Chatham: A Transformational University book cover

Chatham: A Transformational University

Reflect on the college and the times on campus that transformed you. Purchase your copy of the book taking us through nearly 150 years of Chatham University. Chatham: A Transformational University looks back at the school's history from inception in 1869 to today, highlighting the opportunities, challenges, memories, and milestones achieved along the way.

Order button or Chatham: A Transformational University book


A look into our dynamic past

The book follows the development of the university, from when innovative Pittsburghers corrected a social injustice by creating one of the nation's first colleges for women to Chatham attaining university status, creating a new campus, and setting a transformative new course for the future. Packed with nearly 150 images throughout more than 200 pages, Chatham: A Transformational University will bring to life the history, people, and events that shaped the university.

I. Pennsylvania Female College

  • City of Change, 1869–1870
  • High Hopes, Hard Times, 1871–1878
  • Under All Difficulties, 1878–1894

II. Pennsylvania College for Women

  • Changeful Years, 1890s–1905
  • Innovations in Service, 1906–1921
  • Mansions of Beauty to Endure, 1922–1937
  • Rachel Carson: She Changed the Way the World Thinks
  • Depression, Gifts, and Global War, 1935–1945

 i.  An enlarged Berry Hall (right) and Dilworth Hall, with science labs and a 650-seat chapel, ca. 1905;  ii.  May Day pageant, 1915;  iii.  James Laughlin Memorial Library, 1932;  iv.  Students in the art studio with Professor Charles Le Clair;  v.  The current administration building, Mellon Hall, was donated in 1940.

 i.  Students practicing for the May Day festival, 1947;  ii.  Aerial photo of campus, 1956;  iii.  Student gather outside during class on what is now called the Old Quad;  iv.  Bonnie McElvery '81 with President Carter, 1980;  v.  Elsie Hillman, Esther Barazzone, and Hillman Lecturer Gwen Ifill, 2014.

III. Chatham College

  • The World Alters, 1945–1959
  • All These Crosswinds, 1960–1977
  • Identity Crisis, late 1970s–1980s
  • An Institution Seeking Change, 1992–2006

IV. Chatham University

  • We Have Committed to Excellence, 2002–2008
  • Transformative Gifts, 2008–2013
  • Toward Chatham’s Next Horizon, 2008–2016
  • A New Chapter

About the Author

author Mary Brignano

Mary Brignano has authored and co-authored histories of such Pittsburgh institutions as UPMC, Reed Smith, Giant Eagle, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Shadyside Hospital, Shady Side Academy, the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, and others. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and holds an M.A. from the University of Pittsburgh.



logo chatham views blog

A Q&A with the author

Mary Brignano began her career with McCullough Communications, a small public relations and publishing company in Pittsburgh. She has since written more than 40 histories for clients such as UPMC, Giant Eagle, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Reed Smith, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation. We sat down with her to chat about the new history book, Chatham: A Transformational University, 1869-2016. Read the Q&A »



from  All These Crosswinds: 1960-1977 

Coffee and popcorn with luminaries

"Chatham Visitors" energized the intimate campus, giving students and faculty opportunities to meet and interact with outstanding men and women. Helen Hayes, "the first lady of the American theatre," told students over coffee that her favorite role was Amanda in The Glass Menagerie and that her favorite contemporary playwright was Edward Albee — who would visit Chatham in 1991.

Stage and film stars and civil rights activists Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis visited, as did LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), a major force in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and ’70s. There were sitar master Ravi Shankar, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg ("Howl"), Abstract Expressionist Grace Hartigan, modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, actors Basil Rathbone and Bea Arthur ("Maude"), psychologist B. F. Skinner, theologian Paul Tillich, and Aaron Copland, "the dean of American composers." Electronic music pioneer Milton Babbitt arrived with his "synthesized music machine" in 1963, when a synthesizer wasn't a portable keyboard but a big computer.

