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What’s in a Name?

One of the first things you notice on the Robert Morris University campus is that every building is named for someone. Some of these names are easily recognizable: Jefferson, Franklin, Revere, Adams, Hancock, etc. Other ones, however, may not be as familiar: John Jay, Braddock, Benjamin Rush, Wayne, Sewall, Gallatin, Washington…oh wait, scratch that last one.

So who are these people, and what did they do to get a building named after them? More important, how can I get a building named after me?? That’s what I wanted to know. Since I thought you might want to know, too, I decided to do a little research to find out.

Our first stop on the “Tour de Names” is Massey Hall – home to RMU President Dr. Gregory Dell’Omo, the School of Business, and many of the institution’s full-time professors. In addition, the building is also the home of RMU’s Colonial Theatre. Massey Hall is named for Harris B. Massey.

According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, the late Massey and his wife, Doris, were leaders in the Pittsburgh business community. They were also the owners of the Massey Buick Co., which at one time was the largest Buick volume dealer in the country. During his life, Massey initiated and led several other successful businesses, while donating much of his time to serve in active roles for various civic organizations.

The Masseys established a trust fund in 1968 which, since their passing in 1984, has been active in supporting community programs in the city of Pittsburgh and throughout Allegheny County. The trust now provides support in the areas of education, health, arts and culture, conservation, religion, and human services. In 2003, the trust gave $500,000 for RMU’s Partners for Progress campaign to enhance the School of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science, which used the gift to create two new laboratories in John Jay Center.

The Massey Charitable Trust also supports programs for at-risk children, as well as the Pittsburgh Promise. In 2007, The Pittsburgh Foundation established the Pittsburgh Promise program with a $100 million commitment from UPMC, $10 million of which went to support the 2008 graduates of Pittsburgh Public Schools. The remaining $90 million was meant to stimulate support and contributions, with a goal to raise an additional $135 million. In June 2008, the Massey Charitable Trust provided a $1 million grant to the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship fund to help the program fulfill its important mission.

As we’ve mentioned before, 33 Pittsburgh Promise students enrolled at RMU in fall 2008—more than any other private school available to them. These students now have an average GPA of 3.0, right around the university average for all students and freshman students. They are active in campus activities and have become some of our most enthusiastic boosters. (If you’d like to meet some of them, click here.)

So there you have it. The story behind the name of Massey Hall. Quite an inspiring story of generosity, if I do say so myself.

Stay tuned for more on the RMU Tour de Names, coming soon…

– Valentine J. Brkich

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