PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s the largest contribution ever to a university in Pennsylvania and the recipient is Carnegie Mellon University.

With a bagpipe serenade to mark the occasion and plenty of standing ovations, Carnegie Mellon welcomed William Dietrich, a retired local industrialist who gave CMU a whopping $265 million dollars in honor of his mother, Marianna Brown Dietrich.

Dietrich joked lovingly about his mother.

“Mom logged a lot of time in the principal’s office on damage control duties. One of my more notable exploits was setting off a firecracker in a pencil sharpener.

The air was fogged with pencil shavings,” he told a crowd of several hundred on the CMU campus.

For all Dietrich’s charm as a raconteur, it was the scope of the gift – to be delivered on his passing – that benefits both the university and this region.

“That investment in an institution like Carnegie Mellon, an institution which not only brings great global attention to Pittsburgh but also contributes tremendously to Pittsburgh’s economic progress, is very significant for the city,” CMU’s president Jared Cohon told KDKA Money Editor Jon Delano.

Part of the gift will benefit the renamed Marianna Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

“It’s a phenomenal gift,” John Lehoczy, dean of the College. “I have to say the popular perception of Carnegie Mellon involves technology, engineering, science, and the arts. So this is really a coming out party for humanities and social sciences. It puts us on an equal footing.”

And students welcomed Dietrich, too, with the Delta Tau Delta fraternity painting a “thank you” on CMU’s historic campus fence overnight in the rain.

Dietrich’s contribution of $265 million to Carnegie Mellon is not only the largest donation in the university’s history, but it is also the eighth largest contribution from anybody to any university institution in American history.

More Local News
Carnegie Mellon University

More From CBS Pittsburgh

Get The All New CBS Local App
KDKA Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE