Carnegie Mellon University
September 12, 2023

10 Years of Impact: Celebrating Bill Dietrich’s Extraordinary Legacy at CMU

Dear Members of the CMU Community:

This fall, Carnegie Mellon University celebrates a decade of transformation fueled by the extraordinary generosity of William S. Dietrich II. In business, across Pittsburgh and as a member of CMU’s Board of Trustees, Bill Dietrich was known as a meticulous, visionary and innovative leader. It was a remarkable reputation that followed him into retirement — and deservedly so. Bill would spend the next nearly two decades carefully charting and cultivating his own philanthropic legacy.

Fortunately for our community, he carried out this work with Western Pennsylvania top of mind.

Bill’s admiration for Carnegie Mellon is a matter of record. He called Carnegie Mellon both “a great investment” and “a special place.” But he reserved his highest praise for our university community members themselves.

“Brilliant people come here as students and faculty, and their presence in our community adds something extraordinary,” he said. “They attract firms like Google and Intel, they create new companies and new ideas. They add to the city’s vibrant artistic and cultural life. They win Tonys and Oscars and Nobel prizes. They never stop exploring. They never stop looking for a better way to do something, and they never stop working to make things better tomorrow than they are today.”

On Sept. 7, 2011, Bill put his admiration into action by pledging a record-breaking gift to support CMU, which was then valued at $265 million. At that time, it was the largest gift in our institution’s history and one of the 10 largest individual investments in a U.S. university. When regarded over the last decade — and across the full expanse of CMU schools and colleges impacted — Bill stands as one of the most significant and powerful architects of Carnegie Mellon’s achievements to date.

Managed by and disbursed annually through The Dietrich Foundation, these funds have enabled CMU to realize transformative enhancements and strategic priorities at an enviable pace. Since 2013, CMU has received nearly $162 million in distributions from The Dietrich Foundation, which — per Bill’s direction — we have invested in the university’s endowment to extend his impact on our Tartan community in perpetuity. During this same stretch of time, Carnegie Mellon’s “share” of the remaining assets managed at The Dietrich Foundation has grown to approximately $800 million. CMU and The Dietrich Foundation collaborate annually on how to use the fund’s yearly distribution to both strengthen the university and advance Bill’s philanthropic vision.

Jerry Cohon, CMU’s president in 2011, described Bill’s gift as a reflection of “his confidence in the university, his belief that what we do is important for the region and for the world, and his desire to invest in that.” While I was not fortunate enough to know Bill during his lifetime, I do believe that he would be extremely pleased with how we have leveraged his investment in Carnegie Mellon over the last decade.

To date, Dietrich College — named after Bill’s mother, Marianna Brown Dietrich — has received the largest share of his gift. The college has invested these resources strategically, bolstering programming and opportunities for undergraduates, graduate students, faculty recruitment and retention and interdisciplinary research.

Student financial aid has received the second largest share of The Dietrich Foundation’s support so far, and this support has endowed scholarships and fellowships across all of our schools and campuses while making the dream of a life-changing Tartan education more affordable and accessible for over 200 CMU students — and counting.

Beyond these enhancements, Bill’s gift has supported health and wellness programming; our Student Academic Success Center and Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Education Innovation; the Neuroscience Institute; the Mellon College of Science; and — just this fall — created a substantial endowment in our College of Fine Arts.

To my fellow trustees at The Dietrich Foundation, and especially Ed Grefenstette, who serves as the organization’s chief executive officer, president and chief investment officer as well as a CMU trustee: Thank you for your steadfast leadership, partnership and support. I am also profoundly grateful for Bill Dietrich, his ambitious vision and his unprecedented gift, which has helped to secure our status as a world-leader in higher education and innovation and which will only widen and deepen in its impact on our community for decades to come.

Warm regards,

Farnam Jahanian
Henry L. Hillman President’s Chair