´ Steel Curtain Rising: In Memory of Rita McGinley, Part Owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Who gets the game ball for the Steelers win over the Texans?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

In Memory of Rita McGinley, Part Owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers


Long time Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner Rita McGinley has passed away.

Rita McGinley was the daughter of Barney McGinley who bought out Bert Bell’s shares of the Steelers when Bell became NFL commissioner. She was related to the Rooney’s by marriage as her brother Jack McGinley was married to Art Rooney Sr.’s sister Marie.

McGinley Loyal to Her Community and Her Team

McGinley was a graduate of Carlow College (then known as Mount Mercy) where she earned a degree in biology, graduating in 1940. She went on to teach at Braddock High and Woodlawn Hills High.

Rita McGinley was not a silent partner in the Steelers. In her obituary on Steelers.com Art Rooney II went at great pains to say that she watched games at Three Rivers Stadium and Heinz Field for as long as she could, always attended shareholder meetings, and was a frequent presence at training camp.

Like her brother before her, Rita McGinley was fiercely loyal to both the Rooney’s and the Steelers.

During the Steelers ownership restructuring of 2008, it became known that shortly after the death of Art Rooney Sr. a representative of an investor approached Jack McGinley asking him if he would be interested in parting with his shares of the Steelers. (Sorry, no link available.)

McGinley promptly told the said representative that his patron could keep his money and while he held on to his share of the Steelers. After McGinley passed away in 2006, a similar offer was made to his heirs.

That suitor was none other that Stanley Druckenmiller, who of course emerged in 2008 with his attempt to buy out the shares of Tim, John, Pat, and Art Rooney, Jr. after Roger Goodell ordered the Rooney family to divest itself of either the Steelers or its horse racing interests.
  • For a time there it seemed like the Rooneys could lose control of the Steelers.
But Rita McGinley made it clear in an interview that she was not parting with her shares of the team, no matter what price was offered to her.

True to her word, she retained her 10% stake in the Steelers when the ownership restructuring was complete. It is unknown who now inherits those shares.

Friend to Carlow College and St. Vincents

While part ownership of the Pittsburgh Steelers may have earned Rita McGinley notoriety, “The best description of her is that she was a teacher and philanthropist who happened to have an interest in a football team,” explained her Jack McGinley in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

McGinley was generous with her wealth, donating 5 million dollars to Carlow College where she founded the Rita McGinley Center for Student Success. Mary Hines, President of Carlow College, told the Tribune-Review that was a very dear friend of the university who truly exemplified what a Carlow alum is and what they value.”
  • She also endowed a chair at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe to help perpetuate the legacy of Pittsburgh icon Fred Rodgers.
St. Vincent’s College is well known to Steelers Nation for the obvious reason, but Carlow College might very well be new for many. Situated on “17 glorious acres  in the Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, Carlow is a small, traditionally female, Catholic liberal arts school sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy.

In the generations when female higher education was the exception and not the rule, Carlow severed as a gateway to a college degree to thousands of young women in Western Pennsylvania, including my aunt and my mother.

Thanks, in part, to Rita McGinley’s generosity that door will remain open, and perhaps that will be her most enduring legacy.

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