For the past 40 years Pittsburgh's leaders in business, education and sports have gathered together, using their strength, power and passion for the city to help the most vulnerable in the community – children and the elderly - who without the support of organizations like the Catholic Youth Association (CYA) can fall through the cracks.
The tradition continued on Thursday night at the annual Art Rooney Award Dinner, benefitting the CYA. The event was born out of the passion Steelers' founder Art Rooney, Sr. had for helping those in need.
The CYA is a true neighborhood community center, operating in five sites and providing social, educational and health-related programs. Among the programs are a summer residential camp for over 200 boys and girls ages 7-14; Meals on Wheels; health and wellness activities for seniors; transportation programs for the elderly; and an intergenerational program that brings seniors and pre-school children together to form a bond.
The Art Rooney Award Dinner helps to fund many of the programs, a passion that has been passed down through generations of the Rooney family.
"Every year when this dinner comes around it warms my heart that this many years later it continues to be successful and carries on his name and tradition," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "The CYA was important to him. The reason he got behind the dinner in the first place was to make sure the dollars were raised to fund some of the programs that are still run to this day. It's a special time of year to be able to remember him and do something in his name. "
The dinner annually honors "Pittsburgh's Champions," those that have made a difference in the community. Among those honored at this year's dinner were University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, Steelers' General Manager Kevin Colbert and United Way of Allegheny County President Bob Nelkin.
Nordenberg was the evening's top honoree, receiving the Art Rooney Award for his countless contributions to the university and city.
"I am deeply honored to receive the 2013 Arthur J. Rooney Award and to have my name linked with one of Pittsburgh's favorite sons – and one of Pittsburgh's favorite families," said Nordenberg. "I also consider it to be a special privilege to be recognized by the Catholic Youth Association, an organization which has done so much good for our region.
"The Rooney Family, the Catholic Youth Association and the University of Pittsburgh share a commitment to our community. Together, we are working to ensure that our region is a place that all of us can be proud to call home."
Nordenberg, who was born in Minnesota but moved to Pittsburgh when his father was relocated with U.S. Steel, served as Dean of the University of Pittsburgh Law School from 1985 until 1993 and as Interim Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs from 1993 to 1994. He was elected Interim Chancellor in 1995 and then Chancellor a year later.
Under his leadership the university has seen expansion of its academic and athletic facilities, and he oversaw the $2 billion "Building Our Future Together" capital campaign.
Nordenberg was honored as Person of the Year in Education by Vectors Pittsburgh in 1997 and named Pittsburgher of the Year and co-Pittsburgher of the Year by Pittsburgh Magazine in 1999 and 2001.The Pitt Board of Trustees created a $10 million scholarship fund in his honor, and also named a new residence hall Nordenberg Hall.
"Chancellor Nordenberg has taken the University to a new level," said Rooney. "The University has always been one of the top ones in the country, but it has reached new levels under his leadership, particularly in areas of research dollars that are attracted and in the technology and medical areas. Pitt is recognized as one of the leaders and that is his work on behalf of the university.
"He has always been willing to get involved in the community and take up the cause when needed. If you look at the list of people who have received the award it's a group that had distinguished careers and had a big impact on our community. There is no question Mark deserves to be among that group."
Colbert, a Pittsburgh native who returned home in 2000 after working for the Detroit Lions, received the Bob Prince Award. The award is named after Prince, the late Pittsburgh Pirates radio announcer, and honors someone who embodies his enthusiasm for Pittsburgh sports. Colbert not only has a passion for Steelers' football, but is a fan of the city's other professional sports teams and is often seen at Pirates and Penguins games.
"Having grown up in the Pittsburgh area in an era when games weren't readily available on television, to get access to a Pirates game if we couldn't go, you had to listen to the radio," said Colbert. "Growing up listening to Bob Prince, 'The Gunner,' it was always an entertaining and informative experience that gave you the true basis of the passion you had as a baseball fan.
"When you look at the Pittsburgh sports landscape, it's something that is embedded in this area, be it football, baseball or hockey. It's a true dedication of our fans in each sport to our organization. As a member of one organization and a fan of two others, it's unique, exciting and sometimes a surreal experience."
Colbert grew up in Pittsburgh's North Side neighborhood, attended North Catholic High School and Robert Morris University. He was named the Steelers' director of football operations in 2000, and is entering his third season as the team's General Manager. Colbert oversees the acquisition of players, including those selected in the upcoming NFL Draft. Colbert helped to assemble teams that won Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII Championship, three AFC Championships, six division championships and eight playoff berths.
"Bob Prince was known as one of the great figures in sports history in Pittsburgh, so it's great that Kevin is receiving an award named after him," said Rooney. "He has had a great impact on the Steelers, but has been involved in the community since his days at Robert Morris, North Catholic and through other community activities.
"He is somebody that great Pittsburgh sportsmen over the years have been…quiet, not overly flamboyant type of people. That fits Kevin. He is quiet, he is humble, and I think he is a true Pittsburgher in every sense of the word."
Nelkin, who received the John McGrady Award, for community service, is another true Pittsburgher, born in the city and dedicating his career basically to helping his neighbors. He was named the President of the United Way in 2007, and since then has seen the Women's Leadership Council double in size, has expanded programs and volunteerism, seen a growth in philanthropy and assured that those that need a helping hand, are receiving one.
"Bob has been an outstanding leader of our United Way," said Rooney. "He came in at a time when the economy was not in great shape and led us through a very challenging time. We have come out much stronger under his leadership. He has been innovative in a lot of different ways. He understands the needs of the community probably more so than anybody. He brought an understanding of the needs of the community and how to meet those needs. He is a unique individual in that regard."
Other award winners included Chris Moore of WQED/KDKA Radio who received the Bill Burns Award, while Mamie Hutchins and Ellen Pifer won the Nick Cardello Senior and Youth Awards respectively.