Point Park University

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Point Park University
Point Park University seal.png
Former names
Point Park Junior College (1960–1966)
Point Park College (1966–2004)
MottoLatin: Pro Arte, Pro Communitate, Pro Professione
Motto in English
For Knowledge, For Community, For Career
TypePrivate liberal arts university
Endowment$34.2 million[1]
PresidentDr. Paul Hennigan
Location, ,
United States

40°26′19″N 80°00′07″W / 40.43861°N 80.00194°W / 40.43861; -80.00194Coordinates: 40°26′19″N 80°00′07″W / 40.43861°N 80.00194°W / 40.43861; -80.00194
NewspaperThe Point Park Globe
ColorsGreen & Gold
Sports13 varsity teams
MascotBlack Diamond II the Bison
PPlogo STAK 1Color CMYK.jpg

Point Park University is a private liberal arts university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Formerly known as Point Park College, the school name was revised in 2004 to reflect the number of graduate programs being offered.



The university began in 1933 as a one-room business school called Business Training College with an initial enrollment of 50 students, under the direction of Dorothy Finkelhor, a New York native, and her husband, L. Herbert Finkelhor. At the time, it was notable for a woman to found such an institution. Finkelhor provided her students with business and secretarial skills. At the same time, she served in multiple roles as teacher, the dean of women, social chairman, janitor, telephone operator, admissions and finance director, and registrar.

Becoming a college[edit]

Academic Hall contains offices and classrooms.

By 1960, the business school had grown to nearly 880 students and moved to the university's current academic center, Academic Hall, on Wood Street in central Downtown Pittsburgh. The Finkelhors' small secretarial school became Point Park Junior College, named for the city's historic Point State Park. The junior college added two-year programs in engineering technology, education and journalism. It also acquired performing arts space at The Pittsburgh Playhouse in the Oakland neighborhood. Five years later, the college was granted four-year status, officially becoming Point Park College. Dance and theatre programs were introduced. These programs laid the groundwork for Point Park's current Conservatory of Performing Arts.

Thirty-four years after forming the college, Dorothy Finkelhor retired in 1967. The school's reins remained within the family as son-in-law Arthur M. Blum assumed the presidency. Blum purchased the Sherwyn Hotel, a 20-story building across from Academic Hall, which became David L. Lawrence Hall. The hall currently contains most of the school's social and entertaining facilities, as well as classrooms, offices and residential facilities.

Blum's Lawrence Hall investment continues to benefit the school. Blum also established a campus in Lugano, Switzerland. A gift from Lester Hamburg brought the school a conference center in Portersville, Pennsylvania.

John V. Hopkins succeeded Blum.


With the budget climbing out of the red, the school began a slow healing process into the 1980s. Enrollment grew beyond 1,000 students. At the same time, the school introduced its first postgraduate degree, a master's degree in journalism and mass communication.

J. Matthew Simon served as the college's next president from 1986 to 1995, providing nearly a decade of relative calm in the institution's turbulent history. Simon oversaw the acquisition of a new library, program growth and the school's largest endowment. Simon retired in 2007, having taught at Point Park as a professor in the department of Natural Sciences and Engineering Technology after his tenure as president.

1994 crisis[edit]

Another crisis came with the election of James Hunter as president. Hunter, Point Park's most controversial leader, served for a little over a year but managed to garner outcry for an admissions scandal and a breakdown of communication within the school.

At the same time, growth remained slow in the city, and Pittsburgh's economy still had not recovered from the collapse of the steel industry. The college's finances suffered, and Point Park again neared bankruptcy. Negotiations began with Duquesne University to sell what remained of Point Park College to the larger school.

Hunter resigned amidst the melee, and Katherine Henderson was appointed president by the board of trustees soon after.

Growth and change[edit]

Henderson implemented a strategic plan to revive the college. Plans to sell the school were abandoned as Henderson began another procedural overhaul.

Henderson's tenure became the most successful for Point Park. During the late ’90s, budget woes disintegrated as enrollment rose to over 3,000 students and the endowment grew by over 200 percent. Point Park finished major renovations of its existing buildings soon after the turn of the century.

By 2004, the school hit a new high-water mark and successfully applied for university status. It was officially renamed Point Park University that year, and the administration began an aggressive $1 million branding campaign to attract more enrollment.

Henderson retired in 2006 while on a self-imposed sabbatical.

