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Why He Says “I’m Retiring”
The Editor of CARNEGIE magazine retires after 31 years at
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.


This is a time for arithmetic. I will be 68 years old in November, and since June 1973 I have edited CARNEGIE magazine ten times a year until 1980, and six times a year since then, amounting to a total of 202 issues. It’s been a wonderful ride.

I have worked with and/or under four Carnegie Institute presidents, four Museum of Art Directors, six Natural History Directors, three Carnegie Library Directors, three Carnegie Science Center Directors, three Andy Warhol Museum Directors, eight directors of my own department, and more curators than I will list (heaven bless them all). My three decades of interviews and stories are faithfully stored in bound volumes of CARNEGIE magazine.

Then there was the big event in September 2003, when my wife and I were driving in our Subaru doing the speed limit in the right hand lane on Interstate 80 near Brookville, coming home from vacation, when we were hit from behind by another car. Our car bounced into the Jersey barrier, rebounded left into the passing lane, and was hit again Our car was totaled, but we stepped out of it unscathed, knowing forever that we could have been dead in five seconds while listening contentedly to New Age music on a CD. Does this make you think?

Do you believe in doing things “someday”? I decided that, for me, someday was today. “Freedom has always been an expensive thing,” said Martin Luther King, but I want it now, with time to do the things I want.

When I look back, I’ve had a great professional life. After my Ph.D. in English, I taught at four universities in a career spanning 42 years, most of it as a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon while also being editor of CARNEGIE magazine. I lived and worked in Egypt as a young assistant professor. I have written or edited books on the environment and American history, Pittsburgh bridges, and foxhunting in western Pennsylvania, among other things. I have learned from museum scientists, art historians, librarians, students, and volunteers—many of them my close friends.

Now I can pursue my next enterprise: writing and publishing the history of Carnegie Institute and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for the University of Pittsburgh Press.

What better finale could a writer want than the chance to summarize his thoughts about the great museums he has explored and been fascinated by for three decades? I now get to tell the stories. I can tell about Andrew Carnegie sitting on a log in Cresson, Pennsylvania, 130 years ago, when he first told minister William Holland he wanted to do something special for Pittsburgh, like build a library. And then I can tell the story of that library. I can tell about the Czar’s courtier—Andrey Avinoff—who fled Russia after the revolution to bring his artistic and scientific skills to Pittsburgh as director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. I can tell how Museum of Art Director Gordon Bailey Washburn introduced abstract art to Pittsburgh in Carnegie Internationals and trained his successor, the man with the famous “eye” for installing art, Leon A. Arkus. And then there are the stories about the Bellefield Boiler Plant, the Music Hall, the Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum. And the stories about administrators, Pittsburgh philanthropists, and civic leaders who steadfastly supported the museums and library through the decades.

All this happens against the social and economic backdrop of the 20th century, as museums themselves change, and new techniques and directions in art, science, music, and literature transform Mr. Carnegie’s Victorian Palace of Culture, with its economies of scale and administration, into a modern non-profit corporation. It’s a very American story with no simple parallel in the larger world of museums. I can’t wait to tell it.

For those underemployed writers who reach for their resumés when they hear an editor is vacating a post, I have to say that they should save the postage. Betsy Momich will assume the role of editor and Kim Tarquinio will serve as managing editor.

So, “I’m retiring” as an editor. But I am not retiring as a writer and historian. I believe my best is yet to come—something that will influence future generations of people who care about Carnegie Institute and Library. I’m working on it.

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Copyright (c) 2004 CARNEGIE magazine. All rights reserved.