Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC)

Community College of Allegheny County

James Brewster

A Life Dedicated to Serving His Community

When Jim Brewster (’69) was 16 years old, a serious motorcycle accident resulted in the news that he wouldn't walk again. Jim, however, had other plans. From student athlete to corporate vice president, mayor of McKeesport to Pennsylvania State Senator, Brewster could not be so
easily stopped–and it all began at CCAC.

After graduating from McKeesport High School’s Vo-Tech program in 1966, Jim attended college for a semester at Point Park College but left after he decided the cost of tuition was too high. After considering his options, he enrolled at CCAC–South Campus in the fall of 1967. He chose CCAC initially because he liked the location. It was close to home and close to public transportation. What he found he liked even more was that it had a great atmosphere and was a very comfortable and positive environment: a place where he knew everyone and they knew him, a place where he was connected and could grow.

At South Campus, Jim was one of the founding members of the Cross Country and Track programs. He says the Cross Country team was very good and they had good years while he was there, which brought positive attention to the still-young CCAC. His coach, Tom Wilson and the athletic director Cal Sheffield, both helped to perpetuate that feeling of connectedness that had become so important to him. Jim previously had very little guidance and limited academic background to ease the college transition, but at CCAC, he was able to develop the discipline to succeed
at a four-year institution.

After graduating from CCAC in 1969, Jim transferred to California University of Pennsylvania. CalU accepted all of his CCAC credits and he graduated with a degree in Education. Brewster credits the help of the great coaches like Wilson and Sheffield; teachers like his Math instructor, Dr. Allan Bluman; the small class size; and personal attention as large contributors to his eventual success. He wonders, “What would have happened to me had I not had CCAC?”

Jim went on to work for Mellon Financial Corporation for many years, first as a fraud investigator and eventually working his way up to vice president of Operations. In 1995 he also became a McKeesport city councilman and served as council president for seven years before he was elected mayor in 2004.

He says the people of McKeesport are not motivated by money–rather it is a “work hard and pay for yourself and your own way” kind of community. With Wilson, he helped design the track in Renziehausen Park in McKeesport and during his years as mayor he helped to develop the Palisades, McKeesport Point Marina and Greater Allegheny Passage Trail at the Waterfront. He was elected to both the McKeesport Area School District Hall of Fame and the McKeesport Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2010 he was honored as “Mayor of the Year” by the Pennsylvania Mayor’s Association and was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate to represent the 45th Senatorial District in parts of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

Jim’s connection to CCAC continues today and he believes that having CCAC–South Campus is good for the Mon Valley, good for McKeesport, good for CalU and good for CCAC. Through his office, Jim hosts free student aid seminars to help families find grants and scholarships to help pay for higher education. Additionally, his wife, the former Linda Leah, is currently enrolled at CCAC. They have three daughters and five grandchildren.

Senator James Brewster