History

Patrick Gallagher is Pitt’s 18th chancellor. His predecessors include a number of distinguished leaders, including:

• Robert Bruce, the University’s first chancellor, who helped turn what had been a private secondary school into a college;

• William J. Holland, who added the new schools and graduate programs that created a true university;

• John G. Bowman, who envisioned the Cathedral of Learning and the growth of the Pittsburgh campus;

• Edward Litchfield, who spearheaded the University’s rise to national prominence;

• Wesley W. Posvar, who began Pitt’s transformation into a university of international stature; and

• Mark A. Nordenberg, Gallagher’s immediate predecessor, whose tenure was marked by impressive academic and research growth as well as expanded facilities and a successful $2-billion capital campaign, the largest ever in Western Pennsylvania.

The chief administrator of the University of Pittsburgh and its predecessor, the Western University of Pennsylvania, has been called “chancellor” since 1871. Before that, the head of the University was known as the “principal,” but the trustees believed that title was more appropriate for a schoolmaster than the leader of an institute of higher learning. In 1984, during the realignment of several key University functions, the chief administrator's title was changed to “president,” which some people thought sounded more modern. However, in a nod to Pitt’s heritage, the title reverted to the historic name “chancellor” upon Wesley Posvar’s retirement.

The word “chancellor” comes directly from ancient French and Latin words meaning roughly “royal secretary” or “keeper of the royal seal,” and the title is typically given to persons holding high government offices, such as cabinet ministers and heads of state. In North America, the title “chancellor” is more commonly bestowed on leaders of colleges and universities, although in a few states, certain judges are called chancellors.

Chancellors of the University of Pittsburgh and the Western University of Pennsylvania:

Patrick Gallagher, 2014 to present
Mark A. Nordenberg, 1995 to 2014
J. Dennis O’Connor, 1991 to 1995
Wesley W. Posvar, 1967 to 1991
David H. Kurtzman, 1966 to 1967
Stanton C. Crawford, 1965 to 1966
Edward J. Litchfield, 1955 to 1965
Rufus H. Fitzgerald, 1945 to 1955
John G. Bowman, 1921 to 1945
Samuel B. McCormick, 1904 to 1921
John A. Brashear, 1901 to 1904
William J. Holland, 1891 to 1901
Milton B. Goff, 1884 to 1890
Henry M. MacCracken, 1881 to 1884
George Woods, 1858 to 1880
Heman Dyer, 1843 to 1849
Gilbert Morgan, 1835 to 1837
Robert Bruce, 1822 to 1835, 1837 to 1843

Notes: Brashear and Crawford served as acting chancellors; Crawford was named full chancellor posthumously. Western University of Pennsylvania suspended operations in the early 1850s after a fire destroyed the main building and all of its records and books.