Henry Hillman establishes new president's chair

Carnegie Mellon University and the Hillman Foundation announced the establishment of the Henry L. Hillman President’s Chair last Wednesday. The inaugural holder of the endowed position will be President Subra Suresh.

The idea was realized through a seed donation of $11 million, courtesy of the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. This, added to contributions of other Pittsburgh-area philanthropies, totals to almost $20 million collected thus far. The university aims to raise $30 million as it continues its fundraising efforts.

The endowed chair and the revenue stemming from the endowed fund will be used at the president’s discretion for extra-budgetary purposes. President Suresh said in a statement that he would be using the annual payouts to fund special initiatives in key areas and to seed innovative ideas, among other projects. Last year, the president used endowed funds to match separate fundraising efforts by the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the College of Fine Arts of $1 million each. These funds, dubbed “challenge grants” were put toward faculty research and creative work. The endowed chair will provide Suresh with even more flexibility to pay for anything that may fall outside of set budgets.

With regard to the contribution, President 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.”

Mr. Hillman, on behalf of his foundation, said, “We view this as an investment in the future, a way to help fuel and accelerate the momentum generated by Carnegie Mellon and Pittsburgh in recent years.” He added that his foundation is “delighted that this chair will help support Dr. Suresh’s vision and work for Carnegie Mellon.”

Forbes magazine listed Hillman as having a net worth of $2.5 billion, making him the wealthiest person in the city. His assets mainly come from early investments made in Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Kleiner Perkins, large multinational private equity and venture capital firms, respectively.

Hillman has historically been a large patron of the University. The foundation he established in 1964 is dedicated to improving society with a focus on southwestern Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. Staying true to his foundation’s goal of improving the quality of life in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region, Hillman noted that his discussions with President Suresh over the last year centered around the ways in which the university positively impacts the economic and cultural environment of the greater city.

In 2008, the foundation donated $10 million to support the Hillman Center for Future Generation Technologies, a part of the Gates-Hillman complex. Other donations include a $5 million grant for the BrainHub research initiative in 2014, as well as $2.75 million for the Traffic21 and Metro21 projects in the same year.

Carnegie Mellon Board of Trustees member John Rohr said that the foundation’s largest donation to the university is “particularly timely” for the institution, where change is ever-increasing.