A Pittsburgh Connection: Behind A Big Scholarship Gift At This School

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recently received a $5 million grant from the Posner family to support undergraduate scholarships. The funds will support CMU's Presidential Fellowships and Scholarship Program, which according to the school has a current value of related endowment funds and commitments of more than $156 million, supporting more than 145 students.

Henry Posner III. and his wife and CMU trustee, Anne Malloy, announced the gift at an alumni event in Florida The family's gift was made in honor of Posner's parents Helen and Henry Posner Jr. The Posner family has a long philanthropic track-record with Carnegie Mellon, and with the Pittsburgh region as a whole. It's worth digging into donors like this, whose strong regional ties motivate campus giving as much as the alumni ties we also write about.

Let's begin with the late Helen and Henry Posner Jr., who after all the Posners made the gift to honor. An influential Pittsburgh entrepreneur, Posner Jr. was a longtime CMU trustee and board member. On the philanthropic end, Helen helped put the family’s personal collection of rare books and artifacts in CMU's library. The family also funded the Posner Center.

In addition, the late Helen Posner was the primary supporter of an inner city tennis organization that led to numerous college scholarships for disadvantaged teenagers. On some level then, scholarships in particular were of interest to Posner's parents.

Henry Posner III., meanwhile, a Princeton and Wharton graduate, is chairman of Railroad Development Corporation, a railway investment management company with operations in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe. Posner and Anne have also been heavily involved in the Pittsburgh community. The family's Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh, founded back in the 1960s, has steadily supported education, human services, and Jewish outfits in the region. In a recent fiscal year, Carnegie Mellon received $260,000 from the family via their foundation.

Anne is a librarian at a reform synagogue in the region and also serves as executive director of another philanthropic vehicle called the Posner Fine Arts Foundation, through which the Posner's activites at Carnegie Mellon relate to their collection. The Posner Fine Arts Foundation funds two internships per year for Carnegie Mellon students who work directly with collection materials and create major exhibits on topics of their choice. Apart from these forces, Anne also mentioned that she benefited from a scholarship herself.

As a good example of how these decades-long ties to a region can motivate campus giving, Posner said of the gift that "it was a matter of great personal pride to my father to see Carnegie Mellon’s growth from a regional institution to a global institution... we are thrilled that these scholarships will provide a CMU education to even more deserving students, and we look forward to their future successes.”