Carnegie Mellon University

An Academic History

Subra Suresh, 2013 - 2017

Subra Suresh served as the ninth president of Carnegie Mellon University from July 1, 2013 until June 30, 2017.

During his tenure, Suresh initiated the year-long, campus-wide effort that resulted in the university’s Strategic Plan 2025, and oversaw an historic expansion of the university’s facilities, highlighted by the creation of the David A. Tepper Quadrangle.

Among his signature accomplishments were the creation of the Presidential Fellowships and Scholarships program, implementation of the strategic plan, assembling the most diverse leadership team in university history, launching an initiative to enhance the CMU Experience, forging new partnerships with global interests such as Tata Consulting Services, and hosting President Barack Obama’s White House Frontiers Conference.

Suresh also led the establishment of several major programs and initiatives at Carnegie Mellon, including: the Simon Initiative to enhance the impact of technology-enhanced learning within the university and around the globe; BrainHub, to further CMU’s interdisciplinary strengths to advance brain research; and the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship

A distinguished engineer and scientist, Suresh was the first and only university president to be elected to three major National Academies — the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. He is also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Prior to his tenure at Carnegie Mellon, Suresh served as director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), and dean of the School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Suresh received his bachelor of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras; a master’s degree from Iowa State University; and completed a doctor of science degree from MIT. Following postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, he joined the faculty of engineering at Brown University in 1983, and was promoted to full professor in 1989. He joined MIT in 1993 as the R.P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and served as head of MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering from 2000-2006.

Jared L. Cohon, 1997 - 2013

After becoming president of Carnegie Mellon University in 1997, Jared L. Cohon guided all of the university's global expansion efforts, and successfully led the university on a variety of fronts, including diversity, technology, international education, and economic development in southwest Pennsylvania.

Ranked 22nd in the world by the London Times Higher Education supplement in 2013, Carnegie Mellon became one of the largest and fastest-growing universities in terms of global expansion. Through Cohon's leadership, the university grew from having few international programs to offering 16 degree programs in 14 countries.

Before joining Carnegie Mellon, Cohon served as dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies at Yale University from 1992 to 1997. He started his teaching and research career in 1973 at Johns Hopkins University, where he was a faculty member in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering for 19 years. He also served as assistant and associate dean of Engineering and vice provost for research at Johns Hopkins. Cohon earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969 and a PhD in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973.

An author, coauthor, or editor of one book and more than 80 professional publications, Cohon is an expert on environmental and water resource systems analysis, an interdisciplinary field that combines engineering, economics, and applied mathematics. He has worked on water resource problems in the United States, South America, and Asia and on energy facility siting, including nuclear waste shipping and storage.

In addition to his academic experience, he served in 1977 and 1978 as a legislative assistant for energy and the environment to the late Honorable Daniel Patrick Moynihan, United States senator from New York. President Bill Clinton appointed Cohon to the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board in 1995 and appointed him as chairman in 1997.

In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Cohon to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, and in 2009 he was reappointed by President Barack Obama. In 2014, Cohon was appointed co-chair of the Congressionally mandated Commission to Review and Evaluate the National Energy Laboratories. He has also chaired several committees of the National Academies of Science and Engineering, most recently leading the committee that produced the report, "The Hidden Costs of Energy," and a commitee that evaluated vehicle technologies to meet national fuel economy standards.

In 2012, Cohon received the National Engineering Award from the American Association of Engineering Societies. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, also in 2012. He has received honorary degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the University of Pittsburgh.

Cohon currently serves as director of the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and as University Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Engineering and Public Policy. He also serves on the boards of several companies and nonprofit organizations.

Robert Mehrabian, 1990 - 1997

Under Robert Mehrabian, former dean of the College of Engineering at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Carnegie Mellon continued to climb among the nation's elite universities, making great strides in improving undergraduate education and the quality of life on campus for students, faculty and staff.

