Carnegie Mellon University
November 04, 2021

Posner Foundation To Support Student Success, Libraries at Carnegie Mellon University

Foundation will provide $16M to endow Tartan Scholars program and University Libraries deanship, help build new Health, Wellness and Athletics Center

Shilpa Bakre
  • University Communications & Marketing
  • 512-705-1228

The Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh will make a substantial investment in key Carnegie Mellon University initiatives that aim to ensure the success of all its students, the two organizations announced today.

The $16 million grant to CMU accelerates the university's goal to cultivate a dynamic, accessible, supportive and diverse student experience. The gift will establish a $10 million endowment for the Tartan Scholars program, a $5 million endowment to create the Helen and Henry Posner, Jr. Dean's Chair for the University Libraries, and $1 million toward the construction of CMU's new Health, Wellness and Athletics Center.

"For more than 40 years, the Posner family has championed initiatives that have impacted the entirety of Carnegie Mellon. Their extraordinary vision has played a significant role in shaping the landscape of student support and success at CMU," said Farnam Jahanian, Carnegie Mellon president. "This generous gift will continue to build on this legacy by providing talented students the access and tools they need to thrive at CMU. We are all grateful for their continued support and faith in the power of a CMU education."

Growing the Tartan Scholars Program

Since 2019, the Tartan Scholars program has worked to meet the unique needs of high-achieving student leaders from limited resource backgrounds through a rich network of academic, social and financial support, which includes early and direct access to CMU leadership, mentorship and coaching opportunities, community building experiences, and more. The Posner Foundation was an early champion of the Tartan Scholars program, providing critical support to envision and launch the program.

"CMU students are bright, talented, enthusiastic, confident and hardworking. With the right support and resources, I have no doubt that they will change the world," said CMU Trustee Anne Molloy, who is also a trustee of the Posner Foundation and the wife of its chairman, Henry Posner III. "Our family foundation is pleased to provide those resources so that students from across the socioeconomic spectrum will thrive at CMU."

"CMU students are bright, talented, enthusiastic, confident and hardworking. With the right support and resources, I have no doubt that they will change the world." — Anne Molloy 

In just two years, the program has doubled enrollment and currently serves 290 students at CMU. Tartan Scholars has established a 98.3% retention rate for program participants, exceeding CMU's overall retention rate. Originally designed for first-year students, the program is now adding new dimensions and activities for Tartan Scholars in their upper-class years.

"The Tartan Scholars endowment created by the Posner Foundation's generous gift ensures the long-term success of the program and its impact on participants," said James H. Garrett, Jr., Carnegie Mellon provost. "This endowment will permanently secure a critical program that addresses opportunity gaps for our students and provides them with the tools they need to realize their full potential."

Positioning University Libraries for the Future

The Posner family has long been benefactors of the University Libraries. Helen Posner was instrumental in selecting CMU's library to hold the family's personal collection of rare books and artifacts, including one of only two privately held copies of the Bill of Rights, and Anne Molloy serves on the Libraries Dean's Advocacy Council. Their ongoing support has extended beyond Special Collections, contributing to the reinvention of library services and facilities to respond to the demands of modern research and education in a digital era. During the pandemic, CMU's libraries were positioned to quickly pivot and provide digital access to an unprecedented wealth of scholarly resources to students and faculty working and studying remotely around the world.

"Across generations my family has believed in the power of education, including the unique role and impact of libraries," said Henry Posner III. "When deciding where my grandparents' unique collection of books should go, Carnegie Mellon was the clear choice, and we share the university's belief that libraries are essential in inspiring and educating the next generation."

"Across generations my family has believed in the power of education, including the unique role and impact of libraries." — Henry Posner III

The Posner Foundation's gift will establish the Helen and Henry Posner, Jr. Dean's Chair for the University Libraries, which will provide resources to advance strategic priorities, meet pressing needs and strengthen the CMU Libraries collections. Dean Keith Webster will be the inaugural chairholder.

"The Posner Family has been a friend of the University Libraries for decades, and I am incredibly honored to be the first Posner Dean for the University Libraries," said Webster, who has been dean since 2013. "This endowment will allow us to advance key initiatives, elevate the profile of the University Libraries and attract the next generation of academic library leaders to CMU."

Investing in Student Health and Wellness

The Posner Foundation's grant includes $1 million for the construction of the new Highmark Center for Health, Wellness and Athletics at CMU, a critical component of the university's holistic approach to the student experience.

The new facility on the site of Skibo Gymnasium will enhance the CMU experience for all students with modern and accessible facilities that support health and well-being, build pride in CMU, and expand opportunities for recreational and varsity sports. The center will be home to Counseling and Psychological Services, University Health Services, spiritual and religious life and wellness programs, and athletics and recreation. Preliminary construction is underway, with a groundbreaking expected this fall.

"Health, wellness and athletics programs play a critical role in creating a vibrant student experience where success and well-being are prioritized," said Gina Casalegno, dean of students and vice president for Student Affairs. "This new facility will impact every student on campus, and will allow us to engage students proactively in their own care as we build the habits of a healthy mind, body and spirit. It will be a space our Tartans will be proud to call home. We are grateful to the Posner Foundation for their support of this cornerstone of our commitment to the well-being of CMU students."

The grant adds to the Posners' legacy of philanthropy and service at CMU. A Posner has served on the CMU Board of Trustees for nearly all of the past 35 years, starting with Henry Posner, Jr. in 1986 and continuing with Molloy. The Posners' generosity helped expand the Jared L. Cohon University Center, created the Posner Center, which houses rare and historic books and art collected by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Posner, Sr., and supported CMU's School of Drama Centennial Celebration. Most recently, the Posner Foundation made gifts to endow several scholarships for CMU undergraduate students and the conception of the Tartan Scholars program. Additionally, Posner III serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Make Possible: the Campaign for Carnegie Mellon"The support of partners like the Posner Foundation are key to keeping CMU at the forefront of next-generation innovation and education," said David Coulter, chair of the CMU Board of Trustees. "Their expansive vision of the impact education has on a student's life and their commitment to providing the tools and resources to make that vision a reality is an inspiration to everyone here at Carnegie Mellon."

The Posner Foundation grant is the latest commitment to be announced as part of Make Possible: The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University. The multiyear effort aims to raise $2 billion in private philanthropy to support CMU's strategic priorities across the university and its seven colleges and schools. To date, more than 52,000 supporters have contributed more than $1.76 billion in support of the university.

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