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Q&A Series - The Forefront of a Century of Change




May 2, 2011

Bryant Salter was a two-sport athlete at Pitt, playing safety for the Pitt football team and earning All-America honors as a member of the track and field squad. A 1971 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he was drafted in the fifth round of the 1971 NFL Draft.  On the track, he established Panther records in the high jump and triple jump.

 

Salter - a member of the University’s Board of Trustees -is CEO of Business Diplomacy Consulting, an international business consulting firm which assists companies seeking to expand market share in the international market place. Salter served as a U.S. foreign diplomat for over 20 years.

 

Q: Your career on the football field and track are as impressive as they come, but because of your career in the NFL, many remember you for football. What do you remember when you think back on your time at Pitt?

 

A: I was originally from Pittsburgh, and the year before I played, the football team was 1-9. So for football, I was looking for a big turnaround. We had a big season my senior year and it was good to have that success.

 

The track and field team enjoyed a tremendous amount of success all around. When I was at Pitt, I saw the University starting to make changes and improve the whole approach to athletics. It was nice to be a part of that and be a part of turning things around. It was during the 1960s, and there was a lot of social change going on. We were in the middle of it and it was an interesting time. I remember all of that very well.

 

Q: You went on to a great career in the NFL, so football was obviously a big part of your life. What is your biggest Pitt football memory during your time?

 

A: It was a game against West Virginia when Bobby Bowden was coaching against us. We were down, 35-0, at halftime and we came back and won that game, 36-35. I heard Bobby Bowden say on the radio that it was the most exciting game he had ever been involved with. It may have been a meaningless game in the grand scheme of things, but it was special for us.

 

Q: What are your thoughts on the centennial celebration in Pittsburgh on May 10?

 

A: I find it very incredible. To imagine that we’re celebrating 100 years since the first African- American student-athlete graduate. I don’t know if any other major institution has ever done this. There are so many other universities that will probably have to wait another 50 or more years until they can celebrate this type of event. The fact that we are celebrating at Pitt is incredible for the University.

 

One thing I take from it is that we, as African-Americans, are part of the University’s history. I went to the most recent Pitt-West Virginia basketball game and saw all of the people who were enjoying that game. After the game I realized that 40 years ago, that was my teammates and I. The story was different back then, but everyone on the court or the field is part of the school. And it’s more than just being an athlete, we’re part of the community.

 

Q: You mentioned being more than just an athlete. What did Pitt give you from an academic standpoint?

 

A: I spent 20 years in the U.S. Foreign Services as a diplomat. One of the first questions I’d get when people found out I played football professionally is, “How did you make that transition into the U.S. diplomatic core?” I’d tell them that I went to the University of Pittsburgh, and I figured that would be enough. I didn’t have to elaborate. This institution gave me an education that was of extreme value and usefulness.

 

Q: How do you stay involved with Pitt today?

 

A: I am on the Board of Trustees. I come up to Pittsburgh for various meetings. I had been away for 30 years, but over the last 10 years I’ve been back-and-forth, reconnecting. This is why I think this particular event is very important in so many ways. To reconnect with such a great institution and for the institution to recognize the people who put in so much work, I know it is special.