September 24, 2008

Pitt Professor to Be Honored for Scholarship, Love of City

By Craig Smith

Edward Muller grew up in Regent Square, listening to Pirates games on the radio and watching the comings and goings around the neighborhood.

He said those observations helped him in his teaching career at the University of Pittsburgh.

"I must have been an observer as a kid," Muller said. "Growing up here left me with a set of intuitions."

Muller, 65, who teaches history and is director of Pitt's urban studies program, will be the subject of a symposium Friday at the William Pitt Student Union. "The Scholar in the Community," event will focus on the 2006 book "Before Renaissance: Planning in Pittsburgh, 1889-1943," which Muller co-authored with John Bauman.

After graduating from Dartmouth in 1965, Muller did his graduate work at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He taught geography at the University of Maryland from 1970 to 1977, when he took a job teaching history at Pitt. He was chair of the history department from 1994-98

"One has to love the grittiness of the people, the heart of the people (in Pittsburgh)," he said. "There is a certain modesty here - - hard work, family and roots."

He tells his students the city is culturally conservative -- "look how long it took to get a Starbucks here" -- but said Pittsburgh is a city of "wonderful stories."

Those range from labor -- "its hardships, its triumphs" -- to a cast of characters that includes some "swashbuckling entrepreneurs," said Muller, who lives in O'Hara.

He is well-respected by his colleagues.

"Ted is a terrific historian. ... He is full of ideas about the urban experience and about the built environment," said Joel Tarr, professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University, who has collaborated with Muller on several articles.

Muller became animated as he talks about his association with the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Foundation and urban geography. He was a founding member of the organization, serving nine years as its chairman.

Congress approved the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in 1996 to preserve the historic, cultural, and natural resources related to Big Steel and related industries. It encompasses more than 5,000 square miles in eight Western Pennsylvania counties.

"Ted has been one of our most important board members -- and we have a lot of good board members. I learned so much from him in school and in working with him over the years," said August Carlino, the group's current CEO, who was a student of Muller's at Pitt.

Muller likes to bike, hike and read -- mysteries are his favorite genre. He and his wife, Kathryn, have three children and six grandchildren.

Describing himself as a typical Pittsburgher, he said he loves football and has season tickets for Pitt basketball but concedes "my heart is in baseball."

He believes "Pittsburgh's time is going to come ... sooner, rather than later."

The housing market is a tremendous asset, the region has a beautiful environment and boasts numerous cultural, athletic and outdoor recreational activities.

Muller said he's seen the quality of both students and faculty climb over the years.

"It's been a joy to participate in that," he said.

(c) 2008 Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.