Enhancements in academic programs and student activities were initiated that helped student applications soar to more than 13,000 in 1996, more than doubling the amount in Mehrabian's inaugural year in office. Mentoring and advising initiatives and efforts to enhance undergraduate teaching helped to attract high-quality students and greatly improved the student retention rate. A key to realizing these major improvements was Mehrabian's implementation of external advisory boards that reviewed and critiqued every academic and administrative unit.

Mehrabian oversaw the completion of the East Campus Project, an ambitious building plan for the eastern part of campus that resulted in a new $47 million University Center, two new residence halls, Gesling Stadium — a facility for intercollegiate and intramural athletics — and a new multi-level indoor parking garage. Construction during Mehrabian's tenure also included a new home for the Carnegie Mellon Research Institute at the Pittsburgh Technology Center; Posner Hall, a facility that doubled the size of the graduate business school; George A. Roberts Engineering Hall; the Intelligent Workplace, a research area for the School of Architecture; and the Purnell Center for the Arts, a new home for the School of Drama.

During the Mehrabian administration, Carnegie Mellon played a vital role in the Regional Economic Revitalization Initiative, which developed a plan for economic development in the greater Pittsburgh area. Mehrabian stimulated the university's technology transfer operation and led the development of the Pittsburgh Technology Center, helping to lure the Union Switch & Signal Corporation to move its regional headquarters for research there.

Richard M. Cyert, 1972 - 1990

Richard M. Cyert, known to many as the patriarch of Carnegie Mellon University, led the school to national prominence by implementing a strategy to pursue areas in which the university had the talent and expertise to make the most impact. Cyert realized that the university could not be everything to everyone, but in certain areas could be the best in the world.

In his inaugural address, Cyert stressed that his major goals were to balance the university's budget, improve education and research efforts, and establish a national reputation. He succeeded on all fronts.

His sponsorship of computing initiatives and willingness to take risks played an important part in the development of the computing-intensive environment that exists today. The Robotics Institute, the largest academic research center of its kind, was established in 1979, and the School of Computer Science was founded in 1988.

In partnership with IBM, the Andrew computing network was completed, making Carnegie Mellon the first university to design, implement and use a local-area-network system of computing linking personal computers at all faculty and student work stations to powerful central computer resources.

Cyert also led a successful initiative to expand the school's recruiting base to attract top-notch students and faculty from around the world. By 1990, when Cyert retired to return to his position as professor in the Graduate School of Industrial Administration (now the Tepper School of Business), Carnegie Mellon had made the transition from an excellent regional school to a prominent national research university with students and faculty bringing diverse backgrounds and perspectives from all parts of the globe.

H. Guyford Stever, 1965 - 1972

One year after his inauguration, H. Guyford Stever announced that negotiations for a merger with the nearby Mellon Institute of Research had been finalized. The new entity was originally called Carnegie University, but very shortly the Mellon family agreed to add their name to the new institution, and thus Carnegie Mellon University was born.

During Stever's administration, new colleges and schools were formed. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences (now Dietrich College), the Mellon College of Science, the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now College of Engineering), and the School of Urban and Public Affairs took their place beside the College of Fine Arts and the flourishing Graduate School of Industrial Administration (now the Tepper School of Business). One school, however, the Margaret Morrison Carnegie College for Women, ceased operations.

Carnegie Mellon also made dramatic advances in computing. These advancements led the way for today's School of Computer Science, the Robotics Institute, the Software Engineering Institute, and the nation's first university-wide computing network, known as Andrew.

In November 1971, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon nominated Stever to become director of the National Science Foundation, and Stever resigned in February 1972.

John Christian Warner, 1950 - 1965

John Warner joined Carnegie Tech as an instructor in 1926 and rose through the ranks to professor, head of the Department of Chemistry, dean of graduate studies, university vice president, and finally president in 1950.

Warner, a distinguished researcher, authored more than 80 published works on scientific and technical subjects and education in colleges and secondary schools. During World War II, he headed government research on the purification and metallurgy of plutonium for the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb.

