Art Rooney donates to Hunt Library

Courtney Chin Sep 28, 2008

Carnegie Mellon’s Rare Book Collection received a rather special addition last Tuesday from Pittsburgh Steelers owner and Vice President Art Rooney Jr. In a private ceremony held in the Fine and Rare Book Room in Hunt Library, Rooney donated several copies of his new book, Ruanaidh: The Story of Art Rooney and His Clan, a signed football, collectible player cards, and the original art from his book.

With an attendance of around 30 people, which included his family, close friends, and Steelers officials, including famous former player Jack Lambert, Rooney gave a short speech highlighting some of his fondest memories with the Steelers and funny anecdotes about his legendary father, Art Rooney Sr. Also present were Carnegie Mellon’s football coaches, their captains, and other athletic staff.

Ruanaidh, which Rooney wrote in conjunction with Roy McHugh over a 12-year period, chronicles the story of his father and the background of founding the Steelers, originally called the Pirates. “It’s just my dad’s story through my eyes and ears, and it was all these stories that I heard as a little kid,” Rooney said. This biography of Rooney Sr. tells of his early childhood, from his passion for baseball and football to his scholarship to college and eventually how he won enough money on a horse race to start the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite Rooney’s Steeler “royalty” status to the people of Pittsburgh, not many know of his passion for drama. After spending one semester at Carnegie Mellon in the College of Fine Arts, Rooney moved to New York City to further his education. Although he enjoys acting, Carnegie alum Rooney’s heart is with the Steelers. During his years with the team, Rooney held the positions of head scout and recruited several future Football Hall of Famers, including Frank Harris. He was also partly responsible for the Super Bowl team wins during the mid 1970s.

“Being a vice president isn’t that much fun as when I was a scout. To be directly involved in it, that’s where the passion is. It’s like a narcotic; you never want to stop, and it takes over all of your thinking. I was very lucky to be a part of it,” he said.

Rooney is the vice president, with a 16 percent share in the ownership of the team, and a member of the board of directors.

The legacy of the Rooney family will forever be enshrined in Carnegie’s Rare Book Room for those who wish to view the donation. “They are just wonderful members of the community here in Pittsburgh,” said Gloriana St. Clair, dean of University Libraries. Of the Steelers, she added, “They really reflect to America the importance of the immigrant experience and the immigrant story. They both have an emphasis on community.”

When asked what message his father would want to have passed on, Rooney simply replied, “Treat people as you would want to be treated, but don’t let people mistake kindness for weakness. And, you better have a sense of humor, because life gets really tough.”