BHS Seniors to Visit Pitt's Nationality Rooms with Generous Gift From Alumnus Maxine Bruhns

By Trina Runner on February 26, 2019 via

For over 50 years, Bridgeport High School alumnus Maxine Bruhns has been the director of the University of Pittsburgh Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs.  She is now making it possible for the current BHS seniors to experience the unique attraction that represents the cultures of immigrants who settled in Allegheny County.  Her generous donation will provide transportation and tours for up to 150 seniors on March 27.
A member of the Bridgeport High School Alumni and Friends Hall of Fame, Bruhns,95, has dedicated her life to educating others about cultures around the world.  She has personally traveled to over 83 countries and has interacted with world leaders from the Dalai Lama to Nobel Prize-winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer.  Her experiences have been immersive, teaching Buddhist monks in Cambodia and working directly with locals in four continents.
Bruhns is a distant relative of Edgar Allen Poe and graduated from Bridgeport High School in 1941.  While fondly remembering her childhood in this area, her world changed the day she heard about the bombing at Pearl Harbor.  She was attending West Virginia Wesleyan College at the time and left school to serve her country in an aircraft factory making B-26 bomber wings for the war effort.
In 1946, she married German refugee Fred Bruhns.  After serving two years in a German prison for anti-Nazi activity, he dedicated his life to serving other refugees, including resettling over 800,000 Vietnamese.  The couple eventually landed in Pittsburgh, where Fred taught at the University of Pittsburgh and Maxine became the Director of the Nationality Rooms.
Under her leadership, the number of Nationality Rooms expanded from 19 to 30, with new ones being considered. More than 25,000 visitors tour the rooms annually and most are also used as classrooms.  Allegheny County’s immigrant communities create the classrooms, which are designed to reflect the authenticity of the designated country.  
Extensive research is done to ensure that architectural elements, materials and construction are reflective of each country and no room can feature political symbols or the likeness of a living person.  Committees who represent the countries are responsible for raising funds, dedicating the room and hosting cultural programs.
One of Bruhns’ favorite parts of her job is being able to validate the importance of each culture and showing how each 9 has contributed to the area.  She loves to engage the community and often speaks in the native tongue of the country when tourists visit.  She also oversees the scholarships awarded to students who wish to visit the countries represented by the Nationality Rooms.  In fact, she and her husband have given nearly $3 million in scholarships to deserving students, including some to her alma mater, West Virginia Wesleyan College.
With a lifetime of unforgettable experiences, she has now made it possible to give the BHS Class of 2019 the opportunity to have a personalized guided tour of the Nationality Rooms.  Students will pay an extra $20 to also visit the Carnegie Mellon Science Center while in Pittsburgh on March 27.  Seniors will be on the field trip while underclassmen take the SAT test.
“We are so grateful that our seniors have the opportunity to not only see the Nationality Rooms, but to see a very successful Bridgeport High School alumnus in action,” said Principal Matt Demotto.  “It’s a great way to demonstrate how culturally diverse our region is and how many contributions each country has made.”

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