When Eva Tansky Blum took over as the chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s board of trustees last week, she took her own spot in the university’s history, becoming its first-ever female chair.
But “while it’s fortuitous that she will be our first woman chair, and I’m very excited about that, I don’t at all feel that this was an attempt by the university to diversify. I think it was an attempt by the university to pick the best person,” said board member Marlee Myers.
Fellow board member Ira Gumberg agreed: “Whether it was a male or female did not much matter. They were looking for competence.”
And they found it, said Pitt’s chancellor, Patrick Gallagher. “Eva Blum was selected for this important position because she is an outstanding leader. I think it’s a sign of progress for the university that we have the climate and culture that embraces women in positions of leadership.”
Blum said that while she wasn’t tapped for the role simply because of her gender, she feels proud of having been appointed. “I think that it is very important for women to be able to have any position that they are qualified for. It’s important for our young people to see that opportunities are available for anyone, based on your qualifications and really nothing else.”
Blum, a former executive vice president and director of community affairs for PNC Bank, is no stranger to Pitt. A member of the board of trustees for the past 11 years, she chaired the search committee for the new chancellor, chairs the Graduate School of Public Health Board of Visitors and is director emerita and past president of the Pitt Alumni Association. Blum also co-chaired, together with her brother, Burton M. Tansky, another member of the Pitt board of trustees, the “historic, record-breaking $2 billion Building our Future Together capital campaign,” said Gallagher.
Even before her service on Pitt’s board, Blum was a regular on campus, having been graduated from the school twice over. She did her undergraduate work there and earned a Juris Doctorate from its law school. “When I was a student at Pitt, I received scholarships, and I received a full scholarship to the law school, and that was very important to me at the time. I knew from that point forward that I had a responsibility to make sure that other students in the future would have the same kind of opportunities that I had.”
Myers said that Blum’s nomination last June was unanimous. Although Blum was “absolutely ready to be chair a year ago,” according to Myers, the board decided to wait a year for her to actually take over the position, as Gallagher had only just started as the new chancellor, and it was thought that upheaval would be minimized if they gave him time to get “acclimated to the university” before switching chairs.
Aside from her credentials, Blum has also won numerous awards, including the Jewish National Fund Tree of Life Award and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Pitt School of Law in 2008. She and her family also established the Tansky Family Fund in the university’s Department of Neurology, which helps fund Alzheimer’s research.
“She’s an extremely capable, competent person who is also very caring, passionate about the university and the students and just an all-around wonderful human being and capable leader,” said Myers.
Of her new job, Blum said: “I’m very excited about it. It’s a wonderful, extraordinary university. I’m very excited about helping it move forward.”
Masha Shollar is an intern for The Chronicle. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.