Carnegie Mellon University

Erwin Steinberg

July 11, 2017

Four Nonprofits Receive Bequest from Steinberg Estate

Shilo Rea
  • Director of Public Relations
  • 412-268-6094

By Shilo Rea

Four prominent Pittsburgh nonprofits received a generous bequest from the Estate of Erwin R. and Beverly Steinberg. The beloved couple, who passed away in October 2012 and November 2016 respectively, planned to leave one last gift, naming Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and WQED as the recipients of a $1 million dollar donation split among the organizations. 

Erwin Steinberg moved to Pittsburgh from Brooklyn, New York in 1946 to teach at Carnegie Institute of Technology, known today as Carnegie Mellon University. He would remain at CMU in the English Department for the next 60 years to contribute as a professor, dean, vice provost, technical writing expert and James Joyce Scholar. Steinberg played a critical role in implementing several programs for the school’s English Department including the Bachelor of Science Degree Program in Technical Writing and Editing, Master of Arts in Professional Writing (MAPW) Program and the Ph.D. in Rhetoric.

His wife, Beverly Steinberg, shared a similar passion for education, focusing on a younger group of learners. After serving 21 years as an early childhood educator, she retired from Carnegie Mellon University’s Children’s School. The Steinberg’s made it their life’s work to mentor, inspire, challenge and to invest their time and energy into each of their students, many of whom appreciated their commitment.

"My parents cared deeply about making the greatest impact possible," said Alan, the younger of the Steinberg’s two children. "When creating their will, they had a long list of their favorite Pittsburgh nonprofits, but they wanted this donation to really make a difference in the community. A gift that would keep on giving. My brother, Marc, and I are so proud of them and we want to celebrate their lives, hoping this will inspire others to give back."

Steinberg has spent the past several months meeting with the four organizations to learn about their programs and has been touched by the gratitude of the organizations.

"Erwin Steinberg was a visionary for Carnegie Mellon and the English Department, but also more broadly for helping to found the field of technical communication,” said Andreea Deciu Ritivoi, head of CMU’s Department of English. "We are very fortunate to have such a strong foundation because of his foresight, interdisciplinary connections and commitment to undergraduate education. His legacy, which is still very much alive in our teaching and research, will be more profoundly evident by this generous gift."

At CMU, Steinberg taught composition, public speaking and literature courses. His research focused on early 20th century European novelists, specifically Joyce, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence and Franz Kafka as well as style, composition and the assessment of the teaching of writing. He became dean of the former Margaret Morrison Carnegie College in 1960 and the first dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, now the Dietrich College. He held the Thomas S. Baker Professorship of English and Interdisciplinary Studies from 1981-1993. Steinberg continued to teach style and literary and cultural studies courses until his retirement at the end of the spring 2007 semester.

His gifts for teaching and administration came together in 1991, when he was named Carnegie Mellon's first vice provost for education. In this role, it was Steinberg's mission to improve undergraduate education to match the university's increasingly strong graduate programs. During his five-year tenure as vice provost, freshmen application rates more than doubled; attrition between freshman and sophomore years decreased from 15.5 percent to 9.8 percent; the tutoring services offered doubled; more merit-based financial aid was available for students; and the Teaching Center became the Eberly Teaching Center for Teaching Excellence.

"It means so much to us to know that the Steinbergs cared deeply about Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and wanted to ensure that the people of our region have a thriving library system for years to come," said Mary Frances Cooper, president and director of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. "Philanthropic support is particularly important to the Library, which does not charge for services and programs. By including the Library in their estate plans, the Steinbergs are helping to provide area residents of all abilities, skills and backgrounds with equal access to materials and learning opportunities that transform and advance our community culturally, intellectually and economically."

Deborah L. Acklin, president and chief executive officer of WQED Multimedia said, "WQED deeply appreciates this generous bequest from the estate of Erwin R. and Beverly Steinberg. This meaningful gift will honor the legacy of Erwin and Beverly Steinberg, who cared deeply about giving back to the community. WQED will use this gift to continue to provide quality educational public media and local programming."

Steinberg explained that he experienced a "wow moment" when he learned how his family’s money will make a difference for each nonprofit organization and the community. In fact, it has inspired him and his brother, Marc, to uphold their civic duties and to consider estate planning, a trait he knows was passed down to them from their parents.

"The beauty of gifts like the Steinbergs' extends beyond what their generosity will allow Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to accomplish for our neighbors in need,” said Traci Weatherford-Brown, chief advancement officer. “Getting to know this family is a lovely reminder that we all can support causes important to us and share that passion for giving with our families and communities. I look forward to each conversation I have with Alan because his joy and pride in what his parents were able to give shines through."

Read more about Steinberg's legacy