When the longtime trustee brought his mom to campus for the Presidential Gala, it was her first time back in decades.
When Rich Archer ’83 brought his mother, Jane Houston Archer ’60, back to Robert Morris University for the 100th anniversary gala in November, she was speechless. But just for a moment.
“When she saw the UPMC Events Center, she said, ‘Wow, is this really a Robert Morris building?’” he chuckles. “The last time she was on campus was probably the late 1980s.”
Jane graduated from the secretarial program in downtown Pittsburgh when Robert Morris was still a private business school. She worked as a secretary for Dravo and Texaco before taking a job in the dean’s office at RMU when Rich was a student.
The Moon Township campus isn’t the only change at Robert Morris since Jane learned shorthand, typing, and business math. In the 1950s, secretarial candidates were also graded on something called “personal assets.”
“It was sort of a charm school element,” Jane says. “I got less than an ‘A’ because I wasn’t wearing heels. But they hurt my feet!” Her grade improved after a friend clued her in to a trick: Wear sneakers on the bus, then slip on your heels when you get Downtown.
Rich remembers his own RMU years with fondness, especially the camaraderie inside and outside the classroom. “The college felt like a well-kept secret on the hill,” he says. “There was such a strong sense of community. I grew up playing sports in Beaver County and went to college with so many people I had played against.” Rich, who now lives in Franklin Park, recently retired from the Big Four accounting firm KPMG after a career in IT auditing and risk management. He credits his RMU experience with much of his success in the business world, and for helping him develop a practical, do-what-it-takes work ethic that’s very much in keeping with his western Pennsylvania roots.
These days, he stays busy serving on the RMU Board of Trustees and volunteering at the North Hills Food Bank and the Light of Life Mission in Pittsburgh. Now that he’s retired, he’s thankful to have time to give back, but he’s also reaped unexpected benefits from volunteer work. “I started volunteering at the mission and food bank because I can’t stand the idea that people are going hungry,” he says. “But it’s also more fun than I expected. You see the same people week to week. You’re working together to accomplish something worthwhile.”