Current efforts[edit]

The board of trustees officially named Paul Hennigan as Henderson's permanent successor at the beginning of the 2006 fall term. Hennigan has continued the process of creating a new strategic plan. As part of the plan, the university has purchased several Downtown properties for development. Point Park is also poised to become a key player in the city's efforts for Downtown revitalization, owning properties along the coveted Fifth and Forbes corridor.[2]

The university partnered with a private contractor to renovate two historic buildings into suite-style residence halls. One of these residence halls became home to a Starbucks in August 2007. The coffee shop is the first full-service retail entity incorporated into Point Park's campus.

A $16 million 44,000-square-foot (4,100 m2) state-of-the-art dance complex opened in 2007. The complex includes five rehearsal and performance studios, and recently received Gold LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Located in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, the complex is home to the George Rowland White Performance Studio, a 188-seat convertible performance space.

Point Park purchased the building occupied by the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh on the Boulevard of the Allies in the spring of 2008.[3] In September 2010, the newly renovated former YMCA building reopened as the interim Student Center with exercise and fitness facilities and equipment, a gymnasium, meeting space and much more.

The university is currently creating a "New Academic Village" that will make the school, and downtown, a vibrant area for students. With the introduction of this initiative, Point Park has evolved into one of the largest investors in Downtown Pittsburgh real estate development.[4]

Point Park University is a not-for-profit educational institution registered under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.[5]

In 2016, Point Park University added a new center for journalism at the former location of Nathan's Famous hot dogs. "Located at Wood Street and Third Avenue, the 4,000-square-foot center will have floor-to-ceiling glass walls, flat-screen televisions and a digital ticker that offers a New York City-style media hub where passersby can be entertained and informed as students learn their craft."[6]


Point Park University offers more than 90 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and is divided into four schools: School of Arts & Sciences, School of Business, School of Communication and Conservatory of Performing Arts.


Lawrence Hall, the former Sherwyn Hotel, contains residence halls, offices, lounges, the Point Café, and classrooms.

Point Park is situated about half a mile from Point State Park, the university's name sake, in the city's Golden Triangle. The school is in the midst of the business district situated near PPG Place, one of the skyline's most recognizable buildings, and the brand new LEED Platinum Certified headquarters of PNC Financial Services. The physical campus is mostly vertical, with buildings scattered intermittently among non-school structures. Point Park also owns the Pittsburgh Playhouse in the Oakland neighborhood, but has replaced it with a new complex in downtown Pittsburgh; demolition of Oakland's Pittsburgh Playhouse was scheduled to start in June 2019. Since the campus has not been contiguous, the school used the phrase "Pittsburgh is our campus" in its literature.[7]

Because of its Downtown locale, the school is within walking distance of the Cultural District and the city's sports facilities, PNC Park, PPG Paints Arena, and Heinz Field. It is also close to Pittsburgh's major nightlife areas on the Southside, in Station Square, and in the Strip District. Nearly 1,000 full-time undergraduate students live on campus. The majority of Point Park students commute to campus.

With 15 existing buildings and other properties that run from the Monongahela River to Forbes Avenue, the university has one of the largest footprints in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Department of Public Safety[edit]

The Campus is covered by the Point Park University Department of Public Safety, a campus police agency which provides patrol and crime prevention services to the university.[8] Point Park University was cited in 2017 as having the highest campus crime rate per student in Pittsburgh, exceeding that of the far larger University of Pittsburgh.[9] The Department, and in particular the Police Division, have been recognized for innovation in campus law enforcement, such becoming the first campus police agency in Pennsylvania to issue body-worn cameras to officers, and the creation of an anonymous tip app.[10][11]

The executive of the Point Park University Department of Public Safety is the Assistant Vice President of Public Safety and Chief of Police, currently Jeff Besong, and is appointed by Point Park University University.[12] The department consists of two divisions:[13] The Police Division provides patrol and crime scene interaction, while the Public Safety Division provides dispatch and security monitoring services.[14][15] The Police Division was established in 2011 with five officers, and was initially limited to bike and foot patrol,[16][17] and became accredited by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association in March of 2013.[18][19]


WPPJ (670 AM) is Point Park University's campus radio station. This unlicensed carrier-current station was established in 1967 and is known as "The Voice of Point Park". It is a co-curricular activity for students with an interest in radio, news, sports, contemporary/popular music, media sales and promotions. WPPJ also serves as a training facility for students of any major who desire a career in professional broadcasting. The station is an open-format college radio station, playing primarily indie rock and hip-hop, with a fair number of sports and talk radio shows. The music department charts independent artists with CMJ. The 28th Annual WPPJ Rock-a-Thon was held from October 28–31, 2008, at the university, raising over $3,700 for the Early Learning Institute, a charity for families in Allegheny County, due to the efforts of sales director, Anthony Pignetti.


