These last several weeks have marked the turn of an era for those of us who live in southwestern Pennsylvania. As part of God’s extraordinary timing, three very successful, three very powerful, three very faith-filled members of our community were called home to God: Dan Rooney, Henry Hillman and Jack Donahue.
Dan, Henry and Jack.
Whether or not you were blessed to know them, they had an impact on your life if you live here. They touched us all not only through their generosity but by setting good examples that helped to set a tone for our way of life.
Humility, generosity, faith
As anyone who is the least bit aware of football knows, Dan Rooney was a visionary leader, not only of our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, but within the National Football League. The Rooney name carries with it integrity in a sports world that is so often defined only by competition. He understood that success wasn’t defined by numbers on a scoreboard, but by how we live and how we help other people to live. That’s why the team has had only three coaches since 1968. That’s what led Dan to press for the Rooney Rule, opening head coaching and senior management positions to minorities who had previously hit a turf ceiling.
This vision of success didn’t spring from his imagination alone, but was rooted in the virtues and strength he drew from his daily Mass attendance. Dan’s power, popularity and prestige were defined by his humility, his generosity and his faith.
The Hillman name has long been associated with leadership in the Pittsburgh area. The late Elsie Hillman, with her beaming smile and political commitments, was the voice and face of the Hillman family. But behind her and supporting her stood Henry — the businessman who knew how to turn into success all that he put his hands on. Yet greed had no place in his dealings. He was the quiet giant who made such a significant difference to countless people in Pittsburgh and beyond. I can see his handiwork from my office — in the ice rink that he built for the community at PPG Place. But if you’ve ever sought treatment at the Hillman Cancer Center, or taken a sick child to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh or learned about our world at the Carnegie Museums, then Henry has touched your life.
Henry was not Catholic, but he lived his life in a way that should inspire all of us. Henry’s power, popularity and prestige were defined by his humility, his generosity and his faith.
Finally, one of the first glimpses that most people see as they approach the city of Pittsburgh from any direction is the illuminated Federated logo, which rises high above 10th Street and Liberty Avenue. But far more bright than this sign is the man who started a multibillion-dollar firm on a several thousand dollar loan. Jack Donahue pioneered mutual funds into the financial vocabulary. He began a company that financially helps folks throughout southwestern Pennsylvania and around the globe. Jack’s real genius, however, was in avoiding the pitfalls of worldly success by keeping his eyes on heaven. His top priorities were God and his family, especially his dear wife, Rhodora. Together they raised 13 children of whom any parent would be proud, and their 84 grandchildren and 110 great-grandchildren are carrying on a legacy of faith and generosity.
Jack supported many causes, but especially Catholic education. Among other things he was instrumental in founding the Extra Mile Education Foundation, which provides scholarships to low-income, inner-city, African-American children who could not otherwise afford Catholic school. Most of these children are not Catholic, but the education they receive helps them to move up the ladder as Jack himself did, and ultimately benefits all of us as these graduates help to build a better community.
Jack’s power, popularity and prestige were especially defined by his humility, his generosity and his faith.
Three men whose influence upon us was larger than life itself! In rapid succession, they were called by God to his given place for them in eternity.
Heaven is our goal
But what of us? What does the passing of these giants mean to us?
We best not view Dan, Henry and Jack from the perspective of what this world determines to be a success — power, popularity, prestige.
Rather, if their lives will have any effect and affect on your life and mine — and I propose they should — then it behooves us to treasure the treasures they treasured: humility, generosity, faith.
Humility is that virtue that recognizes that everything about us, that which makes us who we are and defines what makes us “tick,” comes from God himself. We cannot take credit; we can only give thanks.
Generosity is the virtue that captures one of the first lessons I learned from my parents: always share what you have, be it little or great, with others. Most of us can only dream of the material success that our three giants experienced. But no matter how little we have, we can emulate the true richness of their lives: We can give so that others may live better. And the best giving? That’s when we give from our heart, sharing our talents, our time and our love.
And finally faith. It’s not simply a word. Faith is a bridge to and from God, and in and with others. Faith is a virtue that, if cherished and lived, will get us into heaven.
I sometimes lament that, in today’s culture, heaven is no longer a goal to be reached, but a memory to be forgotten.
However, those of us in Pittsburgh have been able to witness in these last days that heaven is for real. Dan and Henry and Jack have shown us that heaven is our goal. And they’ve left us some directions for how to get there. The path to heaven begins by stepping out on the path of humility, generosity and faith.
Thanks, dear Dan, Henry and Jack, for the reminder.