Dietrich Gift Will Create Duquesne’s Largest Scholarship Fund

$12.5 Million Gift is Largest in University’s History

Duquesne University will announce this evening that the late business leader and philanthropist William S. Dietrich II arranged a contribution of $12.5 million to the University before his death on Oct. 6.

The gift is the largest in Duquesne’s 133-year history and Dietrich’s third record-breaking contribution to a Pittsburgh higher education institution, following the announcement of unprecedented gifts to Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh last month.

Dr. Charles J. Dougherty, Duquesne University’s president, explained that Dietrich designated no specific purpose for the gift, requiring only that the distributions from The Dietrich Foundation be invested in the University’s endowment.   The University will invest the gift in an endowment to create The William S. Dietrich II Scholars program, providing scholarship funds to deserving students.

“Mr. Dietrich’s remarkable gift will dramatically change the lives of many students who otherwise might not be able to afford to further their educations,” Dougherty said. “Since 1878, when Spiritan priests began to educate the children of immigrant steelworkers, providing access to an education regardless of ability to pay has been an integral part of Duquesne.  The Dietrich Scholars program will ensure this important aspect of our heritage continues to serve students today and tomorrow.  We are grateful for his generosity and commitment to education.”

The first five Dietrich Scholars will be introduced at tonight’s announcement. They include:

  • Christiana Blahnik, a freshman music major from Valencia, Pa.
  • Victoria Ruth, a freshman liberal arts major from Evans City, Pa.
  • Logan Smith, a freshman physician assistant major from Grove City, Pa.
  • Tanya Umstead, a freshman pharmacy major from Williamsburg, Pa.
  • Cheyenne Warner, a freshman physics major from Slippery Rock, Pa.

Dietrich did not attend or have a formal relationship with Duquesne, but according to Dougherty, he had been encouraged by the University’s recent progress.  “I had the pleasure of meeting with Bill this past summer in his office downtown, and found him to be a fascinating and complex individual, not only an exceptional businessman but also an accomplished scholar, and passionately devoted to western Pennsylvania’s growth as a hub for education and health care.  He recognized and appreciated Duquesne’s distinctive contributions to regional development.”

In addition, Dietrich told Dougherty of a situation in which one of his financial advisors—a Duquesne graduate—had displayed an uncommon level of ethical behavior in a difficult business transaction.  “This alumnus made an exceptional effort to ensure that his clients’ interests were served before his own,” Dougherty explained.  “Mr. Dietrich had learned through experience that this does not always happen, and he was impressed by the ethical foundation Duquesne provides.”

After graduating from Princeton University, Dietrich returned to help run his family’s small lumber and steel distribution company in Blairsville, which he expanded into the nation’s largest manufacturer of light steel construction framing.  Dietrich Industries had 19 plants in 17 states and employed more than 1,800 people before being sold to Columbus, Ohio-based Worthington Industries in 1996.  Dietrich remained a Worthington director until his retirement in 2008.

While building his company, Dietrich earned master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Pittsburgh and pursued a parallel career as a scholar in politics, economics and history.  He wrote two books, In the Shadow of the Rising Sun: The Political Roots of American Economic Decline and Eminent Pittsburghers: Profiles of the City’s Founding Industrialists, and was working on a third, American Recessional: The U.S. Decline and the Rise of China, at the time of his death.

Like the executives he wrote about, Dietrich was a pillar of the local philanthropic community, serving on the boards of the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Growth Alliance, among many others.  An Eagle Scout, his nonprofit affiliations also included the Greater Pittsburgh Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the Pittsburgh Symphony and Ballet.

Dietrich’s gift comes three years after the public launch of Duquesne’s $150 million “Advancing Our Legacy” campaign and raises the campaign total past $143 million.  The comprehensive campaign, which focuses on academic quality and student experience initiatives along with scholarships and need-based student financial aid, will continue through 2012.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.