This is how you know that you have succeeded in your job: You attend a meeting of your bosses and list the achievements that you have helped bring about for the past 18 years. Your bosses rise from their seats and give you a standing ovation.
That's what happened Friday to University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. His bosses are the board of trustees, whose meeting was the occasion for Mr. Nordenberg to give a summation of what had been done since 1995, when he became interim chancellor, then assumed the job permanently in 1996.
It was only later in the session, when it was time for new business, that Mr. Nordenberg, 64, announced that he plans to retire in August 2014. That's when the clapping began and, as trustees chairman Stephen Tritch said, it was in recognition of the chancellor's work, not his departure.
That applause will echo everywhere that Pitt is admired. During the Nordenberg years, it became an elite public university, with higher-achieving student applicants, an ambitious building program and a knack for garnering capital and research dollars.
While the chancellor's success unfolded as a series of improvements, his tenure can be summed up neatly: He came to a good school and made it better. The trustees have a big task ahead in finding his successor, a new leader who must be less a clone of Mr. Nordenberg than a chancellor suited for the challenges ahead.
What Mr. Nordenberg brought to the university was a formidable skill set that filled the needs of the time. It helped that he had a genuine love of Pitt, which he has served since 1977 when he joined the law school and took over as its dean in 1985. He said that serving as chancellor was "the greatest privilege of my professional life."
In turn, it was Pitt's privilege to have him. While he has a year still to serve, today we join the ovation.