Bill Dietrich '60 (Courtesy Carnegie Mellon University)

Bill Dietrich '60 (Courtesy Carnegie Mellon University)

In the history of Pittsburgh, two names top the list of local industrialists-turned-philanthropists. They happen to be linked in the name of one of the city’s top universities, Carnegie Mellon.

Last week Bill Dietrich ’60, former steel-industry executive and longtime Carnegie Mellon trustee, made a gift to the school that will make “Dietrich” an enduring name on campus as well. He pledged $265 million for a fund that would be made available after his death.

In announcing the gift, Carnegie Mellon president Jared L. Cohon called it “truly historic,” noting that “even taking into account the time value of money, this gift is larger than the one Andrew Carnegie made in establishing this university in 1900.” Carnegie Mellon has a wide range of plans for the fund, which is the 14th-largest donation ever made to an institution of higher education, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. It will support global initiatives, research, and new academic initiatives for both undergraduates and graduate students.

Dietrich, speaking on a webcast Sept. 7, said that the gift was inspired by his mother, Marianna Brown Dietrich. (Carnegie Mellon’s college of humanities and social sciences will be renamed in her honor.) The Pittsburgh-area native also joked about his choice to attend Princeton, motivated in part by an article in the World Book Encyclopedia. “Underneath a picture of Blair Arch, the article began, ‘Princeton has sent more Rhodes scholars to Oxford than any other American university,’” he said. “I never bothered to read the rest of the article. Hell, I didn’t even know that Princeton was in New Jersey.”

Dietrich did not go on to win the Rhodes, but he received his A.B. in history and went on to a successful career for Dietrich Industries, a family company that produced steel and building products, paving the way for his remarkable bequest to Carnegie Mellon.

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