University of Pittsburgh
October 1, 2007

"Big Ben" Roethlisberger Named Honorary Member of Pitt's Swiss Nationality Room Committee

Roethlisbergers emigrated from Switzerland four generations ago
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-On May 8, 2006-fresh from a Super Bowl victory and with his family in tow-Steelers' powerhouse "Big Ben" Roethlisberger went abroad to explore the Roethlisberger family's Swiss heritage. Research revealed that the Roethlisberger family had emigrated from the cheese-producing Emmental village of Geissbühl in Switzerland's Canton Bern four generations ago. Roethlisberger went to Switzerland as spokesperson for Swiss Roots, a campaign with the slogan "How Swiss Are You?" intended to help Americans of Swiss origin reconnect with the Old Country.

Now Roethlisberger has agreed to serve as an honorary member of the University of Pittsburgh's Swiss Nationality Room committee, Heinz W. Kunz, chair of the Swiss Nationality Room Committee and honorary consul of Switzerland in Pittsburgh, has announced.

"His endorsements of our efforts will go a long way toward making the Swiss Nationality Room a reality," said Kunz, who believes that Roethlisberger's star power will be great enough to bolster support from the community.

"Most of the countries in Europe are currently represented by rooms, but Switzerland is a glaring omission, given the impact made by individuals of Swiss origin in Pittsburgh and across the United States," Kunz added.

The committee hopes to make "Big Ben" as closely identified in the popular mind with Switzerland as with the number 7.

Along with Roethlisberger, the committee has named Ambassador Raymond Loretan, former consul general of Switzerland in New York City, as an honorary member. Other members of the new committee include Frederick H. Carlson, vice-chair; Walter Schaller, treasurer; and seven auxiliary members.

The Nationality Classrooms are gifts to the University of Pittsburgh's ethnic groups to preserve their heritages. Each of the existing 26 rooms, built between 1938 and 2000, are designed in an architectural style indicative of the country for which it is named. The committee has accepted the drawings of Swiss architect Justin Rüssli, who is credited with the design of the Swiss Ambassador's new residence in Washington, D.C. His plans for the classroom include a traditional Swiss ceramic oven with other 16th-century Zurich features.

For more information, contact Heinz W. Kunz at 412-967-9123 or hwk1@verizon.net.

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10/2/07/tmw