Recognizing that the university would only make progress with a distinguished faculty, Warner improved faculty salaries and fringe benefits. The graduate business school, named the Graduate School of Industrial Administration, was founded in 1949 and its building completed in 1952. The first computer on campus — an IBM 650 digital type machine — was housed in the basement of the business school.

In the early 1960s, Hunt Library, including the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, opened, and the Scaife Hall of Engineering was completed. Warner acquired funding to support the development of Tech's Computation Center, the origin of Carnegie Mellon's world leadership in computing. The Computation Center was a joint project of the graduate business school and the departments of Psychology, Electrical Engineering and Mathematics.

Robert E. Doherty, 1936 - 1950

Robert Doherty became president in March 1936 in the midst of the Great Depression. He brought with him superb preparation for leadership, a clear vision of what technical education ought to be, a firm commitment to promote graduate education and research, and strong administrative ability.

In the mid-1940s, Doherty implemented an approach to undergraduate education called the "Carnegie Plan." The Carnegie Plan provided a well-rounded "liberal/professional" education in which students were taught to apply fundamental knowledge to solve practical problems and were required to learn about and appreciate academic disciplines outside their primary area of study. The Carnegie Plan, which received much national attention, was the forerunner to today's focus on an interdisciplinary, problem-solving university curriculum.

When Doherty retired in June 1950, he left behind a student body in which full-time undergraduate and graduate students outnumbered part-time night students, a revitalized faculty whose members focused their energies on both teaching and research, a dramatic new curriculum, a reorganized administrative structure, an endowment that nearly doubled during his tenure, and an institution that would very quickly become one of the nation's premier universities. Most of the seeds for today's university were sown during the Doherty administration.

Thomas S. Baker, 1922 - 1935

While constant change took place during the administration of his predecessor, Thomas Baker slowed the pace, giving Carnegie Tech a chance to breath. Few new academic developments took place during Baker's administration, but he did lead work to improve the physical appearance of the campus. Lawns were seeded, trees planted, and the muddy paths between buildings were replaced with concrete sidewalks. In addition to his work at the school, Baker became an ambassador for Carnegie Tech, spending many evenings singing the school's praises to audiences throughout Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Baker suffered from poor health during his years as president and took several extended leaves to recuperate. In 1934, his health worsened, and he resigned a year later.

Arthur A. Hamerschlag, 1903 - 1922

Trustees of the Carnegie Technical Schools elected Arthur Anton Hamerschlag, a well-known figure in industrial education in New York, as its first director in November 1903. In 1912, his title was changed to president.

In the early 1900s, the institution was a trade school where young working people could learn the skills they needed to advance their careers. Trustees implemented a program for students who desired more specialized training in the sciences and the arts but lacked the resources to attend a four-year college. But by 1910, students found that their three-year degrees failed to qualify them for the jobs they sought, and it became clear that the school had to change to succeed.

Hamerschlag led the development of four- and five-year programs that led to bachelor's and master's degrees, and in 1912, the Carnegie Technical Schools became the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now College of Engineering).

Under Hamerschlag, the campus began to grow as four new buildings were constructed — Industries Hall (now Porter Hall), Engineering Hall (now Doherty Hall), Hamerschlag Hall and the College of Fine Arts Building. Margaret Morrison Carnegie College, a women's college named for school founder Andrew Carnegie's mother, was also established.

For more information on the presidents of Carnegie Mellon, see:

  • "Carnegie Mellon 1900-2000: A Centennial History" by Edwin Fenton
  • "The Story of Carnegie Tech; being a history of Carnegie Institute of Technology from 1900 to 1935" by Dean Arthur Wilson Tarbell
  • "The Doherty Administration" 1936-1950 by Glen U. Cleeton
  • "The Warner Administration at Carnegie Institute of Technology, 1950-1965" by Austin Wright
  • "Evolution of a National Research University, 1965-1990: the Stever Administration and the Cyert Years at Carnegie Mellon" by Ludwig F. Schaefer
  • "Margaret Morrison Carnegie College" by Edwin Fenton