Judy Linaburg poses for a portrait in her Scott Township home.
By Natalie Bencivenga / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
#ItsGoodtoGive features local people giving back in big and small ways in the ’Burgh.
For Judy Linaburg, success began rather serendipitously. “It was all by mistake,” she said laughing.
The self-described “lanky tomboy” began her modeling career at 17 after walking down a hallway in the Park Building, Downtown, with a girlfriend and was tapped to be the Breck Girl for a very large hair show at the Civic Arena.
A biology major at the time, Mrs. Linaburg quickly rose to the top of the game, with designers like Halston, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and Diane von Furstenberg knocking at her door.
After modeling for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar among others, Mrs. Linaburg was asked to help open Pittsburgh’s first Saks Fifth Avenue store at 26. “I always liked working behind the scenes, making the wheels turn,” she said. “I’ve tried to bring that energy to all of the organizations and charities that I have been fortunate enough to work with throughout the years.”
For years she has volunteered with nonprofit organizations and foundations in the city. From her roots in fashion came the Steelers Fashion Show that she and Jim Deleo started “in the old Gimbels … that was years and years ago,” she said.
She also has been a part of the Ladies Hospital Aid Society since she was 18, sat on the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s board for 21 years, and has been involved with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Opera and the Civic Light Opera. In addition she’s supported the Birmingham, Multiple Sclerosis and Emergency Medical foundations. “My parents always instilled in us that philanthropy was a part of life. If someone needed help, you helped them. It was as simple as that.”
At one point, she sat on seven boards; currently she sits on three, including the History Center’s. Education also has been a passion for her and her husband, Ronald Linaburg. He will be inducted into the Letterman Society at the University of Pittsburgh, where he and Mrs. Linaburg provide an athletic scholarship for students.
How does she find time to do it with her responsibilities as businesswoman, wife and mother? “Ask a busy person and you just act. Don’t think, just do. Get involved. It is the best feeling in the world. You may not feel like it is making a difference, but it is personal to someone out there, and you are creating a sense of hope for them.”
She’s concerned that she sees fewer people getting involved in philanthropic efforts in Pittsburgh. “I worry about the lack of engagement. We need volunteers for these organizations, people who can devote a little time each month on the ground to get the work done.
“Take a walk on the wild side. Do something that scares you,” she said smiling. “Who knows? You might surprise yourself.”
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