2017 Squirrel Hill Treasures
A lifelong resident of Squirrel Hill, E.J. Strassburger is a civil rights lawyer devoted to community service, focusing on housing and social justice for low income people. Strassburger’s professional achievements are lengthy. He was an instructor at Carnegie Mellon University, teaching classes on civil liberties and also taught at the University of Pittsburgh. He was a past president and board member of the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County and the Neighborhood Legal Services Association, along with being a board member of the Pennsylvania Legal Service Corporation.
Strassburger’s community services are lengthier, his most notable being the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter. He is the president of the Jewish Residential Foundation and a former president and board member of the Jewish Residential Services, along with being a former board member of the Rodef Shalom Congregation and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Strassburger is a current member of the August Wilson Center Recovery Committee.
His service to the Jewish Residential Services have done the most for the Squirrel Hill Community, partnering with ACTION Housing Inc., supporting the rehabilitation of houses devoted to serving affordable housing to low income people, many with mental disabilities. His dedication to serving those in need has been a great benefit to Squirrel Hill.
Maria Caruso is the founder and director of Bodiography Contemporary Ballet and Chair of the Performing Arts Department at La Roche College. She is well known for her leadership as well as her choreographic strength focusing on humanity in dance. In 2000, she founded Bodiography Contemporary Ballet in New York City, which she continued when she returned to Pittsburgh in 2001. Now a thriving company at the site of Gene Kelly’s dance studio in Squirrel Hill, it provides her with the opportunity to create new ballets, teach dance and exercise and create a positive self-image for people who don’t fit the stereotype of a ballet dancer’s body.
Bodiography Contemporary Ballet presents a multi-genre movement vocabulary including modern, jazz, and pedestrian movement solidly supported by the classical ballet technique. Caruso’s creation of the Bodiography Fitness and Strength Training System is based on a system of compounding exercises with the utilization of multiple props in a mat based class. The program has found great success particularly on the east coast of the United States. With over 50 trained instructors in a variety of fitness and dance environments, the fitness system assists in spreading the company’s over arching message of dance being an inclusive art form. Beyond the national reach of the program, the Bodiography Fitness and Strength Training System classes can be found in many places in the Pittsburgh area.
Caruso prepares young aspiring artists for collegiate and professional careers in dance. Her graduates continue to flourish in the top university dance programs and dance companies across the country.
Long-time Squirrel Hill resident and neighborhood civic leader, John Katz is the co-owner of Brandywine Agency, a residential builder and property manager. Katz has contributed to the quality of life in Squirrel Hill by making improvements to the commercial areas of Forbes and Shady. Mr. Katz has restored and preserved the architectural gem of the early 1900’s building at the corner of Forbes and Shady: restoring the exterior, preserving the historical elements, and unifying the buildings with brown spandrel glass. He’s made Beacon Commons improvements, including a mural, trees and fencing to improve the aesthetics of the area. Katz has contributed to SHUC projects as well as Uncover Squirrel Hill. Katz has installed twenty bicycle racks around Squirrel Hill, with five more on the way, showing dedication to keeping Squirrel Hill bike friendly.
The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh
Established in 1902, The Children’s Institute is an independent, nonprofit, licensed organization, dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, young people and their families by providing services that enables them to reach their potential. Today, the institute is a leader in pediatric rehabilitation techniques and provides individualized treatment programs along a broad spectrum of care: inpatient care, outpatient care, transitional and subacute care and home care. The Children’s Institute also has The Day School, an accredited private school for students with special needs, Project STAR, a social services component dedicated to supporting and finding permanent homes for children with special needs and a Therapeutic Garden, accessible to children at the Institute and also the public. The organization focuses on medical, therapy, educational, child and family services.
These services are inextricably related, thereby providing a one-of-a-kind, comprehensive network of services. Last year, The Children’s Institute served more than 5,800 children and their families. It is the only free-standing pediatric rehabilitation specialty hospital in Pennsylvania and one of only 20 in the nation.
The Day School at CI is an approved private school for children ages 2 through 21 who have disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and/or neurological impairments. It serves 190 students from 67 school districts in a small, structured learning environment with a low student-staff ratio of 2-to-1. CI also provides children and family services through Project STA, which promotes the right of all children to grow in a safe, nurturing, lasting family through adoption, foster care and intensive family support.