Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Maxine Bruhns: 50 Years of Bringing Diverse Cultures under One Roof She Directs Pitt's Nationality Rooms

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Maxine Bruhns: 50 Years of Bringing Diverse Cultures under One Roof She Directs Pitt's Nationality Rooms

Article excerpt

Maxine Bruhns was born in Grafton, W. Va., a town of 5,164 in the northern part of the state, but her travels would take her much farther -to 80 countries around the world.

As the wife of the late Fred C. Bruhns, who worked for the U. S. State Department, and as director of the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh, she's set foot in places as far as Bali, Sri Lanka, Austria, Iran and Gabon.

Conversant to some degree in six languages, she learned Arabic while studying for a master's degree in early childhood education at the American University of Beirut. "The first two words I learned are not appropriate for publication for an underage readership," she joked.

As remarkable as her record of travels might be, even more extraordinary is the fact that she's held the position of director of the Nationality Rooms since 1965, a 50-year tenure. Now, at 91, the North Oakland resident walks to her office from home every work day, weather permitting.

"I rise at 4 each morning, feed a peanut butter sandwich to Chloe, my African Grey parrot, and breakfast on an egg, toast, coffee, nuts and a cookie," she said. Around 6, she phones her assistant, Maryann Sivak, to run over the day's work schedule, then heads to her office to get there by 7.

"There's always some project brewing," she said. "Then there's meetings, conferring with visitors, working with facilities management -every day is different. More than half my life has been spent building the rooms and meeting with architects and getting appropriate artifacts."

When she first took the director's position, the university had 19 Nationality Rooms, which include design elements that represent the culture of the various ethnic groups that settled in Allegheny County. During her tenure, the university added 11 more for a total of 30 with three more approved for future construction. All 30 are working classrooms except for the Early American and Syrian rooms.

The university dedicated the newest room on Nov. 15. It's reflective of the heritage of Korea and is based on the 14th century Myeong-nyundang or Hall of Enlightenment, where the crown princes once studied.

"The wood for our room was cut in Korea, built, then disassembled, shipped to Pittsburgh and reassembled only with wooden pegs," Mrs. …

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