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Informing, Forming, Transforming
Informing, Forming, Transforming

The Kenneth & Marianna Brown Dietrich Honors Institute of Thiel College endeavors to help students become full human beings whose breadth of knowledge, strength of character and thoughtfulness of action make them natural leaders in the world. The DHI curriculum is designed to inform through the acquisition of knowledge, to form through the building of character and to transform through engagement in service to the larger world.

The program offers students a distinctive set of core courses that are taken instead of the core courses taken by non DHI students.

At the end of its four-year developmental phase, the Dietrich Honors Institute will include 250 diversely gifted Dietrich Scholars whose lives will be enriched by giving to and receiving from a learning community filled with passionate and purposeful people.

Academic Criteria

To be eligible for enrollment in the Dietrich Honors Institute, students must have a 3.5 GPA and a reading and math test score of at least 1100 (SAT) or 24 (ACT, composite).

Co-curricular Opportunities

Dietrich Scholars can enrich their honors experience in a variety of ways - here are just a few examples!

  • Be a part of field trips such as exploring New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. or Toronto
  • Serve on the Dietrich Honors Council or the Dietrich Honors Student Advisory Board
  • Travel abroad with honors abroad experiences
  • Participate in annual service projects, such as the Malaria Campaign project
  • Serve as a DHI Ambassador
  • Present research at honors conferences


Philanthropist, businessman, scholar and proud northwest Pennsylvania native William S. Dietrich II, bequeathed a $25 million fund to Thiel College upon his passing in 2011. Dietrich’s gift is the largest made to the College in its 150–year history. His gift founded the Kenneth and Marianna Brown Dietrich Honors Institute in honor of William's parents.

About William S. Dietrich II

After graduating from Princeton University in 1960, Bill served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves before joining Dietrich Industries, Inc., the company founded by his father, and transforming it from a small steel warehouse and distribution business to the nation's largest manufacturer of light metal framing for the construction industry. In 1996, Worthington Industries bought the company and asked Bill to remain as director, which he did until his retirement.

He is the author of "In the Shadow of the Rising Sun: The Political Roots of an American Economic Decline" and "Eminent Pittsburghers: Profiles of the City's Founding Industrialists." He also was a regular contributor to Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine.

Bill was well known for his commitment to the betterment of the Pittsburgh region. He served on the boards of the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Chatham University, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the Pittsburgh Symphony Society, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Growth Alliance, the UPMC Health System and the Greater Pittsburgh Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Bill's Connections to Thiel

Dietrich's connection to Thiel College began in the 1920s when his parents, Kenneth '31 and Marianna (Brown) '32, met as students on Thiel's campus. Ken was a business major and Marianna studied English as a Humanities major.

Shortly after graduation, they married in 1933, began their life together in Pittsburgh and had two children, William and Linda. The Dietrichs returned to the area in 1947 to run a small hotel in Conneaut Lake, Pa.

Soon after, Ken Dietrich started a small lumber business near Blairsville, Pa., which would grow to become Dietrich Industries Inc. and would later flourish under his son's direction. Ken stayed connected to Thiel, serving on the college's Board of Trustees from 1978 to 1984.

Bill Dietrich was honored by Thiel College in 1996 for his leadership of Dietrich Industries with the Haller Enterprise Institute's Entrepreneur of the Year award, which is given annually by the college to a business owner who has demonstrated entrepreneurial leadership.

Course Offerings

HONS 109: Becoming Human: Love, Power, Justice ( 3 CH / WIC )

This First-Year Seminar course gives students the opportunity to think together about what it means to become a human being by considering the three big questions of love, power, and justice. If love is the reunion of that which is separated, power is the quest of the free individual for understanding and action that shapes the self, and justice tends to the structuring of life in such a way that power's questing can eventuate in love-then these three big ideas each play an essential role in the process of individuals becoming full human beings. This course also serves as an orientation to college life, to the Dietrich Honors Institute, and to participating in a seminar.

HONS 113: Communicating Effectively: Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric ( 3 CH / WIC )

The 'trivium' of the classical liberal arts includes grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, which deal respectively with language, reasoning, and persuasion. The art of grammar teaches the student to speak and write well. The student learns about dialectic or logic or reasoning by engaging in the give and take with others students and the teacher and reflecting on the process of thinking through discussion, debate, argumentation, and questioning. In rhetoric the student learns the science of communication and the art of persuasive writing and speech.

