George Carvell

Obituary of George E. Carvell

Dr. George E. Carvell Of Point Breeze on Sunday, March 5, 2023, age 77. Beloved husband of Lynne O. P. Carvell; father of Allison Thuy Caprino (Barry), Jonathan Edward Carvell, Jason Alan Carvell (Laura), and Deborah Ann Smith; grandfather of Hattie and Lola Carvell; brother of Judy Lebo (Ronald); son the late Ward and Edna Carvel, son-in-law of the late Elizabeth Young Ogletree; brother-in-law of David and Michael Ogletree; uncle of Lisa Lebo and Ronald Lebo; great-uncle of Emma and Nickolas Lebo. Loving caretaker to all his critters, past and present. Dr. Carvell had recently retired after 47 years of teaching neuroscience in SHRS’ Physical Therapy (PT) and undergraduate Rehabilitation Science programs. Inspired by his eighth-grade science teacher who taught during the 20th century “space race,” Carvell discovered his own passion for the STEM field at an early age. He claimed that he “had always tried to figure out how things, animate and inanimate, work.” It was a trait that stayed with him throughout life. Dr. Carvell majored in biology at Gettysburg College and taught science to eighth graders before realizing they weren’t as engaged with the topic as he had been as a young teenager. He pivoted and began his studies in physical therapy at the University of Pennsylvania where his passion for neuroscience began. Dr. Carvell practiced PT for several years before pursuing a master’s degree in Medical Science at Emory University. He came to Pitt in 1975 as a teaching assistant while completing his advanced degree and was immediately hired as an assistant professor upon graduation. While teaching for PT, he enrolled in the Department of Neurobiology, Anatomy and Cell Science as a PhD student. His research, then and up to retirement, was related to anatomy, physiology and the behavior of rats using their whiskers to relay touch information to the circuitry in their brains. He continuously revised and updated the content that he taught based on emerging evidence from his own research as well as that published in the literature. Dr. Carvell will be remembered most for his teaching prowess. He inserted his sense of humor in the classroom and developed innovative, illustrative ways to demonstrate key concepts to students that held their interest and brought the activities of nerve cells to life through creative storytelling. He then combined the students’ understanding of the structure and function of the nervous system with clinical practice applications. Jay Irrgang, chair and professor of the Department of Physical Therapy, remembers, “The focus of George’s teaching efforts was to ensure that his students were able to apply and synthesize their knowledge of neurophysiology to enhance their ability to screen for and diagnose neurological conditions and optimize the treatment provided.” In recognition of his teaching excellence, Dr. Carvell received the university’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award and the Excellence in Neurology Award from the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association. He continually received research funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and was the first recipient of the Eugene Michels New Investigator Award from the American Physical Therapy Association. Dr. Carvell also served as the inaugural associate dean for Graduate Studies and was instrumental in the efforts to develop SHRS’ PhD in Rehabilitation Science. “At the time, the PhD in Rehabilitation Science was the first of its kind,” explains SHRS Dean Anthony Delitto. “George spearheaded the proposal and assured its interdisciplinary nature. The success of the program is best documented by its graduates, many of whom are successful academicians and occupy leadership positions internationally.” Dr. Carvell literally wrote the book on teaching neuroscience through his decades-long development of an electronic interactive instructional program, Gray Matter on my Mind. He originally started this unique instructional approach in 1998, continually revised his manual for 23 years and published it just last year through Creative Commons as an Open Access eBook. When he first published his book, Dr. Carvell was eager to share his favorite passage that we leave here: “Scientists by their very nature are inquisitive people who typically see science as more of a matter of formulating testable questions to advance our understanding rather than providing a final answer to complex phenomena in nature (truth). More often than not, research findings lead to incomplete answers that, in turn, provide more refined questions and new approaches. Dedicated scientists and clinician-scholars have repeated ‘scratch your head-what does that mean?’ moments in the laboratory or clinic. If the scientist scratches her head but then does nothing, that will not lead to progress. If the head-scratching leads to action, progress may be made. On the other hand, if she scratches someone else’s head without permission, she may become quite unpopular. Science is the intellectual ’itch’ that keeps on returning to the curious. The cure is not a lotion or potion but is the scientist’s incentive driving that curious individual to take demonstrative action and to persevere in the face of daunting challenges, both intellectual and fiscal.” A memorial service will be held at Calvary Episcopal Church in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh on Monday, April 3rd. Friends will be received by family at 10 a.m. with the service beginning at 11 a.m. A reception will immediately follow at the church. The family also requests that guests wear the Pitt colors of blue and gold. The family asks for no flowers but suggests contributions be made to the Department of Physical Therapy in George’s name. Condolences may be left at