Pitt receives $125 million gift

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The University of Pittsburgh today announced a record-setting gift -- $125 million from an alumnus and board member, former steel executive William S. Dietrich II.

The gift is believed to be among the largest by an individual to public higher education in the United States.

Pitt was planning to salute Mr. Dietrich during the football game Saturday with Notre Dame, and the university planned to name its School of Arts and Sciences for his father, Kenneth P. Dietrich.

It is the second record-setting gift made by Mr. Dietrich, 73, recently. Earlier this month, Carnegie Mellon University announced a gift of $265 million from Mr. Dietrich, effective upon his death.

Both gifts also are substantially larger than either university's previous largest gifts, $41.3 million for Pitt in 2007 from Ansys founder John Swanson and $55 million for CMU in 2004 from Wall Street investor David A. Tepper and his wife, Marlene.

As of its June 30 financial statement, Pitt's endowment totaled $2.5 billion. CMU has a smaller overall endowment, with the Dietrich gift equal to about a fourth of it.

According to figures from The Chronicle of Higher Education through June 24, the Dietrich gift to Pitt ties for the 10th highest private gift to public higher education in the United States.

Mr. Dietrich earned a Ph.D at Pitt. He is a member of both the Pitt and CMU boards and chaired the Pitt board from 2001 to 2003.

Mr. Dietrich graduated from high school at Conneaut Lake in 1955 and from Princeton University in 1960.

After graduation, he went to work for a firm his father, Kenneth, founded in 1959. Initially a small lumber company near Blairsville, the firm grew to become Dietrich Industries, a steel distribution and products company. Mr. Dietrich was instrumental in turning it into the nation's largest manufacturer of light steel framing for construction, with more than 1,800 employees at 19 plants in 17 states.

In addition to business, Mr. Dietrich also has a love of political science. In 1978, he began working on a doctorate in political science at Pitt, a degree he completed six years later. Early mornings, he worked on writing a book about Japan's growing economic power, "In the Shadow of the Rising Sun: The Political Roots of American Economic Decline," which offers a protectionist warning.

Worthington Industries, based in Columbus, bought Dietrich Industries in 1996. Mr. Dietrich was a director at Worthington until 2008.

The CMU gift is to be used as a catalyst for its global initiatives and connections between the arts and technology, an impact that will be felt at the undergraduate and graduate levels. At the time, Mr. Dietrich said he viewed CMU as one of a handful of schools in the world that have the potential to become truly global institutions.

As a result of the CMU gift, the university's College of Humanities and Social Sciences will be named after Mr. Dietrich's mother, Marianna Brown Dietrch.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955


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