HONS 114: Creating Culture: Ancient, Medieval, Modern ( 3 CH / WIC )

Students are introduced to highlights in the history, literature, art, music, philosophy, and religion of western humanities. Greece and Rome are emphasized in the ancient period; civilization and thought of the Mediterranean area and Europe are stressed in the medieval period, culminating in the Renaissance; and the Reformation and early modern developments are underscored up until 1789 or the beginning of the French Revolution. Big ideas and major people are lifted up for each period, with connections being drawn from one period to the next.

HONS 126: Composing Contextually: Enlightenment, Romanticism, Postmodernism ( 3 CH / WIC )

This course continues two other Honors courses, namely, HONS 113, the composition course Communicating Effectively: Grammar, Dialectic, Logic, and HONS 114, the course in the history of western humanities entitled Creating Culture: Ancient, Medieval, Modern. While covering the history of western humanities from the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the course also allows students to develop further their composition skills in the context of studying these two fascinating centuries of creating culture. Highlighted will be three major cultural configurations: first, the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on reason, universality, and form; second, the backlash against the Enlightenment in Romanticism with its stress on emotion, individuality, and freedom; and third, the revolt against the Enlightenment and Romanticism trajectories of modernity in postmodernism, which accentuates relativism, pluralism, and fragmentation.

HONS 127: Emerging Reality: Universe, Life, Mind ( 3 CH / WIC )

The notion of emergence has been gaining currency in various disciplines over the past few decades. This course studies three sequential big bangs that have given rise to human experience: the big bang of matter-energy some 13.8 billion years ago, the big bang of life some 3.5 to 4 billion years ago, and the big bang of human self-consciousness rather more recently. These three moments in reality’s emergence mark the most important events, at least from the perspective of human beings, in the history of cosmic evolution. Physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and neuroscience will give us insights into these three.

HONS 128: Interpreting Scriptures: Jewish, Christian, Islamic ( 3 CH / WIC )

In religious communities writings can take on a sacred aura and serve important functions for adherents of the given faith. This is surely the case within the three major monotheistic traditions of the western world. This course uses historical-critical methods to examine the Hebrew Bible of Judaism (the Old Testament of Christians), the New Testament of Christianity, and The Qur an of Islam. In learning the way to interpret these texts, the focus falls on their meaning for life in the contemporary world.

HONS 137: Emerging Reality: Lab ( 1 CH / WIC )

This laboratory course, Emerging Reality Lab, HONS 137, is a supplement to the course Emerging Reality: Universe, Life, Mind, HONS 127. It serves as an introduction to the natural sciences in general and supports the basic content of the Emerging Reality course, which centers on the coming to be of the universe in the Big Bang together with the emergence of life and the emergence of mind or human self-consciousness. Four labs will be related to each of these three major moments of our evolving universe. No sophisticated level of mathematical proficiency will be assumed in the course. Those students majoring in one of the sciences are exempted from taking this lab course that accompanies Emerging Reality, HONS 127.

HONS 230: Understanding Globalization: Markets, Images, Sustainability ( 3 CH / WIC )

The notion of globalization took on new meaning after the era of exploration and discovery in the 16th century. But the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 was an exceptional event in world history that ushered in a new era of globalization. After that event many countries made the transition to democracy and market economics. Over the past two decades markets have been increasingly shaped by the power of images to influence consumers to purchase goods. Global economic forces sometimes threaten earth processes that are needed for sustaining life. Called for today is thoughtful reflection concerning how economic prosperity can occur while at the same time honoring the sustainability of the Earth.

HONS 240: Appreciating Creativity: Artistic, Scientific, Societal ( 3 CH / WIC )

Creativity is alive in nature; as creatures embedded in the natural world, human beings participate in the creative advance of the universe. This course gives students the opportunity to gain an appreciation for the multi-faceted reality of creativity. Many types of human creativity are investigated with the intent of identifying ways in which these creative forms differ from one another and yet are the same. The comparison of creativity as manifested in the world of artists, of scientists, and of societies will contribute to appreciating this fundamental human characteristic. The course will set the stage for the senior capstone course to be taken in the following year, during which each student will present their creative project.