Duquesne University, Cultural Trust are latest to benefit from William S. Dietrich II's philanthropy

Steel executive's legacy keeps expanding

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After record-setting gifts to Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, the late steel industry executive William S. Dietrich II has expanded his legacy to include a $12.5 million gift to Duquesne University and a $5 million gift to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The gifts are being announced today.

Mr. Dietrich died Oct. 6 at the age of 73 within weeks of giving $265 million to CMU and $125 million to Pitt, the largest gifts either had ever received. The gifts are being made through the Dietrich Foundation.

The gift to Duquesne University also is its largest ever, and the one to the Cultural Trust is among its largest. The previous largest donation to Duquesne was $10.3 million gift made in 1983 by Noble J. Dick.

Duquesne University president Charles Dougherty said, "When you put all these pieces together and you think about what he's done for CMU, Pitt and now for us, this single individual has had a profound effect on higher education in Pittsburgh."

Cultural Trust president Kevin McMahon said, "This is going to be an enormous boost to our ability to continue to provide the highest quality programming to our region."

Duquesne University will be using earnings from its gift to fund scholarships in the William S. Dietrich Scholars program.

In advance of the money, the university started the program this fall, providing annual scholarships of $2,000 each for five students who are academically outstanding and financially needy. Mr. Dougherty expects the program to grow.

"Our founding intent going back 133 years ago was to make education possible for people in need," said Mr. Dougherty.

Today, he said: "We have so many kids now who need higher education but really have financial difficulties affording it. This really completes the circle."

Mr. Dougherty said Mr. Dietrich did not restrict what the university could spend the endowment earnings on, but, when told of the scholarships, Mr. Dietrich was "delighted by the idea."

Mr. Dietrich had served on the boards of both CMU and Pitt, and had earned a doctorate at Pitt. But he had no formal connection to Duquesne.

Mr. Dougherty said he met in July with Mr. Dietrich, who talked to him about making the gift, saying how impressed he was with the ethics followed by Duquesne University graduates as well as Duquesne's role in the local academic scene.

Mr. Dietrich noted one graduate who was a financial adviser who "displayed an uncommon level of ethical behavior in a difficult business transaction," according to the university news release.

Mr. Dougherty had met Mr. Dietrich several times previously through John J. Connelly, a steel executive who chaired Duquesne's board, but did not know him well.

With this gift, the Catholic university -- which has more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students -- has raised $143 million of the $150 million of its capital campaign, according to the university.

For the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the gift will establish the Dietrich Family Art and Performance Fund to underwrite performances and art in the trust's galleries.

Mr. Dietrich was a member of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's investment committee and advised the group on financial matters in the years leading up to his death.

"The way in which he's established this tremendous legacy speaks to his belief and his value of arts and culture in this community," Mr. McMahon said.

The Cultural Trust was created in 1984 by Jack Heinz, chairman of the H.J. Heinz Co., with the aim of reinventing a portion of the Pittsburgh's evaporating Downtown cityscape into an arts district in the wake of the steel industry's decline.

Projects have included the $43 million restoration of the Stanley Theatre into the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts and plans include an end result of "over 14 cultural facilities, public parks and plazas, and new and proposed commercial developments," according to the trust.

At CMU, the College of Humanities and Social Studies has been renamed Marianna Brown Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences in honor of Mr. Dietrich's mother.

At Pitt, the board will vote Oct. 28 on renaming the School of Arts and Sciences in honor of Mr. Dietrich's father, Kenneth P. Dietrich.

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 founded in 1959. Initially a small company near Blairsville, the firm grew to become Dietrich Industries, a steel distribution and products company.

For the past dozen years, he focused his work on the Dietrich Charitable Trusts, which grew to $500 million. The charitable remainder trusts were to fund The Dietrich Foundation upon his death.

Mr. Dougherty said, "One thing Bill said to me was he knew he couldn't live forever, but he could create something that would."

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955. Taryn Luna: tluna@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1985.


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