When Mark Nordenberg announced he was stepping down as University of Pittsburgh chancellor at a board of trustees meeting on Friday, he received a standing ovation for his body of work.
That was typical of the kind of reaction among people who talked about the contributions of the man who led the university for the past 18 years and helped to raise its academic, athletic and financial standing.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who serves as an ex-officio member of the university's board of trustees, credited Mr. Nordenberg with taking the university "to the next level" academically.
"Obviously it behooves the board to find another Mark Nordenberg," he said. "If he has a clone, we need to find him."
Professor emeritus Attilio Favorini taught theater arts at Pitt for 44 years. He said he was not surprised at Mr. Nordenberg's announcement.
"Chancellor Nordenberg has a great sense of timing," he said. "He knows when the university can do without him -- although barely."
Mr. Favorini credits much of the chancellor's success to his ability to bring in other successful leaders to the administration.
"I've been here when the leadership wasn't so good," he said. "It completely changes the morale on campus to know there are effective leaders in charge."
That extends inside the classrooms as well, Mr. Favorini said.
"I have been in the classroom for a long time and revel in the pride of the students," he said. "That attitude is a result of having an administrative team that cares about its students. These institutional values couldn't happen without the chancellor."
J.D. Schroeder, 23, a 2013 Pitt graduate in mechanical engineering said Mr. Nordenberg showed students their safety was his top priority during a series of bomb threats that locked down parts of the Oakland campus last year.
"If they made a list of the top 10 best things to happen to Pitt, he would be on the list," Mr. Schroeder said. "A lot of the seniors now say that they didn't think that they would get in today because academics are so good."
Pitt's student body president, Gordon Louderback, said he couldn't believe the news when he first heard it Friday morning. The fifth-year senior said Mr. Nordenberg has been nothing but a resource -- even a mentor -- for students.
Relating to students came easily to the chancellor because he spent so much time with them, Mr. Louderback said. He said he would frequently see Mr. Nordenberg sitting at basketball games with students and helping out during public service events.
"I want another person who will listen and fight for the students like Chancellor Nordenberg has done," Mr. Louderback said. "That person should also have Pitt pride and carry out the university's traditions."
Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said he hoped Mr. Nordenberg would remain deeply involved in the university.
"He is one of the most remarkable people I've known in my life and one of the finest leaders in higher education," Mr. Pederson said. "He is rare, unique and outstanding."
It was no unusual thing to see Mr. Nordenberg around campus.
"His visibility as a leader makes us all better," Mr. Pederson said. "He has given a human touch to the university."
The dean of Pitt's honors college, Ed Stricker, said the university was in Mr. Nordenberg's debt and called the announcement a surprise.
"He is a wonderful man and has done so much that there is no doubt that the university is way better than when he took over," Mr. Stricker said.