Students were thrilled when the celebrated anthropologist Margaret Mead stayed for several days in the guest apartment of Dilworth. "We made popcorn and sat around and just talked with her," remembered Pam Bradley '70. "It was unbelievable access to a successful and incredibly interesting woman."

The "irrepressible boat-rocker" Alan Guttmacher, a passionate advocate of population control, started his lecture by stating, "The problem with overpopulation is that throughout the world a woman gives birth to a baby every five seconds. Our job is to find that woman and stop her!"

A new campus landmark

Chatham celebrated its centennial anniversary in 1969 by raising $6.8 million in 18 months, "the largest amount of private money given to any women's college in the country," according to Dr. Eddy.

Jennie King Mellon Library exterior

Gifts included more than $2 million from Richard King Mellon and his wife, Constance Prosser Mellon, for a library in memory of Mr. Mellon's mother, Jennie King Mellon. Jennie King (Pennsylvania Female College Class of 1887) married Richard Beatty Mellon, Andrew Mellon's brother and banking partner. Red-haired and athletic, she was a fun-loving, generous woman who supported hospitals and churches, particularly East Liberty Presbyterian Church. When Richard King Mellon died in 1970, the Richard King Mellon Foundation gave an additional $1,225,000 to help cover the library's construction costs.

The precast concrete and glass library "is situated to leave one with the impression that it is the most important building on campus," the Alumnae Recorder reported when the building opened in 1973. An impetus for its design may have come from a few faculty members who wanted forward-looking contemporary architecture "rather than duplication of the Georgian style." But not everyone was pleased with the design or location, especially the residents of Murray Hill Avenue. They had testified at Pittsburgh City Council that construction of the library "means the destruction of the street." Ten houses were razed to make space for the new building.

Your committed generation

A wider mood of anger and rebellion swept through college campuses by 1966, as the Vietnam War escalated. "The Age of Protest" was the title of the 1966 commencement speech by the controversial Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense. Margaret C. McNamara, his wife, was a Chatham trustee, and their daughter Kathleen was graduating that year.

Jennie King Mellon Library exterior

"Judging from the pickets out on the sidewalk, that does not seem an altogether inappropriate title," quipped McNamara, whose erudite speech ranged over student protests throughout history. Before handing a diploma to his daughter, he characterized that document as "a passport into a dense wood, filled with forked roads. For your committed generation, many of those roads will be the ones less traveled by."

Arrow editor Cheryl Olkes '70 christened academic year 1968–69 "Fight Year." The Civil Rights Movement, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in 1964, Black Power, the rise of feminism, and anti-war protests gave students all over the country a new sense of clout — and new reasons to cross-examine "the establishment." To Chatham students of the late 1960s, everything was up for question.

Earlier PCW students had called for self-government in the form of rule tweaking. Now these purposeful '60s women ratified the Declaration of Rights of the College Student. They demanded participation in all phases of College government, curriculum, social regulations, and relationships with other local colleges — such as cross-registration with Carlow, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne, and the University of Pittsburgh; a common calendar to facilitate cross-registration; and shared library services to compensate for Chatham's comparatively small holdings. They questioned dormitory regulations, parietal rules governing conduct, and whether an honor system should require a student to report a roommate's violation. They even protested the food.

"In the four years that we were at Chatham (1966–1970), we changed all the rules!" Pam Bradley remembered. "When we arrived, we had to wear skirts to dinner and to class on the first day of each semester. We had curfews, and men were NEVER allowed in our dorm rooms. By the time we left in the spring of 1970, there were virtually no rules. While these changes were not 'women's rights' issues, they certainly reflected our view that as women we could manage our own lives without excessive supervision by the school administration."

"At Chatham we got the message that nothing was holding us back," said Jane Coulter Burger ’66.

Icon of lamp ending the book excerpt


Order yours today!

Chatham: A Transformational University
by Mary Brignano
Softcover • 208 pages
© 2017 Chatham University


Order button or Chatham: A Transformational University book



Feel free to contact Chatham Communications via email or phone: (412) 365-1335.

Chatham: A Transformative University book cover - order yours today