University of Pittsburgh
February 9, 2017

Pitt Honors Pennsylvania Civil Rights and Education Champion for Black History Month


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—Several events will take place at Pitt throughout February honoring the late K. Leroy Irvis, a Pitt alumnus and emeritus trustee who made legendary contributions to education throughout his lifetime.K. Leroy Irvis

Irvis — also a civil rights leader, artist and visionary — began his political career in 1958, when he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He served 15 consecutive terms and sponsored the bills that created the community college system, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and the bill that was enacted into law in 1966 that created the state-related system of universities, which includes Pitt. Irvis served as Speaker of the House from 1977 to 1988 and was the first black speaker of the house in any state legislature since just after the Civil War. He died in 2006 at age 89.

Pitt began its official Black History Month program in 2004 with the world premiere of “K. Leroy Irvis: The Lion of Pennsylvania.” In 2008, Pitt renamed the event the K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month Program. That event, “Faith: The African American Church through American History,” will take place at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland. It is free and open to the public.

Events scheduled:

Feb. 10
Main Exhibition
K. Leroy Irvis Room, first floor, Hillman Library, 3960 Forbes Ave., Oakland
This exhibition, free and open to the public throughout the spring semester, focuses on Irvis’ contribution to education, which ties in to the national Black History Month theme, “The Crisis in Black Education.” Items on display are from the K. Leroy Irvis Archives, housed at Pitt.

Ground Floor Lobby Exhibit
Hillman Library
This exhibit, also open throughout the spring semester, focuses more broadly on Irvis and his interests and accomplishments.

K. Leroy Irvis: Champion of Education (closed to the public)
1-3 p.m., K. Leroy Irvis Room
This private event will feature the following speakers:

—Fern Brody, interim director of the University Library System
—Michael Dabrishus, assistant university librarian
—Doris Carson Williams, president and CEO, African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania
—Tim Stevens, president and CEO, Black Political Empowerment Project
—Eric Springer, attorney at Horty, Springer & Mattern PC

Irvis’ widow, Cathryn L. Irvis, will donate several pieces of sculpture made by her husband to the K. Leroy Irvis Archives.

Proclamation of K. Leroy Irvis Day
During the private program, a representative from the Office of the Mayor will present a proclamation naming Feb. 10 “K. Leroy Irvis Day” in Pittsburgh. Media coverage of this event is welcome.

Feb. 16
Film Screening
“K. Leroy Irvis: The Lion of Pennsylvania”
3 p.m., Dick Thornburgh Room, Hillman Library
This Pitt-produced documentary is narrated by Julian Bond and contains vintage photos, video clips and anecdotes about Irvis from friends, family members and historians.

Feb. 23
Poetry Reading
The Works of K. Leroy Irvis
3 p.m., Dick Thornburgh Room, Hillman Library
Pitt sophomore Brenden Pfeifer, an actor and poet majoring in communications and nonfiction writing, will read samples of Irvis’ poetry. Pfeifer has appeared in several UP Stages productions and is a sports anchor on WPTS Radio.