Dear Members of the University Community:
In June 2020—responding to concerns raised by students—I charged a working group with researching the naming of Scaife Hall, home to the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine.
This group included the following members:
Zachary Brodt, university archivist with the University Library System
Edward Galloway, associate university librarian for Archives and Special Collections with the University Library System
Laurence Glasco, PhD, associate professor in the Department of History
David Grinnell, coordinator of archives and manuscripts with the University Library System
Kathy Humphrey, PhD, senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary to the Board of Trustees
Naudia Jonassaint, MD, MHS, vice chair for diversity and inclusion in the Department of Medicine and medical director of Hepatology
Chenits Pettigrew Jr., EdD, assistant dean for student affairs and director of diversity programs within the School of Medicine
Katie Pope, associate vice chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Kirk Savage, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of History of Art and Architecture
Jeannette South-Paul, MD, retired Andrew W. Mathieson UPMC professor and chair in the Department of Family Medicine within the School of Medicine
The working group learned that the concerns raised by our community involved one member of the Scaife family who created the Colcom Foundation—a nonprofit devoted to advancing anti-immigration and eugenics causes and with no direct philanthropic ties to Pitt.
Yet, the true namesake of Scaife Hall, Alan Magee Scaife, carved out a very different legacy that included substantial and direct ties to Pitt.
Alan began serving on the University’s Board of Trustees in 1931, was elected its chairperson in 1949 and continued in this role until his death in 1958. To quote the working group’s finding verbatim: “It was clear in the reviewed materials that Scaife—while leading the Board—had a broad vision for improving Pittsburgh and that this vision included making health services available to all members of the community.”
While I encourage you to read the team’s official memo of findings, here are some key highlights:
- During his time on the Board, Alan actively championed the improvement of the University’s health professions schools.
- Alan formed and led a philanthropic foundation named for his wife, Sarah Mellon Scaife. As chairman of this foundation, he supported projects that promoted the expansion of medical research, educational programs and civic organizations in Pittsburgh and beyond.
- The Board’s original intention was to name the School of Medicine building in honor of Alan Magee Scaife. Over time, the link between the building and its namesake became less clear.
The team concluded that this issue did not warrant a further, fuller debate. They also pointed out that the University could have prevented this misunderstanding by naming the facility the Alan Magee Scaife Hall, as originally intended. We will be working to address this issue by updating signage to reflect the building's correct name.
In addition to the working group’s findings, it’s worth noting that Alan Magee Scaife’s grandson and granddaughter—David and Jennie Scaife, in partnership with David’s wife, Sara—have extended the family’s legacy of investing in both the communities of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh.
The DSF Charitable Foundation, which David and Sara established in 2000, focuses on three key areas—health, human services and education—and supports a variety of local nonprofits, such as the Rebuilding Pittsburgh Together, Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative and Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.
At Pitt, the DSF Charitable Foundation has funded the Pittsburgh Brain Institute and supported critical research related to COVID-19, military medicine, cancer care, neurodegenerative diseases and more. David and Jennie—through their respective foundations—also provided seed funding for the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, which jumpstarted our efforts to build Biomedical Science Tower III.
To the team members who devoted considerable time and attention to researching Alan Magee Scaife’s life and impact: Thank you. Your scholarly and meticulous work has afforded us a welcome opportunity to relearn our past—and reaffirm our way forward.
And, at a time when there is certainly no shortage of public health crises to tackle, I remain deeply grateful for our university community’s continued quest to address issues of racial inequity and injustice at every turn. Our efforts on this front are both mission critical and vital to our pursuit of a fairer, better society for all.