University Philanthropist Supported Pitt, Carnegie Mellon

Article excerpt

In a dark suit, striped tie and white handkerchief, William S. Dietrich II looked like a typical businessman. But decades ahead of his peers, his incisive mind understood the importance of global markets.

And his recent gifts of $265 million to Carnegie Mellon University and $125 million to the University of Pittsburgh -- the largest in history for each school -- place him at the forefront of philanthropy in American higher education.

Mr. Dietrich, of Mt. Lebanon, died Thursday of complications from cancer. He was 73.

He was born in Pittsburgh on May 13, 1938, to Marianna and Kenneth P. Dietrich. After graduating from Princeton University in 1960, Mr. Dietrich joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and later Dietrich Industries, the company founded by his father.

As Mr. Dietrich assumed control over more of the company's operations, it expanded from a small steel warehouse and distribution firm into the nation's largest manufacturer of light metal framing for construction. He obtained a master's degree and doctorate from Pitt, both in political science, and became a prolific writer about economic policy.

He sold the firm to Worthington Industries in 1996 and began a second career as an investor.

"He looked like the epitome of the traditional businessman in blue Brooks Brothers suits," said Daniel Unkovic, a friend and attorney with Meyer, Unkovic & Scott. "But as far as thinking goes, he was miles ahead in seeing how international business trends would affect not just his own business, but the American economy and America overall. …