Sheth Awards Recognize Law Faculty, Young Alum Educator

At home and abroad, Silver Francis Oonyu and Ronald A. Brand are visionary leaders committed to keeping students at the heart of their missions and cultivating inclusive education across borders. Their work spans continents but shares roots at the University of Pittsburgh.

Oonyu, an alumnus of the university, and Brand, the Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg University Professor and John E. Murray Faculty Scholar at the School of Law, are recipients of the 2019 Sheth International Awards.

Educator and Visionary

The University Center for International Studies selected Oonyu as the Sheth International Young Alumni Achievement Award honoree for his contributions to the international community and cultivating understanding within his home country.

In his own words, Oonyu is “legally blind, but privileged to be visionary.” At the age of four, the Uganda resident lost his sight to measles. With a disability and parents who lacked a formal education, Oonyu did not receive special education services. Instead, Oonyu said he was mistreated by teachers, peers, and community.

He found refuge after the fall of Idi Amin’s regime in 1979, when his family was able to turn to St. Francis Primary School for the Blind. Here Oonyu began his education and dream of someday opening an inclusive school for children with disabilities.

This vision was reinforced and supported by the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, where Oonyu earned a master’s degree in special education. During his studies he also completed a graduate certificate in African Studies from the African Studies Program.  After graduating in 2012, Oonyu taught part-time at St. Francis and secured funds for what would become his own school. The international fundraising effort included events with the Pittsburgh-based organization Vulnerable Children and Youth Action (VCAYA), a “Raise the Roof” campaign at Carlow University, and a project organized by Penn Hills High School students.

In 2014, Oonyu broke ground for the Silver Memorial Inclusive Community Learning Center (SMILE). More than 200 students are currently enrolled in the SMILE School Oonyu founded and where he now serves as an administrator.

International and Comparative Law Scholar

Three years after Oonyu set forth on a path toward his professional dream, the second Sheth International Award honoree began a career as a faculty
member at the Pitt School of Law.

During his 37 years at Pitt Law, Ronald Brand has brought renowned to the University through his scholarship and prolific publication in the areas of international and comparative law. Brand was the driving force behind the creation of the School of Law’s Center for International Legal Education (CILE) and its Master of Laws Program for Foreign Law Graduates. He has served as the center’s founding director since 1995.

Under Brand’s leadership, CILE has played a major role in teaching, scholarship, and service to the global legal community.

Brand “truly embodies our vision for internationalization of the University,” says Pitt’s Vice Provost for Global Affairs and University Center for International Studies Director Ariel C. Armony.

Brand also has fostered cross-border cooperation and understanding as a United States representative at the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The conference resulted in the 2005 Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements.

In addition, for over a decade, Brand has worked with the U.S. Department of Commerce to develop Middle East law school curricula in international commercial law and arbitration, training students and faculty from schools throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Brand receives the Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement for his influential work across the globe and strengthening of Pitt’s profile both at home and abroad.

The University Center for International Studies will present Brand and Oonyu with 2019 Sheth International Awards at a ceremony on Monday, October
14, 2019, at 11:30 a.m. at the William Pitt Union Assembly Room. The awards program and accompanying reception are free and open to the public.

About the Sheth International Awards

Founded in 2012, the Sheth International Awards are a result of a gift from Madhu and Dr. Jagdish N. Sheth (‘62G, ‘66G) through the Sheth Family Foundation. The Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement recognizes a University of Pittsburgh faculty member for their international activities, teaching, research, and public engagement. The Sheth International Young Alumni Achievement Award acknowledges a University of Pittsburgh alumnus for contributions to the international community through professional achievement and societal impact.

The 2019 Sheth International Awards presentation will take place Monday, October 14, at 11:30 a.m. in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room. If you would like to attend, please contact Jason Kane ( to RSVP.