By Rhian Kenny
For a time after the 2013 contract negotiations were completed, PIttsburgh Symphony musicians did not know the name of the donor who made a very large gift that was perfectly timed and targeted to close the gap and make the agreement possible. Pat and Michele Atkins wished to remain anonymous initially, but eventually their gift became public and we got to know Pat and Michele not only as friends of the PSO, but as generous and deeply committed friends of Pittsburgh, with a wide range of interests and a keen eye for solving problems.
When the Atkins family moved to Pittsburgh in 1972 it was meant to be temporary — a one-year sabbatical from the University of Texas at Austin for Pat to help Alcoa develop environmental permits for a revolutionary aluminum production process. But Pittsburgh provided a mix of opportunities that proved irresistible and they became permanent residents, with Pat managing Alcoa’s worldwide environmental program, among many other distinguished accomplishments. The rich arts community was a major factor for them, as it is for many professionals deciding where to settle down. Pat’s love of symphonic music brought Michele to the PSO while Michele’s love of opera brought Pat to the Pittsburgh Opera, where Michele remains on the Board.
“Great music and great art make a vibrant, attractive, thriving community,” said Michele. “The Pittsburgh Symphony and the Pittsburgh Opera make Pittsburgh what it is, which is far more than a football town. Their success is Pittsburgh’s success, so it is essential that they be maintained. The PSO was a deciding factor in keeping us in Pittsburgh, and I hear that from a lot of people. Great music means opportunity, it means hope.”
Which is why, as Director of the Shady Lane Preschool in the East End, one of the first things she did was form a partnership with the PSO to expose all of the school’s children to Classical music, both by bringing children to concerts and bringing PSO musicians to the school.
There is much, much more that could be said about this couple, who have become dear personal friends to many PSO musicians. Pat and Michele were recognized last year by the Western Pennsylvania Association of Fundraising Professionals for their philanthropy and community involvement with a lifetime achievement award. They continue to manage the Atkins Family Foundation, established in 1995, for children’s and environmental issues. For all that they have done for the Pittsburgh Symphony and for the city and community that we share, we are delighted to honor Pat and Michele Atkins with the Bouquet.