Laura E. Diskin

July 21, 1927 ~ December 7, 2013 (age 86)

Obituary Image


Obituary of Laura Diskin
7/21/1927 – 12/7/2013

Laura Ernestine Snyder Diskin passed away peacefully at the John J. Kane Hazelwood Nursing Home on Saturday, December 7, 2013. The daughter of the late Eleanor (a secretary for the architectural firm L.D. Schmidt & Son) and Charles Snyder (an electrical engineer with the Monongahela Power Company), she was a native of Belington, WV. Laura grew up in Fairmont, WV, until she graduated from high school. She then moved to Pittsburgh in 1944 to study in the Painting and Design Department at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon) for two years. Laura changed her major on the campus and graduated from Margaret Morrison College with a BS in Psychology and Philosophy in 1948. Andy Warhol was a classmate while she was an art student. After college, she married James George Diskin, who became a technical representative for Westinghouse in Cheswick and a laboratory technician for the U.S. Bureau of Mines.

In 1950, she worked as a secretary for the American Institute for Research while taking graduate courses in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Some of her duties there included illustrating examples of their Critical Incident Publications and creating abstracts of the literature. In 1952, she worked as the personal secretary to Gordon B. Washburn, the Director of the Department of Fine Arts of Carnegie Institute at Carnegie Museum. She taught herself shorthand in a month to qualify for the job. While working at the museum, Laura met many interesting artists, became more fascinated with the Arts, and developed interests in Zen Buddhism and Bonsai. Some of the notable people she met on her job included the Sea Explorer Jacques Cousteau, the actor Vincent Price, and the philanthropist Helen Frick. Laura resigned in 1956 to prepare to have children. She was the beloved mother of two sons, James Brian Diskin and Myles Campbell Diskin.

While attending college, Laura became a member of the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh. During her early years at the church, she became Arts Consultant for the lower grades, taught kindergarten in the Sunday school, and became a Home-School Representative for Morewood Nursery School. Later on, Laura held offices in the Women’s Alliance at the church. Those offices included Co-Chair, Secretary, Chair, and Program Chair. She was also a member of the Pen Women, an organization of professional women comprised of composers, artists, and writers.

She served on the Art Committee at the church for many years and had several exhibitions in the church’s Undercroft Gallery. One exhibition was called “Mostly Galapagos” in honor of one of her favorite places in the world. Her paintings were also exhibited in the Carnegie Library in Squirrel Hill, the PNC Bank on Beulah Road, the Benedict Restaurant, and the Westinghouse Museum in Wilmerding.

She was an early member of Mothers’ Day Out (a program that provides child care for busy parents). She often lectured the group on several topics, including Zen and Bonsai. In the 1960s, Laura became President of the Pittsburgh Bonsai Society and studied with several masters of Bonsai. She exhibited her work at Phipps Conservatory. Laura lectured at the Pittsburgh Garden Center, Kaufmann’s, many other garden clubs in Pittsburgh, and one in WV. Laura also volunteered as a librarian and book reviewer for new acquisitions at the Pittsburgh Garden Club. An avid reader since she was a small child, Laura read hundreds of books on a variety of subjects throughout her life. Laura also learned from her mother, a Home-Economics major at the University of West Virginia, how to be an exceptional cook. She enjoyed gourmet cooking very much and kept an extensive file on an assortment of recipes.

Laura later joined the Churchill Garden Club and soon became Program Chairman. She was asked to be President of the organization. Instead, she joined the Teacher Corps at the University of Pittsburgh. As a Pitt student, she interned in schools that were underprivileged at the time. They included Baxter, Cowley, and Beltzhoover. Laura graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. Later she received a Henry Clay Frick Scholarship at Duquesne University. That scholarship lead to her second Master’s Degree (this one for Counseling). Laura became a state certified counselor. She served as a Board member of the Center for Human Development for a number of years and sometimes led sensitivity groups.

Laura became an elementary school teacher at Beltzhoozer, where she stayed for 18 and one-half years. She spent her first eight years working as an art teacher. Later on, she also became a math and science teacher. During that time, Dr. Sizemore, the Head of Black Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, came to observe her teaching. This lead to members of the Learning Research and Development Center at Pitt to study her techniques and tape her teaching methods on and off for several years. Laura became part of the Study of Excellence in the Teaching Program.

Near the end of her career as a teacher, Laura took a sabbatical for a year and went to the Galapagos. There she became fascinated with Darwin’s islands. She visited the Galapagos Islands three times during her sabbatical year. After paying back her sabbatical year, she stopped teaching and went back to the Galapagos for a total of 12 times. During her last trips, she was appointed by the ship’s owner as the Artist in Residence on the ship.

During her retirement years, Laura joined the Over-Sixty Program at the University of Pittsburgh. This program allowed her to take every undergraduate course they offered in Spanish, plus a few sit-ins in graduate Spanish without receiving course credits. In the fall of 1991, Laura’s mother Eleanor came to live with her. She lovingly cared for her mother for the next nine years, until she passed away at the age of 95.

While applying to the University of Pittsburgh, Laura had taken the Graduate Record Examination, the Millers Analogies, and the California Test of Mental Maturity. She scored above the 99th percentile in all of them. Laura join the high-IQ societies Intertel and Mensa. She became the first woman to ever head a high-IQ society when she became the International Executive Director (IXD) of Intertel. She was one of only a small number of members who were awarded Life Memberships.

While acting as the IXD of Intertel, Laura was instrumental in forming the Intertel Foundation, a separately incorporated entity. This foundation sponsored a yearly competition of candidates for a PhD in Education. Laura also acted as Vice President of the Intertel Foundation. She became one of the readers of proposals for dissertations in the field of childhood education for the foundation’s Hollingworth Award. This was an international project with readers (all Intertel Members) from many different countries to determine a winner for the best proposal for research in psychology or education to benefit gifted children. The winner would receive a substantial stipend to begin his or her work and receive additional money upon completion of the proposal. After some time, the President of the Intertel Foundation and Laura turned the award over to the National Gifted and Talented Children Foundation. This competition continues to this day, and it is considered the most prestigious such award of its kind.

Laura was one of the first women ever to serve on the Alumni Executive Board of Carnegie Mellon University and was in charge of the Nationality Dinners in her first year. The University invited her back several times to serve on the committee to choose the Alumni of Distinction. For over 15 years, she had been one of a group of five to seven members who were responsible for the reunions and all that entails of the graduating years of alumni from 1940, 1944, and 1948 with considerable help from the Alumni House.

A memorial service and reception will be held on Saturday, January 18, 2014, at 12:00 noon in The First Unitarian Church (605 Morewood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213). Remembrances may be made to the First Unitarian Church with a memo for the Art Committee.

Arrangements made by Patrick T Lanigan Funeral Home, East Pittsburgh (412) 824-8800.


Memorial Service
January 18, 2014

12:00 PM
First Unitarian Church
605 Morewood Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

© 2022 Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home and Crematory, Inc.. All Rights Reserved. Funeral Home website by CFS & TA | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Accessibility