Four African Americans newly appointed to Pitt board of trustees


by Christian Morrow, Courier Staff Writer

One is a former Super Bowl winner who owns a global supply chain firm; one built his own global environmental engineering firm from scratch; another did the same when she founded her own energy services company; and one is an international development and policy expert who worked at the White House, the UN and is now at the Rockefeller Foundation.

Adam Walker, Robert Agbede, SaLisa Berrien, and Sundaa Bridgett-Jones. All are African Americans—and all now sit on the University of Pittsburgh’s board of trustees.

And though all are Pitt graduates, only Agbede, now the vice chair of Hatch USA, is still located here. The others are based in Atlanta, Tampa and New York City, respectively. The fifth new board member is brain trauma researcher Wen-Ta Chiu, CEO of AHMC Healthcare Inc. in San Gabriel, Calif.

Though the Pitt website lists more than 90 board members, only 36 are voting members and 12 of those are appointed by state officials. The others include 28 emeritus members like retired WQED President George Miles, former Allegheny County development chief Earl Hord and former Governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.

The announcement of the new board members was made June 28.

The board oversees all the university’s charitable, academic and scientific activities, and meets regularly throughout the year, including committee working sessions and public meetings.

Pitt Communications Manager Kevin Zwick said the new members, all distinguished Pitt alumni, bring to the board a range of experience that spans decades in industry and public service.

Agbede founded the environmental engineering firm ATS in 1987, and in 2003 acquired Chester Engineers and built it into a global entity and one of the largest Black-owned engineering firms in the country. In 2017 he accepted an offer to merge with Hatch. He has also established the Robert O. Agbede Scholarship for African American students pursuing engineering degrees at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and the Robert O. Agbede Annual Diversity Award to encourage recruitment and retention of African American faculty and students.

After spending 25 years in the energy sector with PPL Corp., PEPCO Energy, Con Edison and others, Berrien launched COI in 2017, which has been called the “Lyft of energy services,” managing a suite of renewable energy and energy efficiency assets, that any provider can employ, allowing for the monetization of each asset when called upon. In 2004, Berrien established the Karl H. Lewis Engineering Impact Alumni Fund for Pitt students of underrepresented groups enrolled in engineering.

Walker founded Homestead Packaging Solutions in 1984, and in 2014 acquired Summit Container (Summit Packaging Solutions) in 2014 creating a global supply chain firm. He has been recognized as the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council’s Supplier of the Year and the U.S. Department of Commerce–MBDA Manufacturer of the Year. He is also a former New Pittsburgh Courier Men of Excellence honoree.

Bridgett-Jones led the Office of Policy, Planning and Public Diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in groundbreaking advocacy on Internet and religious freedoms and served as a member of the White House National Security Staff interagency committee. She previously managed C-suite affairs at the U.N. Department of Political Affairs, working on preventive diplomacy plans in South Asia.

Fellow trustee and state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, who was appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2015, said the appointments will benefit the board and the region.

“I think we need to further expand our diversity, so of course I welcome them, and their expertise in their respective fields,” he said. “I think it makes a great difference because the more diverse voices we have, the greater the outcome for the region.”


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