 1845 destroyed the University.

  • David Riddle, 1849-1855

    Riddle served as acting chancellor after a fire destroyed the University for a second time in less than five years. The University suspended classes during his tenure, so Riddle served a school without any students.

  • John F. McLaren, 1856-1859

    McLaren was responsible for restarting University operations post-fires.

  • George Woods, 1859-1880

    Woods was the first leader to take the title of chancellor, starting in 1871. Woods established the University’s endowment and developed science and engineering courses.

  • Henry MacCracken, 1881-1884

    MacCracken oversaw the University’s move from downtown Pittsburgh to the North Side.

  • Milton Goff, 1880-1881 (acting); 1884-1890

    Goff was a professor of mathematics for Pitt and the first Pitt faculty member to take the role of chancellor. 

  • William J. Holland, 1891-1901

    During Holland’s tenure, Pitt established schools for law, mines and engineering, pharmacy and dentistry. Pitt also partnered with the Western Pennsylvania College of Medicine, which later became the School of Medicine. 

  • John A. Brashear, 1901-1904

    Brashear was an astronomer and director of the University’s Allegheny Observatory before becoming chancellor. 

  • Samuel B. McCormick, 1904-1921

    McCormick was responsible for the University’s move to Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. He also oversaw the name change from the Western University of Pennsylvania to the University of Pittsburgh.

  • John G. Bowman, 1921-1945

    Bowman was the visionary for Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning. He organized the University’s Medical Center and received the title president honorarius when he resigned.

  • Rufus H. Fitzgerald, 1945-1955

    Fitzgerald established the School of Public Health and secured Phi Beta Kappa accreditation for the University.

  • Charles B. Nutting, 1955-1956

    Nutting became acting chancellor after serving as the School of Law dean and the University’s vice chancellor. He supported Pitt Football and Bobby Grier when Grier became the first African American to play in the Sugar Bowl in 1956.

  • Edward H. Litchfield, 1956-1965

    Litchfield oversaw the creation of the Pitt–Greensburg campus and led the purchase of several key buildings on the Pittsburgh campus.

  • Stanton C. Crawford, 1965-1966

    Crawford led Pitt’s Johnstown Center before assuming the role of acting chancellor. He forged relationships with Pitt and other institutions and received the title of chancellor posthumously.

  • David H. Kurtzman, 1966-1967

    Kurtzman completed the process of making Pitt a state-related school.

  • Wesley W. Posvar, 1967-1991

    Under Posvar’s leadership, Pitt established many new colleges and centers and eliminated the University’s debt from earlier decades. Posvar Hall is named in his honor.

  • J. Dennis O’Connor, 1991-1995

    O’Connor requested that the University’s Board of Trustees return the title of the school’s leader to chancellor. He also oversaw classroom updates and the construction of Sutherland Hall.

  • Mark A. Nordenberg, 1995-2014

    Nordenberg oversaw the University’s successful $2 billion capital campaign. He now serves as chancellor emeritus and Pitt’s newest residence facility, Nordenberg Hall, was named in his honor.     

  • Patrick Gallagher, 2014-2023

    Gallagher solidified the University’s role as a community partner and anchor, elevated Pitt’s research stature and revolutionized the institution’s approach to financial aid, making a world-class Pitt education more accessible and affordable to all.