Manchester Bidwell COO Fife passes

Manchester Bidwell Corp CEO Bill Strickland was the artist and visionary who turned a bankrupt entity into the arts and workforce training center it is today, but it was Jesse Fife Jr. who realized that vision.

Fife died December 6 after a two-year battle with an undisclosed illness. He was 60.

“We were together for 42 years, both from the North Side. We Were at Pitt together, and when he graduated, I asked him to help me rebuild the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild, and we did. He made it work,” said Strickland. “He was sick for more than two years, but you’d never know. He didn’t talk about it. He just went to work and did his job.”


After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 1972, Fife worked briefly for Proctor & Gamble and in state government before joining Strickland back on the North Side.

Fife turned Bidwell Training Center, a 1960s-era social services agency, into a nationally accredited career and technical training center.

When the Training Center and the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild were combined under the Manchester Bidwell Corp. umbrella in 1999, Fife was made chief operating officer, and quietly, behind the scenes put in place the financial and operational structures that make it one of the most copied arts and education organizations in the world.

“He took the ideas and built management systems around those ideas, put financial systems in place. He brought us into the 21st century,” said Strickland. “He was a loyal friend, and a conscientious administrator who had a zest for life and people. I’ll miss him.”

Fife showed that zest by serving on several boards and commissions, including the Citizens Advisory Committee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of City-County Government, the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation and the City of Pittsburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment. He also chaired the Workforce Development Committee as a board member at the Community College of Allegheny County.

Fife was a member of the Iota Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and was recently nominated as a University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Alumni.

Fife is survived by Jesse is survived by his wife Valerie Johnson Fife, children Meloney L. Fife and Jesse W. Fife III, grandson Taylor R. Fife, and siblings Alma R. Holland, Peggy Hightower, Tami Dixon, Kimberly Fife and Michael Fife.

Visitation is Dec. 8 at John A. Freyvogel Funeral Home at 4900 Centre Ave. in Shadyside, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Manchester Bidwell Corporation -Metropolitan Street will hold a memorial service Dec. 9, at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Manchester Bidwell Corporation.

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