In memoriam: Seth Hufford

November 18, 2023

We're saddened to share the news of the passing of Seth Hufford, an alumnus, dedicated volunteer and inspiring nonprofit leader. His obituary, included below and originally shared by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on November 18th, highlights his incredible impact and life. He will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues and former classmates. 


Obituary: Seth Hufford helped guide corporate and nonprofit leaders

Aug. 31, 1974 — Nov. 4, 2023

A facilitator and humanitarian who counseled corporate and nonprofit leadership, Seth Hufford helped others realize their full potential with his selfless and giving nature, his collaborators and family said.

“Seth Hufford was a blessing. He taught me a lot and affected me in deep and inspiring ways,” said Daniel Rothschild, an architect who co-founded the Leadership Institute for Emerging Professionals with Mr. Hufford and two others. “He had a gentle and kind nature — he was very open and empathetic and he was extremely intelligent in social dynamics.”

“He was truly one of the most beautiful, important people in the city,” said Alec Rieger, executive director of “Next Gen: Pgh,” who launched the Squirrel Hill Farmers Market and the Squirrel Hill Night Market with the help of Mr. Hufford.

“Seth was an expert facilitator and one the most grounded people I’ve ever met. He was such a calming presence. Seth was an antidote to the cynicism of life right now.”

“He showed people how to make a difference in the world, how to tap into their natural skills and use them,” said his wife Dorie Taylor.

Mr. Hufford, 49, died of a rare gastrointestinal cancer at his North Point Breeze home on Nov. 4.

The son of a minister, Mr. Hufford moved around quite a bit growing up. It was an experience that helped him learn how to deal with differing personalities and circumstances.

After graduating from Greater Latrobe High School, he earned a degree in history from Dickinson College, followed by a master’s degree in public policy and management from the University of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Hufford taught ethics and accountability in public service at Pitt for a time and directed leadership development programs at the Carnegie Bosch Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

He also worked at a number of nonprofit organizations, facilitating civic and community leadership programs for groups like Leadership Pittsburgh, and he even worked for a year as chief of staff for former Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, who is now a county Common Pleas judge.

Ms. Taylor met her husband in 2000 when a friend introduced them. But, she had spied him before at a neighborhood bus stop.

“He was my bus crush,” she said, laughing. “I would see this cute man get on the bus for months and finally my friend introduced us.”

The couple married in 2006 in New York City, where Mr. Hufford was working as director of leadership New York at the Coro New York Leadership Center.

In 2016, he joined Mr. Rothschild, founder of Rothschild Doyno Collaborative in the Strip District, to develop a leadership program for architects, interior designers and engineers as part of a initiative sponsored by the American Institute of Architects Pittsburgh Architecture Foundation.

The idea was to find ways to look beyond work and careers to create something different, something of greater value.

“Seth and I and two other architects were given the task of creating a leadership program,” Mr. Rothschild said. “We had to start from scratch. Seth was our guru, our wizard, our inspiration and thought leader and through that process we touched the lives of 98 professionals from 37 different organizations over a period of five years.”

His influence changed their lives, Mr. Rothschild said.

“When Seth walked into a room and addressed our cohort he would start with meditation and he would center everybody as he created a safe and brave space for people to get an understanding of who they were and how they could be in control of some leadership initiatives in order to make the world a better place,” he recalled. “It wasn’t just going to school, it was creating a movement. Five groups in our industry are now speaking the same thoughtful leadership language and the synergy is incredible. They’re changing the nature of their firms, the organizations they lead and the communities in which they reside.

“They’ve mastered the technical and creative aspects of the profession, so what’s next? How do I make the world a better place? Seth gave them the tools to do this,” he said.

For example, one of their graduates helped to develop the first eco-district in the country — an urban area designed to reduce environmental impact in Etna and another started an organization, Women in Design, that breaks down gender barriers in the design and construction industry.

In 2013, Mr. Hufford founded his own company, The People Group, which focused not only on business executives, but community leaders and young people.

“When you talk about a bright light, that was Seth. It’s really a loss for our region. He was someone committed to leadership,” said Allyce Pinchback-Johnson, who owns a North Side consulting firm and partnered occasionally with Mr. Hufford on various projects.

Some of those projects centered on stamping out systemic racism, an issue close to Mr. Hufford’s heart, said Ms. Pinchback-Johnson.

“He was very committed to working around anti-racism,” she said. “I’m a Black woman and as a white man, he was somebody who was constantly looking at himself and finding ways to disrupt racism. He took it upon himself as a white man to show up and advocate and use his privilege to move things forward. He was gentle and soft-spoken but also firm in his stance and commitment.”

Mr. Hufford led by example, she said, like working in his community to help establish the Westinghouse Park master plan.

“I think back on every conversation we had and reflect on all of the wisdom he has imparted and just how to be a better person, how to care deeply about people and humanity,” she said. “He’s made me a better consultant, more thoughtful and open.”

Mr. Hufford also tackled another issue close to his heart: youth democracy.

“We came up with the idea to work with youth through a collaboration known as Civic Stage,” Mr. Rieger said.

They created a network of pop-up civic incubators aimed at young people to create an ecosystem for learning. The hope is to continue developing such programs in Mr. Hufford’s memory, Mr. Rieger said.

“They are used to engage and educate the public about the civic challenges that we all face — not politicized, online or on social media,” he said. “Seth believed this as strongly as I do, that youth are an underused resource.”

A lover of music and non-fiction books who played soccer for an over-40 city league, Mr. Hufford should be remembered for the lives he improved and will continue to influence for years to come, friends and loved ones said.

“Seth was someone who was a very good listener and understood that is what most people want, to be heard,” his wife said. “Over time, he learned that he didn’t need to solve everyone’s problem or chime in with the answer. He could be there to offer quiet support. He was very approachable and respectful in his interactions with all people and I think that’s what also made him memorable. He would say he was not an expert in anything, he was always learning.”

Along with his wife, Mr. Hufford is survived by his sons Nevins, 15, and Miles Taylor Hufford, 12; his parents Dorothy Tanner and William E. Hufford, of Latrobe; and brother Kent L. Hufford, of Munich, Germany.

A memorial service and celebration of life is being planned for Dec. 2 at the Frick Environmental Center, 2005 Beechwood Blvd. in Point Breeze. A service for the family will be held at 3 p.m., followed an hour later by public visitation and a celebration of life.

Janice Crompton:

First Published November 18, 2023