November 02, 2020

Ron Slater: Former Ombuds at University of Pittsburgh

Ronald J. Slater Jr., passed away on October 27, 2020, after a long battle with pancreatitis. He for most of his three-decade career, he served as the Student Ombudsman. As of earlier this year, Slater was the student appeals coordinator. 

A few years ago, a former student, Donald E. Collins, wrote about the help he received from Slater:
Despite these acts of generosity and my acts of desperation, I knew that I’d probably starve before the semester was over. I had less than ten dollars to work with after the first week in November. I went to Thackeray Hall to register for classes for next semester. While there, it occurred to me to go upstairs to see one of the financial aid counselors, an older Black woman named Beverly who’d been really nice to me while working through my bill issues earlier in the semester. I told her in detail what was going on. “You need to talk to Ron,” she said, referring to Ron Slater, the university ombudsman, the person who normally resided over tuition payment issues. So there I was the next day, explaining to the ombudsman my situation.

“We’ll take care of this, we’ll find you some extra money. Just hang in there for a few days,” he said. Slater actually offered me money right out of his wallet.

“No thanks, I’ll be all right,” I said, my voice starting to crack because I was so grateful that anyone cared enough to help me through my dire straits. I somehow found a way not to cry right there on the spot.

The week before Thanksgiving, I went to check in with Beverly. “I’ve got good news for you, but you’ll have to wait a few days.” Through the ombudsman, the university had recalculated my financial aid package, increasing my Pell to the maximum amount allowed, and added the federal SEOG grant (Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants) to my aid menu. Both gave me an extra $800 to work with. After that weekend, one where Regis’ potatoes became a part of my diet, I bummed five dollars off of one of my classmates from General Writing. The next day I got my check from the ombudsman. “I’m so glad to have been of help. It’s part of my job. I just wish you’d come to me earlier,” Slater said. Hearing that did make me tear up. I was in the spirit of the season already. It was two days before Thanksgiving. I spent that holiday at Melissa’s house with her and her father, an ailing contractor in his early-sixties.

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