Carnegie Mellon University

When Don Coffelt started his PhD program at Carnegie Mellon, he had no idea how transformational the experience would be.

“It’s difficult to describe the impact that the CEE Department has had on me and the way they embraced me as an adult student, along with my wife and children. The Department often refers to themselves as family, and it really felt that way.”

A member of the University staff since 2003, Coffelt is currently Associate Vice President for Facilities Management and Campus Services and takes great pride in creating an environment that supports the innovative work for which Carnegie Mellon is known. Coffelt has also served as a CEE Adjunct Faculty member since finishing his PhD in 2008.

“Teaching allows me to be part of the CEE family in an ongoing way,” he says. “To teach and to mentor students brings me a great deal of joy.”

As a PhD student, Coffelt was advised by then department head Chris Hendrickson. Today, helping to grow the Chris T. Hendrickson Undergraduate Travel Fund is just one of the many ways Coffelt and his wife, Connie, support CEE. Their generosity has extended to college-level initiatives, as well as CEE lab renovations, the Lawrence Cartwright Support Fund for Teaching Professors, and an annual undergraduate scholarship for a CEE student.

“Don and Connie Coffelt have supported the mission of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon in many ways,” says Dave Dzombak, Hammershclag University Professor and Department Head. “Much of their philanthropic support has been focused directly on students. They have helped numerous students at a critical stage in their development.”

The Coffelt family also supports the Tartan Athletics Department, through which their son Jake, a 2010 BS in Mechanical Engineering graduate, participated in the Kiltie Band. Additionally, Coffelt has assisted in the University’s fundraising efforts as a board member for the Andrew Carnegie Society since 2013.

“I think about the incredible impact Carnegie Mellon has had on me and what attending this school has meant for my son and his career,” Coffelt says. “The Carnegie Mellon culture is one of inclusion, collaboration, and communication, and I’ve never seen a place where student access to senior faculty is as open as it is here. It may sound cliché to say I’m paying it forward, but we can’t pay it back.”

For Coffelt, the choice to give is simple: If you are able to be philanthropic, you should do it. “My advice is to establish a personal philosophy of giving based on your value system. I value the mission and purpose of this institution, and our contributions reflect my feelings about the College of Engineering and specifically the CEE Department. It’s my home.”