University of Pittsburgh
June 25, 2009

In "Resolution of Respect and Gratitude," Pitt Board of Trustees Today Announces Creation of Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy Endowed Scholarship Fund in the Pitt School of Law

Inaugural recipient is entering first-year law student Sabrina Robinson who, like Cappy, hails from Western Pennsylvania and earned a Pitt liberal arts undergraduate degree
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-In a "Resolution of Respect and Gratitude" unanimously adopted at its annual meeting this morning, the University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees announced the creation of the Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy Endowed Scholarship Fund in the Pitt School of Law. Retired Chief Justice of Pennsylvania and a partner in the law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, Cappy was chair of the Pitt Board of Trustees from 2003 until his untimely death last month.

"The University of Pittsburgh was Ralph Cappy's university," said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, who presented at the board meeting the resolution honoring the life, career, and contributions of Cappy. "After earning both his undergraduate degree and his law degree from Pitt, Ralph Cappy built a distinguished career in law-as a public defender, private attorney, and judge-devoting 30 years of his life to service as a member of the judiciary, culminating with his role as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania. In a very real sense, though, Chief Justice Cappy never left our campus. He believed in Pitt's mission, made enormous contributions to our progress-first as a member and later as chair of our Board of Trustees and in countless other ways-and was totally committed to Pitt's future. Because he always emphasized the critical nature of scholarships in attracting and supporting talented and deserving Pitt students, this is a most fitting tribute to his memory."

The inaugural recipient of the Cappy Scholarship will be entering first-year law student Sabrina Robinson who, like Cappy, hails from Western Pennsylvania and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences. Robinson, who grew up in Natrona Heights, Pa., and lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, attorney and 2006 Pitt law school graduate Theodore Robinson, was introduced at this morning's meeting by Nordenberg. At Pitt, Robinson majored in English with a minor in Swahili, was copy editor of "The Pitt News," worked as a teaching assistant in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, served a term as president of the Pitt chapter of the Young Democrats of America, and graduated cum laude in 2004. She went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in creative writing at the University of Michigan, where she worked as a student instructor in composition and creative writing and graduated in 2007. She currently works for the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. She says that she hopes "to be a part of a legal culture in America that can serve those who have been underserved."

The Cappy Scholarship is funded by donations received in memory of Cappy and institutional support. Future donations received will be added to the fund.

Two custom copies of the resolution were framed. One of them was presented during the meeting to Cappy's widow, Janet Fry Cappy, and the other copy will be retained for appropriate display within the University.

In the resolution, the members of the Board of Trustees expressed "their sincere appreciation and profound gratitude" to Cappy "for his many contributions to the University and the broader community," approved and applauded the efforts to create the Cappy Scholarship Fund, spoke of their "gratitude to those who already have, or will in the future, contribute to it," cherished "the warm memories of their personal and professional associations" with Cappy, and noted "our gratitude for the leadership that Chief Justice Cappy provided and the high regard in which he was held by his many friends and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh."

In the resolution's preamble, the board members described Cappy as "one of Pittsburgh's most accomplished, respected, and beloved native sons, who celebrated his roots by proudly proclaiming to be a 'kid from Brookline' long after he had ceased being a 'kid' and long after he had moved from Brookline" and pointed out how he "used the power of education [through his two Pitt degrees] to build the foundation for a life of achievement and impact." They also noted that his "career was characterized by his common sense, good judgment, keen mind, and caring heart; by his commitment to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary; by an enviable record of innovation in judicial administration, driven by his belief that justice should be delivered fairly and efficiently," that he "always approached his responsibilities with genuine respect for others and without personal pretentiousness," and that as board chair he "was instrumental in the University's dramatic drive through a period of historic progress that saw it rise within the ranks of the nation's top-performing universities-as a leader in education, a pioneer in research, and a partner in regional development."

Biographical Information on Ralph J. Cappy

Named a Distinguished Alumni Fellow by the Pitt Alumni Association in 2008, Ralph J. Cappy (A&S '65, LAW '68) was elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1990 and appointed chief justice in 2003. He retired from the court on Jan. 7, 2008, joining the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC.

After graduating from Pitt's law school, Cappy spent one year in private practice. From 1968 to 1978, he held various positions, including first assistant homicide attorney and then deputy director and chief public defender in the Office of the Public Defender in Pittsburgh. In 1978, Cappy was appointed to be a judge on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and was elected to that court the following year. He later was appointed administrative judge of the court's civil division, serving from 1986 to 1990.

Cappy served on the University's Board of Trustees from 1992 until his death and was its chair beginning in 2003. He also was a member of the Pitt School of Law Board of Visitors, where he was a past chair. He served as a member of the UPMC Board of Directors beginning in 1998 and was its vice chair since 2003.

Among Cappy's other honors were an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Widener University, the Pitt School of Law Distinguished Alumnus Award, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving Citation of Merit, a Pennsylvania Bar Association Judicial Award, the Allegheny County Academy of Trial Lawyers Judicial Service Award, and designation as a Pitt Legacy Laureate, Pennsylvania State Police Man of the Year, Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police Man of the Year, Sons of Italy Man of the Year, and Italian Heritage Foundation Man of the Year. In 2007, he received the Harry Carrico Award from the National Center for State Courts, Williamsburg, Va. In addition, the late U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist appointed Cappy to the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Federal-State Jurisdiction.

Cappy was admitted to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1975 and was a member of the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, and American Bar associations. He was elected a fellow of the American Bar and Allegheny Bar foundations in 1996.

Cappy received Bar Medals from both the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Bar associations. The Pennsylvania Bar Medal was one of only nine bar medals awarded in the association's 112-year history.

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