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$11M gift from Hillman to help CMU attract faculty, support students

Debra Erdley
| Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Carnegie Mellon University will use an $11 million gift from philanthropist Henry L. Hillman as seed money to establish a special fund to attract and support faculty and students.

University officials joined the Henry L. Hillman Foundation on Wednesday to announce the Henry L. Hillman President's Chair at CMU. In a news release, university officials said CMU President Subra Suresh has been designated as the first holder of the Hillman chair.

CMU's president will have the discretion to direct the proceeds of the fund to benefit faculty and student needs.

The university has raised more than $20 million for the chair between Hillman's gift and contributions from other area philanthropies and plans to continue fundraising with a goal of funding the endowment at $30 million, a university spokesman said.

CMU spokesman Ken Walters declined to identify other supporters of the new presidential chair.

Hillman, 96, a longtime supporter of the university, contributed $10 million in 2008 to support the Hillman Center for Future Generation Technologies at the Gates-Hillman Center, a structure that serves as the main entrance to the School of Computer Science. In 2014, he gave CMU $5 million to support the BrainHub research initiative, and $2.75 million in 2014 to support Traffic21 and Metro21.

In a statement announcing the gift, Hillman said he has been in discussions with the university about the gift for more than a year and views the chair as an investment in the region. He cited CMU as major driver in the most recent renaissance in the city he and his late wife Elsie Hillman called home.

“With its outstanding student and faculty talent and ability to deploy its world-renowned research and expertise toward making Pittsburgh a leading smart city, Carnegie Mellon not only fulfills its mission as a university, but also acts as an engine of economic growth for Pittsburgh and the entire region,” Hillman said.

“We are delighted that this chair will help support Dr. Suresh's vision and work for Carnegie Mellon,” Hillman said.

Suresh said the fund will enable him to move quickly to attract talented faculty and students, and fund special initiatives across the campus.

“It is an honor and a privilege to have this chair carry the name of Henry Hillman, who has been an icon of investment, philanthropy and community leadership in the Pittsburgh region and beyond,” Suresh said. “This gift provides a permanent stream of critically needed resources to attract and support talented faculty and students. That is an essential responsibility for me and for all presidents who follow, and I am deeply grateful to the Henry L. Hillman Foundation for this support.”

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or

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