Fate brought them to Pitt, gratitude motivates their giving

Lucile Adams-Campbell (PhD, GSPH ’83)
Lucile Adams-Campbell (PhD, GSPH ’83). 

The story of how Thomas Campbell (LAW ’82) and Lucile Adams-Campbell (PhD, GSPH ’83) came to the University of Pittsburgh seems to be more about fate than planning, yet the couple’s dedication to Pitt is well planned and never left to chance.

Lucile and Thomas went to the same high school in Washington, D.C., and graduated the same year; however, they did not meet until they crossed paths when both were students at Drexel University and started to date. After graduation, Thomas went to work for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and in the summer of 1979, his job sent him to Pittsburgh to examine the stability of several banks in the region.

“We finished work early one day so I walked up to the University of Pittsburgh Law School and filled out an application. I always had an interest in the law,” said Thomas who was accepted later that year.

Around that same time, Lucile was applying to public health PhD programs, but an illness that summer prompted her to withdraw her applications.

“For some reason I forgot to withdraw my application to Pitt so you can imagine how surprised I was when I learned I had been accepted to the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) with a full scholarship,” Lucile said. “I couldn’t turn it down and went from the hospital to Pitt to start my studies.”

Chancellor Emeritus Mark Nordenberg
Chancellor Emeritus Mark Nordenberg.

The pair, who were still dating but not yet married, did well at Pitt. Although she did not know it at the time, Lucile was the first African American woman to earn an epidemiology PhD from Pitt; Thomas excelled in his law classes, catching the attention of University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Emeritus Mark Nordenberg.

“I have known Tom from his first day of law school because he was enrolled in a course I taught,” said Mark Nordenberg. “In addition to his obvious intelligence and strong work ethic, he had an impressive professional presence even as a young man, and the high levels of success that have characterized his career come as no surprise to anyone.”

Lucile and Thomas wed soon after graduation, began raising a family, and pursuing their careers. Thomas spent a few years with a larger law firm focusing on estate and probate law before setting up his own practice. Lucile began her research and teaching career at the New England Research Institutes and then moved to Howard and Georgetown universities.

In the mid ‘90s, she teamed up with a co-investigator from Boston University and they were awarded an NIH grant that launched the largest long-term study ever of Black American women’s health. The Black Women’s Health study focuses on more than 59,000 black women who have been studied more than 2 decades to date.

Thomas Campbell (LAW ’82) and Lucile Adams-Campbell (PhD, GSPH ’83)
Thomas Campbell (LAW ’82) and Lucile Adams-Campbell (PhD, GSPH ’83).

Lucile is currently the Associate Dean of Community Health & Outreach and Professor of Oncology at Georgetown University Medical Center and Associate Director of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. She is among the world’s leading experts on cancer health disparities and how cancer impacts the African American community. Her work has earned wide acclaim, including induction into the National Academy of Medicine and Washington D.C. Hall of Fame Society for her research on health disparities.

Along the way the couple—especially Lucile—has remained active with Pitt. She mentors students, has served on the GSPH Board of Visitors, and returns often as a presenter. It was through this involvement that Mark Nordenberg, who was then Chancellor, met Lucile.

“She had come back to campus in 2010 to be honored for her many achievements as a Pitt Legacy Laureate, and I learned that she was married to Thomas. In the many years that have followed, she has continued to build on her extraordinary record of achievement and impact,” said the former Chancellor. “Over the years I’ve had several opportunities to spend time with Thomas and Lucile, and have thoroughly enjoyed those interactions. They are fine people whose commitment to the greater good is inspiring. Pitt is very lucky to claim them both as graduates.”

Pitt was there when we needed it, so we are there for Pitt.
- Thomas Campbell (LAW '82)

The couple also has a history of making annual financial contributions to the University, mostly focusing their giving on supporting students in the GSPH Department of Epidemiology.

“Pitt was there when we needed it, so we try to be there for Pitt,” said Thomas, noting that both he and Lucile relied on the scholarship support they received to make it through their respective programs at Pitt. “We feel we have to keep giving back, not necessarily in the big quantities that Pitt gave us but we try to do all we can.”

Thomas and Lucile remind other graduates that even if they did not receive scholarship support, their tuition did not cover the full cost of their education at Pitt. Donations and grants make up a large portion of the University’s budget.

Both Lucile and Thomas have degrees from other institutions and Lucile has been associated with other schools and nonprofits, yet they ensure Pitt is among their giving priorities.

“It’s that final degree that catapulted us forward,” said Lucile. “We both received a great education at Pitt and want to help others.”

Follow this link to read more stories from this issue of the Chancellor's Circle Update.