Carnegie Mellon University

$10 Million Gift Endows Carnegie Mellon Deanship

Carnegie Mellon University Trustee and alumnus Lane Bess and his wife, Letty, have made a $10 million gift to endow the dean’s chair for the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The gift allows Dean Richard Scheines and his successors to incentivize innovation around the college’s strategic initiatives and emerging priorities across its nine departments and programs, and in its faculty and students. Carnegie Mellon will recognize this transformational commitment by establishing the Bess Family Dean’s Chair of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Scheines, who was recently reappointed to a second five-year term, will be the first holder of the chair and will be installed in October.

“The essential work in the Dietrich College leads the way we study humanity, with the goal of creating real-world impact," President Farnam Jahanian said. "This extraordinary gift from Lane and Letty creates new opportunities for Dean Scheines to advance the interdisciplinary work that is a hallmark of the college’s rich culture. The Bess’s commitment to education and research will create unprecedented opportunities to advance human knowledge and improve the human condition.”

Lane Bess, a 1983 Dietrich College graduate with a degree in managerial economics, is a global pioneer in  technology  and  venture  capital — launching startups and growing small- and medium-sized businesses to large-scale companies.

Bess is principal at Bess Ventures and Advisory, a strategic management, investment and marketing services firm focused on cultivating innovations in technology. He founded the firm in 2015, following a successful career as an operating executive. Bess was the chief operating officer of Zscaler Inc., an innovator in cloud-based internet security services. Prior to that, he was CEO of Palo Alto Networks, where he led the company through early growth on the path to its IPO and to its position as a world leader in internet security.

“My years as a CMU student provided me with an exceptional education and the foundation that I needed to build a successful career and to become an entrepreneur,” Bess said. “Letty and I are honored to be part of Dietrich College’s future as its tremendous faculty guide the agenda for a modern liberal arts education and create exceptional scholars.”

From creative writing and neuroscience to behavioral economics and bioethics, the Dietrich College is home to nine departments and programs as well as research centers that often cross disciplines, allowing the school’s world-class faculty and students to investigate and solve real-world problems.

Among its faculty are nine fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, nine members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, four members of the National Academy of Sciences, two members of the National Academy of Medicine and one member of the National Academy of Education. Its students hail from every corner of the world and train in a wide array of disciplinary approaches while focusing on research centered on humanity.

Scheines, a professor of philosophy and champion for interdisciplinary research, was installed as dean of the Dietrich College in summer 2014 after spending nine years leading the Department of Philosophy. He first joined the faculty at CMU in 1990. 

“We are so grateful to Lane and Letty,  whose gift reinforces the importance of the college,” Scheines said. “Dietrich embodies a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment for learning and research, and this gift is a transformative investment in our capacity to innovate. From now on, Dietrich deans will be able to seed exciting new research and bold educational innovations. I am truly honored to be the first Bess Family Dean of the Dietrich College.”

In May, Bess was appointed to CMU’s Board of Trustees. He also is a member of the CMU Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship Advisory Board and has shared his expertise as part of the Dietrich College Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.

The couple’s previous support at CMU includes commitments to scholarships, internships and Dietrich College’s groundbreaking Grand Challenge Seminars program.