Thiel College announces the Kenneth and Marianna Brown Dietrich Honors program

GREENVILLE, Pa.—Thiel College announced today that the $25 million bequest to the college by late businessman, scholar and philanthropist William S. Dietrich II will first be used to fund the Kenneth and Marianna Brown Dietrich Honors Program. Dietrich’s gift was the largest made to Thiel College in its 145-year history. It became operational upon his passing on Oct. 6, 2011 and was announced to the public on Nov. 3, 2011.

“Bill Dietrich was a model of lifelong learning and self-improvement, and we are happy to honor those who instilled that passion for knowledge in him, his beloved parents and Thiel alumni, Ken and Marianna,” said Dr. Troy VanAken, Thiel College president, during the announcement in the college’s Lutheran Heritage Room to an audience of students, board members, faculty and staff, alumni and special guests. “Bill’s generosity, farsightedness and faith will bring the college to new heights as an institution that focuses primarily on academics and a holistic student experience.”

The Dietrich Honors Program will expand and deepen the existing Thiel College honors program, creating over time a program that is accessible, integrated into the wider curriculum and featuring a wide variety of honors activities and academic offerings. A re-invigorated honors program is one of the priorities of the college’s newly adopted strategic plan.

The Dietrich Honors Programs honors Kenneth Dietrich ’31 and Marianna Brown ’32, Dietrich’s parents who met while both were students at Thiel. Ken and Marianna instilled in their son a deep love of learning and respect for knowledge, which will serve as a cornerstone of the honors program named in their honor.

“For this reason, honoring Bill’s parents with the naming of the Thiel College honors program—a program that is an essential component of the College’s new strategic plan—is a thoughtful and fitting tribute to the Dietrich family,” said Edward J. Grefenstette, the chief investment officer of the Dietrich Charitable Trusts.  “With the naming of the Honors Program, let us hope that the Thiel community will now have a constant reminder of Bill’s wisdom—that with the steady support of family and faculty, Thiel students can feel the security to take the risks necessary to achieve great things.”    

The source of the fund that will benefit Thiel is the Dietrich Charitable Trusts, which are charitable remainder trusts created by Dietrich that own assets primarily generated by the 1996 sale of Dietrich Industries, which were grown significantly through a global investment portfolio. Upon his passing, the trusts will fund a new charitable organization, The Dietrich Foundation, which will administer the funds benefiting Thiel College. The primary mission of the Dietrich Foundation is to benefit higher education, primarily in the greater Pittsburgh area.

About William S. Dietrich II

After graduating from Princeton University in 1960, Dietrich 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 Dietrich 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,” a collection of his essays which was released this year. He also was a regular contributor to Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine.

Dietrich 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.

About Thiel College

Thiel College is a private liberal arts institution founded in the Lutheran tradition. Located in Greenville, Pa., the College offers 60 majors and minors, 25 varsity sports, and a 10:1 student-faculty ratio to more than 900 students. A dedicated faculty paired with dynamic research and internship opportunities produce numerous graduate school and job placements. Coeducational from its beginnings, the College remains committed to combining tradition with innovation as it celebrates 150 years.