Point Park teams, nicknamed athletically as the Pioneers, are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the River States Conference (RSC). The Pioneers formerly competed as a member of the American Mideast Conference until its dissolution during the 2011–12 academic year. Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf and soccer. However, baseball is the dominant sport of the university, bringing home the most championships. Women's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball and volleyball.

Point Park joined the RSC in the 2012–13 academic year. The RSC is an NAIA conference that was founded in 1916 as the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and adopted its current name starting with the 2016–17 school year. With the addition of Point Park and Carlow University in 2012, the RSC grew to a membership of 11 institutions; it has since expanded to 13.


Official athletics logo.

The Point Park Pioneers logo prominently displays the school name as well as the nickname for the sports teams – Pioneers. A central figure is the bison, which has long been a mascot for the school. The bison was first used as a school mascot in the 1967–68 school year, the first year of intercollegiate competition versus four-year institutions.

The bison became a mascot for the school in 1967 when the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity teamed with the Varsity Club to acquire a live bison. The bison was named Black Diamond II in reference to the Black Diamond bison on the reverse side of the U.S. nickel at the time. It was kept at South Park and was a featured attraction at parades on the Boulevard of the Allies as well as at sporting events. Black Diamond II was widely popular at Point Park and was a source of pride for the entire school. Although Black Diamond II eventually died, it remains a fixture at the school at present day.[20]

Also prominently displayed is the Downtown Pittsburgh environment of which Point Park is a part. In the back left are iconic pieces of the Pittsburgh skyline, and in the back right are two central pieces to the Point Park campus – Lawrence Hall and Academic Hall. Included is the pedestrian bridge above Wood Street that connects the two Point Park buildings. The shape at the bottom of the logo is representative of the bastions of Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt, which were once located in the area now known as Point State Park. Point Park University derives its name from Point State Park, which is located at the meeting place of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. Point State Park is just a few blocks from the University's campus.

The head men's basketball coach is Joe Lewandowski. The head coach of the women's basketball team is Tony Grenek.

In popular culture[edit]

After a 1962 visit to Pittsburgh the producer and creator of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon is rumored to have used Lawrence Hall as the inspiration for the cartoon's opening where Rocky the flying squirrel takes off from the building's roof to Bullwinkle below.[21]

Notable alumni[edit]

International Summer Dance alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "Point Park University Factbook 2016–2017" (PDF). Point Park University. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  2. ^ Belko, Mark (August 19, 2007). "Point Park University's enrollment growth spurs expansion". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  3. ^ Belko, Mark (April 10, 2008). "Growth spurt: Point Park University buying YMCA". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  4. ^ "Academic Village Initiative". Point Park University. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  5. ^ "501(c)(3)Lookup: Point Park University". http://501c3lookup.org. Retrieved May 6, 2013. External link in |publisher= (help)
  6. ^ "Point Park University announces new Center for Media Innovation – Point Park University". www.pointpark.edu.
  7. ^ "Pittsburgh is our campus". Point Park University Web site. 2006.
  8. ^ "University Fact Sheet | Point Park University | Pittsburgh, PA". www.pointpark.edu. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  9. ^ "Which Pittsburgh campus is safest? Which has the highest crime rate?". The Incline. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  10. ^ Schneider, Sarah. "Point Park Becomes PA's First University Police Force To Don Body Cameras". www.wesa.fm. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  11. ^ "Point Park University Launches New Safety App For Students". August 24, 2017. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  12. ^ "Chief's Welcome | Point Park University | Pittsburgh, PA". www.pointpark.edu. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  13. ^ "University Police | Point Park University | Pittsburgh, PA". www.pointpark.edu. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  14. ^ "University Police | Point Park University | Pittsburgh, PA". www.pointpark.edu. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  15. ^ "Campus Security | Point Park University | Pittsburgh, PA". www.pointpark.edu. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  16. ^ "Point Park University swears in police force". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  17. ^ "Point Park University Introduces New Campus Police Force". WPXI. June 27, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  18. ^ "Accredited Agencies". www.pachiefs.org. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  19. ^ "Accreditation | Point Park University | Pittsburgh, PA". www.pointpark.edu. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  20. ^ "Point Park University Pioneers Logo". Point Park University. Retrieved August 24, 2011.
  21. ^ "The Pittsburgh Press". Retrieved September 21, 2014.

External links[edit]