Pittsburgh Promise receives $1 million gift

Ann and Marty McGuinn, former Mellon CEO, give the largest individual donation

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The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program today will announce the biggest individual gift in its seven-year history -- a $1 million contribution from former Mellon Financial Corp. chairman and CEO Marty McGuinn and his wife, Ann.

"They are setting a remarkable example of leadership, service and incredible generosity. And I am deeply grateful," Saleem Ghubril, the Promise's executive director, said in a statement.

The Shadyside couple long have been involved in the scholarship program, unveiled in December 2006 by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and then-Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Mark Roosevelt.

Mr. McGuinn has been on the Promise board for about four years, and Mrs. McGuinn has devoted time to raising funds for the program. In addition, the couple have contributed about $10,000 annually for the past five years, Mr. Ghubril said in an interview.

Though it was unveiled in 2006, the Promise really got off the ground a year later with a $100 million challenge grant from UPMC. To leverage all $100 million, the Promise must raise $150 million -- and it's still about $81 million short.

In April, the Promise announced an accelerated fundraising drive with the aim of completing the match by June 2015. At the time, it said Mr. McGuinn had agreed to co-chair a special committee that would seek corporate and foundation contributions.

With their own gift, Mr. Ghubril said, the McGuinns are leading by example.

"We're hoping it encourages others to support the Promise," said Mr. McGuinn, who left Mellon in 2006 after 25 years. In addition to work on the Promise board, he is chairman of the Carnegie Museum of Art and sits on the UPMC board. Mrs. McGuinn continues to raise funds for the Promise and is involved in other civic pursuits.

To date, the Promise has provided $42.2 million in scholarships to 4,660 graduates of the Pittsburgh Public Schools and city charter schools. The money may be used at dozens of Pennsylvania post-secondary institutions for tuition, room, board, books and fees. The maximum scholarship is $40,000, but individual amounts vary according to a student's tuition costs and other factors.

Besides helping students afford a college degree, the program is tied to academic-improvement efforts in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. It's also intended to keep families in Pittsburgh and attract new ones, while helping to develop the region's workforce.

"There are a lot of good things going on in Pittsburgh right now, but I don't think any of them has a broader or wider impact than the Pittsburgh Promise," Mr. McGuinn said.

Until the McGuinns' gift, the biggest individual contribution to the Promise was $350,000, Mr. Ghubril said.

Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.

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