An assembly of Pittsburghers gathered Wednesday night at the History Center named after the late Sen. John Heinz to honor Teresa Heinz Kerry on her handing over the chairmanship of The Heinz Endowments to her son Andre Heinz, who’s rooted in Pittsburgh, after 25 years of leadership.
Mrs. Heinz was accompanied by her husband, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, fresh from the tortured trail of pursuit with Russia of peace in Syria, an end to its now more than five-year civil war. Mr. Kerry looked tired, but certainly sounded unbowed.
For those new or young to Pittsburgh, the contribution made to the city and the region by Mrs. Heinz, backed by the Heinz Endowments, is not as well known as it should be. Speakers at Wednesday’s night’s ceremony, led by current president Grant Oliphant, former PNC Bank chairman James Rohr, retired Pittsburgh Cultural Trust president Carol Brown and Pittsburgh Foundation president Maxwell King, illustrated Mrs. Heinz’s courageous and visionary leadership with amusing personal anecdotes.
Her emphasis has always been on the future of Pittsburgh and the farsighted, imaginative development of its assets, especially its rivers, culture and its people. She was known for her attachment to social justice and her prescient interest in early childhood development. It was generally concluded that there would have been no Pittsburgh Cultural District without her leadership.
Mrs. Heinz’s own remarks were reportedly typically devoid of any claim of credit for what she has done. Pittsburgh is a city that “invites you to grow,” she said, and the achievements attributed to her were in fact, she said, a result of having “shared the humanity of others.”
We as a city have been fortunate to have had at least two recent great women, Elsie Hillman and Teresa Heinz Kerry, leading and pushing from behind as the region has dealt with the slings and arrows of recent years — the decline of steel, a blighted Downtown, a shrinking population and a misused waterfront as examples.
Mrs. Heinz certainly has the right to now hand the part of our burden that she has borne with us over to her sons, and we appreciate their willingness to do so. At the same time, we are cheered by the fact of her pledge to stay involved, repeated at Wednesday’s event.