Jake Wheatley

Wheatley Challenges Students on Diversity During Robinson Lecture

Rep. Jake Wheatley, MPA ’00,  of the 19th Legislative District spoke to GSPIA students and faculty on Jan. 22, 2010 as part of the Roscoe Robinson Memorial Lecture Series on Diversity and Public Service.

 “At GSPIA, I learned that whatever we do is supposed to further our service to the public,” Wheatley said in his opening remarks.

His experience representing the Hill District in Pittsburgh has also taught him about the local and national challenges the U.S. faces in terms of making the public sector more inclusive. “The diversity question is a major issue for this city and region,” Wheatley said. “And the more diverse we become in government, the more access we’ll have to a global world that is increasingly small. But this process has its own challenges.”

For example, Wheatley talked about the effects of the current economic crisis. “Pittsburgh is a wonderful city,” he said. “We’ve weathered these economic times, but certain communities have been hit harder than others. Pittsburgh’s 16 to 24 year old African American male population is facing up to 50% unemployment.”

The city’s diverse age groups create an interesting dynamic for the public sector as well. “How do we protect our seniors in an aging state when eventually we’ll need more working people than retired people?” Wheatley said. He then mentioned one of the key issues surrounding representation in government for Pittsburgh seniors. “Seniors vote,” he said, “and young people don’t.”

Wheatley began his career in politics working for a Pittsburgh City Councilman, and made sure to inundate himself with local culture through volunteer work. As a result of his experience, he believes “To get past all of the ‘isms’ [referring to diversity labels and stereotypes] we have to start understanding other people’s perspectives.” With this in mind, he said, “There’s no problem or challenge that we cannot solve.”

Wheatley earned a Master of Public Administration from GSPIA in 2000. Since then, he has served three terms as a member of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives. He was the second, first-time legislator to serve on the state’s powerful appropriations committee. Wheatley is now the majority chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on education and the majority chairman of the Health and Human Services Subcommittee on Health.

Dr. Leon Haley Publishes Book on the Legacy of General Roscoe Robinson

Dr. Leon Haley, longtime GSPIA faculty member and now Professor Emeritus, recently released a new book entitled, “The Quiet One.” The publication is a biography of Roscoe Robinson Jr., and on November 16 Haley read excerpts from the work as part of the latest installment of the Roscoe Robinson Jr. Lecture Series.  

Upon learning that Roscoe Robinson Jr. was the first African American to earn the rank of Four-Star General in the U.S. Army as well as a graduate of GSPIA, Haley became very interested in unearthing more about Robinson’s life.

“I became so fascinated the more I got to know the man,” Haley said during his lecture. “The research really became a journey of love.”

Haley’s book, “The Quiet One,” spans across General Robinson’s life and covers such moments as Robinson’s acceptance to West Point Academy, his involvement with the Vietnam War, his years as a graduate student at GSPIA, his retirement, and his death from leukemia in 1993.

“I tried to put Robinson’s life in a historical, social, and economic context,” Haley said. “To write the book I did a lot of historical research about the time in which Roscoe lived. I personally interviewed his widow, son, daughter, and sister, along with 14 or 15 people who served with him. I had wonderful access to Roscoe’s papers at the Library of Congress, and listened to Roscoe’s own oral history that he recorded with the Army War College.”

From the time that Roscoe Robinson Jr. was born in 1928 in St. Louis – a time of serious racial segregation in the history of the U.S. – through his death 65 years later, Robinson showed a deep passion and concern for others.

“When Robinson eventually became the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, an elite appointment, his character and his ability to maintain his identity with the soldiers never diminished his command or leadership ability,” Haley said. “It meant Robinson was approachable and close to his men.”

The Roscoe Robinson Jr. Lecture Series honors General Robinson’s legacy as an inspiration for GSPIA students. Leon Haley’s book, “The Quiet One,” is available at the University of Pittsburgh bookstore or Amazon.com.  

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