Carnegie Mellon University
August 09, 2019

Industrial Titan to Innovative Philanthropist

Andrew Carnegie, 1835-1919, provided a foundation for discovery unlike no other

By Heidi Opdyke

Jason Maderer
  • Marketing and Communications
  • 412-268-1151

A century after Andrew Carnegie put his heart into the work, his bold legacy is one of innovation and education.

Carnegie started life as a Scottish immigrant to the United States. His first job earned him $1.20 a week, yet forged his future in the steel mills of Pittsburgh to become the richest man of his time. Aug. 11 is  the 100th anniversary of his death, and the ideals and passions that drove him to pursue philanthropic activities still resonate.

“Aim for the highest” — Andrew Carnegie

The faculty, staff and students at Carnegie Mellon University have striven to do just that. Carnegie saw education as the key to success, so he opened the doors of the technical schools in 1900 for the sons and daughters of factory workers. By 1912, the school was known as the Carnegie Institute of Technology and was granting four-year degrees. In 1967, Carnegie Tech merged with the Mellon Institute of Research to become Carnegie Mellon University.

Today, that technical school is at the leading edge of research and the arts, and is a global university with more than a dozen degree-granting locations and more than 20 research partnerships. Scientists, engineers, artists and scholars collaborate extensively to create a unique intellectual and cultural envrionment in which they work to solve real-world problems. The university faculty and alumni include 20 Nobel laureates, 12 Turing Award recipients and 10 Academy Award winners.

The university is filled with makers and doers creating new knowledge, artistic expressions and exploring the unknown. Those ideas manifest in unexpected ways such as expansive murals chronicling Carnegie Mellon’s collaborative heritage to delivering a snapshot of humanity to the moon.

“Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success, a whole, clear, glorious life lies before you. Achieve! Achieve!”

The future is bright. Carnegie Mellon has created new fields of study in areas such as machine learning, transition design, decision science, computational biology and the science of learning. It is helping to lead a new era in manufacturing, built, in some cases, on the very grounds of Pittsburgh’s historic steel mills.

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” 

But CMU is not all work and no play. Even in leisure activities, learning and growth occurs.

Down the street from the university are cultural institutions whose roots are entwined: the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, one of the more than 2,500 libraries he provided funds for construction to around the world.

While the organizations have become Pittsburgh landmarks in their own right, current collaborations create community ties that bind them ever closer together. Carnegie's Monocle, an app created by CMU students, leads library visitors through an augmented reality-driven scavenger hunt that highlights sights and sounds from Pittsburgh's history. At the Carnegie Museum of Art, one of four Pittsburgh museums that bear his name, a collaboration helped identify, annotate and organize the massive body of work of photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris. While next door, researchers in the Carnegie Natural History Museum collaborated on a new tool to help identify freshwater insects inhabiting rivers, lakes and streams.

“No man can become rich without himself enriching others.”

Carnegie challenged people in his time to consider what makes a good society. At Carnegie Mellon that heritage continues as researchers study timely topics, such as how to fight online disinformation and the ethics of artificial intelligence. The university’s educational philosophy combines academic and service programs to encourage students to become aware, socially responsible citizens who help to solve global and local problems.

Carnegie set a trajectory with lofty aims. Expect the next 100 years to reach even greater heights.

Carnegie organizations

Click on the circular logos to learn more about some of the organizations founded by Andrew Carnegie. (Courtesy of the Carnegie Corporation of New York)