Centenarian to Make History at Duquesne Commencement

Leo Plunkett, who attended Duquesne from 1934 to 1937, will receive an honorary degree.




Duquesne University President Ken Gormley and Leo Plunkett

photo courtesy of duquesne University
 

Among those set to receive a degree at Duquesne University’s winter commencement is a student who was a freshman while President Franklin Roosevelt was in his first term.

In his 100 years, which included service in the Pacific during World War II, Leo Plunkett has witnessed a lot of history. On Friday, he returns to Duquesne to make a little history of his own. He will become the oldest person ever to be awarded an Honorary Degree by the university.

“I’m overwhelmed, believe me,” Plunkett said in a release by Duquesne.

A native of Lawrenceville, Plunkett attended Duquesne from 1934 to 1937. He studied English, was a member of the Kappa Sigma Phi fraternity and served as a co-editor of the sports section of The Duke student newspaper.

“I can still remember the two big events, Duquesne winning the Orange bowl (in 1936) and senior Mike Basrak being the first player at Duquesne to be named an All-American,” he said.

When Plunkett enrolled, Duquesne was still in its early years as a co-ed school.

“It was such a wonderful atmosphere,” Plunkett said. “Everybody knew everybody, and the big meeting place was the basement of Canevin Hall, which was the cafeteria at that time. Everybody met there and socialized in between classes.”

For Plunkett, Duquesne has been an all-in-the family institution.

His late wife, Ruth, graduated from Duquesne in 1938 — although the couple did not meet until after he returned from serving in World War II.

They married in November 1947, exchanging vows in the Duquesne University Chapel.

“We always had such an affinity for Duquesne,” said Plunkett.

Plunkett’s son and grandson both earned master’s degrees at the university.

University President Ken Gormley will present Plunkett with an Honorary Degree of Humane Letters. About a dozen members of Plunkett’s family plan to attend.

Plunkett, who lives in Penn Hills, still attends mass every morning. He drives himself in a convertible, complete with a Duquesne University license plate. Plunkett is also a regular at the Penn Hills YMCA where Nancy Phillips, director for senior programming, calls him “an inspiration to every one of us, no matter the age.”

“He’s young at heart and he lives life,” Phillips told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Plunkett explains, in simple terms, the key to longevity.

“Keep active. That’s the big thing. Once you don’t, you slow down. Next thing you know, there’s a funeral,” he said. “I avoid funerals as much as I can.”
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

More From The 412

Former Fairmont Pet Edie Finds New Job in Berkeley

Former Fairmont Pet Edie Finds New Job in Berkeley

The beloved lobby pet of the Fairmont Pittsburgh Hotel downtown is continuing her great work at the Fairmont Berkeley in California.
Pittsburgh Will Be Home to 22 NCAA Championship Events

Pittsburgh Will Be Home to 22 NCAA Championship Events

The ’Burgh scored more events than any other U.S. city.
This Weekend: Renovated 1871 Mansion Highlights Shadyside House Tour

This Weekend: Renovated 1871 Mansion Highlights Shadyside House Tour

The three-story mansion, valued by Allegheny County at $1.57 million, was last open to the public in 2003.
Full Pint Brewing Rolls Out ‘Pittsburgh Dad’-Inspired Beer

Full Pint Brewing Rolls Out ‘Pittsburgh Dad’-Inspired Beer

Finally, something to ease the pain of neurotically watching the Stillers.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

True Grit: Homestead Mayor Betty Esper Just Won't Back Down

True Grit: Homestead Mayor Betty Esper Just Won't Back Down

Homestead’s first and only woman mayor has worked tirelessly for her hometown during her 35-plus years in public office. As she faces reelection unopposed next month, the 84-year-old contemplates her role as the symbol of a gritty town fighting its way back.
Photo Essay: Silence on the Cell Block

Photo Essay: Silence on the Cell Block

A look inside the now-empty penitentiary on the banks of the Ohio.
Made in Pittsburgh: 5 Great Ideas

Made in Pittsburgh: 5 Great Ideas

Modern-day creation in Pittsburgh doesn’t just involve physical products; we also have a knack for hatching new ideas that can solve problems in innovative, unexpected ways. These locally based thinkers are applying big thoughts to bigger problems.
Restaurant Review: Scratch Food + Beverage is King of the Hill

Restaurant Review: Scratch Food + Beverage is King of the Hill

The Troy Hill neighborhood spot matures into a casual destination restaurant.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Hyperloop One Could Change How You Spend Your Weekends

Hyperloop One Could Change How You Spend Your Weekends

Hyperloop One plans to use high-speed pods that travel in low-pressure tubes to whisk people and freight at 700 miles an hour, cutting the travel time from Pittsburgh to Chicago to less than an hour.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Meet the Federal Galley Chefs

Meet the Federal Galley Chefs

We have the lowdown on who is cooking what in the new North Side food hall from the operators of Smallman Galley.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


King Arthur's Sword Turns a Spot in Baldwin Into an Entertainment Destination

King Arthur's Sword Turns a Spot in Baldwin Into an Entertainment Destination

IQ Escape's new South Hills escape rooms elevate Crafthouse Stage & Grill and Legacy Lanes.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Encouraging Start Only a Start for The Steelers

Encouraging Start Only a Start for The Steelers

The season's first two victories were notched against mediocre competition. Eventually, the degree of difficulty is going to ratchet up considerably.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

Robert Hallett, Goldsmith, handcrafts the jewelry in his Oakmont shop.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Kingsman Sequel Leans Into the Crazy (And Turns Out Fun)

Kingsman Sequel Leans Into the Crazy (And Turns Out Fun)

Reviews of "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," "Friend Request" and "Brad's Status," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Furs We Favor for a Pittsburgh Winter Wedding

Furs We Favor for a Pittsburgh Winter Wedding

Tying the knot when it will be cold outside? These Pittsburgh brides combined warmth and elegance by choosing fur.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Explore New and Historic Homes at Doors Open Pittsburgh

Explore New and Historic Homes at Doors Open Pittsburgh

The public “behind-the-scenes” event gives participants access to some of the city’s more iconic buildings — and some of Pittsburgh’s most interesting residences.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments