Photo courtesy March of Dimes
A Community Celebration
April 10, 2005
Cathedral of Learning Commons Room
5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
This celebration saluted Pittsburgh’s own “Polio Pioneers”—anyone who contracted polio, rolled up a sleeve to join in the early pilot studies and later mass immunization campaigns, or was associated in any way with development of the Salk polio vaccine.
Among the special guests who joined in the community celebration were:
- Tenley Albright, M.D., a Boston surgeon and blood plasma researcher who, despite a childhood bout with polio, went on to become a champion figure skater and, in the 1956 Olympics, the first American woman to win a gold medal in her sport
- Hollywood icon Mickey Rooney, whose long-time status as a celebrity volunteer for the March of Dimes is well-documented and who recently gave some indication why he has campaigned so much over the years on behalf of polio research when he remarked that “polio was everyone’s disease”
- Peter L. Salk, M.D., vice president and scientific director of the Jonas Salk Foundation and the eldest of Salk’s three sons, all of whom received one of the earliest test vaccinations
- James Sarkett, whose strain of polio was one of three used in the development of the Salk vaccine
- John Troan, former editor for The Pittsburgh Press who, as a medical reporter, chronicled the development of the Salk polio vaccine, including the April 12, 1955, announcement that ran under the historic headline “Polio Is Conquered”
The Commons Room held special significance for this celebration because, over the course of four days in early 1957, the entire University of Pittsburgh faculty, staff, and student body—more than 20,000 people—stood in long lines there to receive the vaccine and to demonstrate to the community and the nation that it would take everyone’s involvement to eradicate polio.