We’re back for Part 2 of The Boomerang Effect series with insights from six other Pittsburghers. As a refresher, The Boomerang Effect is when someone who is originally from Pittsburgh moves away for some time and then moves back to the ‘Burgh again. Learn more about why they left and then came back, some of the unexpected challenges that they faced, and what makes Pittsburgh special to them.
As you can see from Part 1 and 2 of The Boomerang Effect, there are a variety of reasons why these Pittsburghers moved away—but they all eventually came back home. Some common threads: living elsewhere can give you a valuable new perspective, family is often a key motivator for returning to Pittsburgh (but not the only reason), and our city has a wide array of cultural amenities and a strong community of people.
Marlon Ferguson lives in Penn Hills and is the Executive Director of Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard. He left Pittsburgh to serve in the United States Navy. He lived in Florida, Illinois, and California, which gave him different points of comparison to Pittsburgh. When he left in 1988, Pittsburgh was in an economic crisis, and when he returned in 1995, it was still reinventing itself. At the time, he was concerned about the city because there was a mass exodus of people. However, he feels that it has gotten tremendously better since then, and he is glad to be back home.
“I think a lot of folks in Pittsburgh underestimate themselves. They’re very modest. Pittsburghers are doing some really great things and I don’t think they realize all of the good stuff they’re doing.” – Marlon
Lianne Sufrin moved to Long Island, New York for college and New York City for graduate school. She also worked as an Art Therapist in NYC before moving back to run OneTable in Pittsburgh. Some of her hobbies include hosting Shabbat dinners, volunteering for 412 Food Rescue, attending her book club, and going to shows and museums. She has made quality connections since being back, and she appreciates that the neighborhoods reflect our differences while also showing how we “fit perfectly like a puzzle.”
“I lost two family members in the shooting at Tree of Life, so it essentially stopped life in a way, for a little bit. But the people and community truly made all the difference. We’re a special breed, Pittsburghers. There’s so much friendliness, and seeing that, especially in strangers after the attack at Tree of Life, has gotten me through a rough year.” – Lianne
Whitney Friedman is a finance professional. She left Pittsburgh partway through her undergraduate degree because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to major in yet, and she had the opportunity to go to New Zealand to be with her now-husband. Living in another country made her feel more independent and gave her time to think about what she wanted in terms of a career and work-life balance. Whitney and her husband moved back to be near her family and because of the exciting opportunities here.
“Buying a house in Pittsburgh has been the best part about being back. Being able to live in the city at an affordable price point and renovate our house while being close to everything has been really great. Even as the city is evolving, it’s still very humble and accessible.” – Whitney
John works in the healthcare industry. He left Pittsburgh because he wanted to get a better understanding of other parts of the country. He went to Penn State and then spent time working in Washington, D.C. John loved D.C. and found that it was an important learning experience. However, he moved back with his wife and children because they wanted to lay down roots in a more affordable city and they found Pittsburgh to be compelling. John believes that the “brand” of Pittsburgh is on the rise and he likes that there is a rich community here that also includes transplants from other cities.
“Looking at the world through 36-year-old lenses looks very different than 23-year-old lenses. When I was younger, I thought D.C. was the best place for me with what my values were. But as I got older and started raising a family, my values changed a lot. Things in Pittsburgh that I was taking for granted were things that I valued now. That was the magnet that pulled me back to the city. And Pittsburgh has also changed so much in terms of development and other substantial things happening. So there were some realities and also some perceptions that changed for me.” – John
Alex grew up in Fox Chapel and is staying with her family there while she house and job hunts. She spent a decade working for the federal government on Capitol Hill and with the State Department. In addition to Washington, D.C. she was also stationed in Cote d’Ivoire and Jordan. Alex and her fiancé, a Marine veteran from Uniontown, appreciate how thrilled people are (even total strangers!) that they’re back and how willing people are to help them grow their network here. She’s looking forward to more hiking and running outside once Spring arrives.
“I had wonderful, enriching, and sometimes very difficult experiences living, working, and visiting many different places. I noticed that around the world, people value family, friends, and being able to provide a decent life for their loved ones. This observation, in part, made me want to be close to my family again!” – Alex
Molly Humphreys is a school administrator in the City of Pittsburgh. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Molly was a high school math teacher with Teach for America in San Antonio, Texas. Molly enjoyed telling her students about Pittsburgh and the unique dialect here. She returned to Pittsburgh for graduate school at Pitt and to be closer to family. She finds that the city still has a small-town feel, but it also now has more restaurants, breweries, cultural experiences, and industry growth, which makes it an attractive place for young adults.
“This city is the fabric that has shaped who I am—the connections, the values, and the experiences have carved out my path. I’m proud to be from Pittsburgh, waving that Pitt flag and wearing my black and gold.” – Molly