Dick Scaife helped nurture the region he so dearly loved
From his office on the 39th floor of a Pittsburgh skyscraper, Dick Scaife liked to tell people about the impressive view.
“They tell me you can see for 17 miles,” he once told a visitor, pointing up the Allegheny River toward Verona, where his great grandfather, Jeffrey Scaife, put down roots in 1802 with a tin and metal fabricating company.
The William B. Scaife & Sons Co. — later known as the Scaife Co. — continued for well over a century.
In those years and after, the Scaife family's imprint on the region was enormous.
A man devoted to his hometown, Dick Scaife funded high-risk community renewal projects in Manchester, Wilkinsburg, Downtown, the Mexican War Streets and Station Square.
He took a chance on Station Square, putting up $5 million to launch a project that was little more than a dream with no bank financing and no tenants. He would ultimately contribute more than $11 million to the complex.
And Scaife's funding supported scores of civic and cultural organizations, museums and universities in Pittsburgh, including the Alan Magee Scaife Hall at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the Alan M. Scaife Hall of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and the Sarah Scaife Gallery, all in Oakland and all named after his parents, who married in 1927.
The story of Dick Scaife's philanthropy began in the 1960s and his reach extended across Western Pennsylvania and the nation, often to those in the most dire circumstances.
His giving touched youth groups in troubled Mon Valley towns and those left jobless by a crumbling economy.
He gave more than $1 million to the City of McKeesport and various organizations there, including $440,000 for an addition to the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania and $350,000 the city used to help reduce blight.
A rail buff, he supported the Ligonier Valley Railroad Association and the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, Pa.
And as a dog lover, he gave money to animal rescue groups.
His well-known philanthropic groups — the Allegheny, Sarah Scaife and Carthage foundations — supported a range of projects, from development of the green Mr. Yuk sticker to historic preservation.
Over the years, Scaife became a national figure, contributing to public policy think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and dozens of colleges stretching from Pepperdine University in Southern California to Washington's Georgetown University.
Most often, he shied away from recognition for his efforts.
“Dick has rarely received anything remotely like the credit he is due, principally because he adamantly refused to be acknowledged,” said Frank J. Gaffney Jr., founder and CEO of the Center for Security Policy in honoring Scaife last year.
Giving back to the community is a family tradition.
His sister, Cordelia, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2005, was also a noted philanthropist who supported charities in the region. She gave money to a number of environmental causes as well as Planned Parenthood.
Scaife's two children, Jennie of Palm Beach, Fla., and David of Squirrel Hill, have continued their father's philanthropy, supporting civic causes throughout the nation, carrying on the tradition that grew from their great-great grandfather's small fabricating company along the Allegheny River more than two centuries ago.
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