Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar has celebrated the gift to its parent campus in Pittsburgh, US, of $265mn by William S Dietrich II, a noted businessman, scholar, philanthropist and long-time Carnegie Mellon University trustee.
Students, faculty and staff gathered to thank the donor for his record-breaking gift to support the university’s future academic initiatives.
Dietrich’s donation is one of the 10 largest ever by an individual to higher education in the US. He announced the gift at a ceremony at Carnegie Mellon Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
CMU, which currently has about 6,000 undergraduates, 5,500 graduate students, and a nearly 1,400-member faculty, also has a campus in Silicon Valley other than Qatar’s Education City.
CMU President Jared Cohon said the gift is unrestricted, but he noted the school’s historic support for technology and the arts.
In addition to faculty and alumni who have won 18 Nobel prizes, the school mentions ties to winners of 94 Emmy Awards, six Academy Awards, and 12 Tony Awards.
“Those tend to be quite different worlds, attracting different people,” Cohon said of science and the arts. “Here, there’s an awful lot of interaction. Technology influences every aspect of life, including the creation of art. We can expect to see more and more interaction between the two.”
Ronald Ehrenberg, director of the Cornell University Higher Education Research Institute, said the recession has made it tougher for schools to land big donations.
“One major problem with the financial collapse is that funding for capital projects — buildings — has dried up,” he said. “Many universities either had to go into debt or aborted their plans.”
But that means schools that get such gifts may be in an especially good position.
“This is actually a good climate to expand in, if you can get the resources. Because the financial pressures are making this a buyer’s market for faculty,” Ehrenberg said.
Dietrich, a Pittsburgh native, was born into one of the city’s elite families in 1938. A former US Marine, Dietrich has been an active supporter of business and the arts in western Pennsylvania, serving on the boards of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Symphony Society and the University of Pittsburgh.
But Dietrich, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, did not choose his alma maters for the gift.
In response to the donation, Carnegie Mellon’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences will be named the Marianna Brown Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences after Dietrich’s mother.
John Lehoczky, dean of the college, said the donation will help support programmes such as psychology, creative writing and the history of technology.
CMU, which joined Education City in 2004 at the invitation of Qatar Foundation, offers undergraduate programmes in business administration, computer science and information systems.
Students from Qatar and 39 different countries are studying at CMUQ.
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