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.

What’s in a Name?

The title of Pitt’s chief administrator has changed—and changed again—over the years. Here’s a quick look at the position’s major title shake-ups.


The Pennsylvania legislature grants a charter to Hugh Henry Brackenridge to found the Pittsburgh Academy.


The University’s first leader, George Welch, takes on the title of principal, which is rooted in Pitt’s origins as a preparatory school.


Gilbert Morgan is the University’s first leader to be called president, but the title change is short-lived and the name reverts back to principal when Morgan leaves a year later.


George Woods becomes the University’s first leader to take the title of chancellor.


The role’s name changes back to president during Wesley W. Posvar’s tenure.


The Board of Trustees reverts the title of the University’s chief administrator back to chancellor.