The Pittsburgh Foundation

Richard S. Caliguiri Fund

Established: 5/13/1988

“I hope they remember…what I tried to do in the city is to bring people closer together.”

-Richard S. Caliguiri

Richard S. Caliguiri (1931-1988) was one of Pittsburgh’s most popular and influential mayors. The son of a milkman, Mr. Caliguiri grew up in Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood, graduating from Taylor Allderdice High School in 1950. His political career began with the city’s recreation department, which he headed until his election to City Council in 1971. When his predecessor, Pete Flaherty, was appointed to the Carter administration in 1977, Mr. Caliguiri was appointed interim mayor, winning an official election shortly afterward. He was tremendously popular, winning reelection in 1981 and again in 1985. “Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caliguiri,” wrote People magazine in 1988, “is that rarest of all creatures: a politician nobody hates.”

Defined largely by his innovative “Renaissance II” program, Mr. Caliguiri’s tenure marked an era of urban renewal in Pittsburgh, bringing a subway system, cultural district, and building renovations to town in the wake of manufacturing’s collapse. In the late 1980s, Mr. Caliguiri was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare and poorly-understood fatal protein disorder. He continued working, eventually announcing his illness at a news conference at which he described his diagnosis and his symptoms (which included weight loss). “People began sending me all kinds of food gifts,” he later said. “I had joked that I didn't want anything with less than 500 calories, so I've been getting cookies and cakes, pastas and pirogi.”

Mr. Caliguiri passed away in office on May 6, 1988. “The last week, we knew how ill he was,” his wife Jeanne told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Yet he went to work every day.” Within hours of his passing, Jeanne contacted The Pittsburgh Foundation to set up a fund dedicated to amyloidosis research. “This was Dick’s wish—to start it,” she said. “It was important to him.”

Thousands of individual donations poured in, and the fund raised over $180,000 in its first year. Today, the Richard S. Caliguiri Fund continues to further its cause by awarding grants to universities on the cutting edge of amyloidosis research. “Sure, amyloidosis] does make you realize that there is an end to your life,” Mr. Caliguiri said in one of his final interviews. “But I look around this city and see some very young people, little ones like Tabatha Foster who had the multiple organ transplants. Here's a little tyke just trying so hard to start her life. I feel like I have been given a wonderful chance. God has left me here for 56 years now. In the past, I guess, I wondered on hearing about a person diagnosed with a terminal illness, ‘How would I feel?’ Now I know. I feel that I am here now, able to make things happen. I feel I still have the opportunity of life. “

One of Pittsburgh’s most popular events, the annual Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race, takes place every September to honor that life—and to celebrate a mayor who pushed for renewal even in the face of decline.

Type of Fund

  • Medical Research