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Mellon's legacy touches region's institutions

Friday, February 12, 1999

This story was written by staff writer Cindi Lash, based on her reporting and that of staff writers Bill Schackner and Caroline Abels.

  A 1983 portrait of Paul Mellon. (Yousuf Karsh)

Philanthropist Paul Mellon didn't forget about his hometown when he drafted the will that dictated the distribution of his considerable fortune after his death.

Mellon, who was 91 when he died Feb. 1 in Upperville, Va., left at least $20 million to Carnegie Mellon University and up to $2.5 million to the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. The will also contained bequests of $1 million to Chatham College and $500,000 to Latrobe Area Hospital in Westmoreland County.

Perhaps the greatest American philanthropist of the 20th Century, Mellon was known through his life as a donor, art collector, patron of the arts and horse breeder. He was the only son of Andrew W. Mellon, the Pittsburgh banker, financier, industrialist, secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and ambassador to Great Britain.

Mellon's will, filed Wednesday in the Fauquier County Circuit Courthouse in Warrenton, Va., contained cash bequests alone that exceeded $450 million. Much of the 83-page document dealt with bequests to Mellon's wife, daughter and son, as well as a bequest of $75 million in cash and more than 100 of his favorite pictures to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

But he also included gifts for Pittsburgh institutions that now exist near his former homes. Mellon was born in 1907 in a house that stood on the site of Carnegie Mellon University's stadium near Forbes Avenue and Margaret Morrision Drive, and he later lived in what is now Chatham's Mellon Hall.

According to his will, Carnegie Mellon University will receive $20 million. But it could also receive more depending on how much is left over in the estate after all other bequests are met.

Terms of the will state that estate executors could divide leftover assets of up to $50 million among Carnegie Mellon and three other institutions - the Choate Rosemary Hall Foundation Inc. of Wallingford, Conn.; World Monuments Fund Inc. of New York City; and the University of Virginia.

Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon said Mellon has played an important part in the school's history and that his gift ensures that Mellon's impact on campus will live on.

"We are extremely pleased," Cohon said. "Paul Mellon was one of the country's great philanthropists. And other than the National Gallery of Art and Yale, no other institution has benefited more than Carnegie Mellon."

How the money will be used by the university isn't known yet. The school is awaiting instructions about what if any restrictions have been placed on the gift. In the past, Mellon has supported the university's college of fine arts and college of humanities and social sciences.

Carnegie Mellon is in the midst of a $350 million fund-raising campaign. To date, it has $283 million. Some of Mellon's gift, unless otherwise restricted, could be added to that campaign.

Chatham College stands to benefit, too.

It will receive $1 million to establish an endowment with income to be used to refurbish the house formerly owned by Paul Mellon's father, donated to the college 55 years ago. The building on Woodland road, now called the Andrew Mellon Center, houses the president's office as well as other offices including academic affairs, the school said yesterday.

Chatham President Esther Barazzone said the gift was another example of Mellon's generosity and vision.

"Although he pursued a greater national range of interests, he continued to care about Pittsburgh," she said.

Mellon's will also called for the release of at least $1.5 million and up to $2.5 million to the Carnegie Institute, which oversees the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, The Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Science Center. Mellon's executors are to determine the exact amount of the gift, which was bequeathed in honor of Mellon's cousin, James M. Walton, who was president of the institute from 1968 to 1984.

Walton could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"We're thrilled," said Ellsworth Brown, the institute's president, after hearing about the gift from a reporter. "We'll have to see whether there are conditions [on how the money can be spent], but it's wonderful news."

Mellon also left $500,000 to Latrobe Area Hospital, which was dear to the heart of his Yale classmate and longtime friend the late George Wyckoff of Rector.

That money was to be added to the George and Elizabeth McKay Wyckoff Memorial Fund, which endows a chair in family practice at the hospital, President Douglas Clark said.

By his own admission, Clark nearly choked when he, too, learned of Mellon's gift yesterday in a call from a reporter.

"This is wonderful, just wonderful," Clark sputtered. He said Mellon had given money to the hospital on previous occasions, including gifts to the Wyckoff fund.

Dr. John R. Mazero, the hospital's retired medical director and current president of its charitable foundation, said Mellon and Wyckoff were classmates at Yale and remained close friends until Wyckoff's death about 15 years ago.

Mazero said Wyckoff was a consultant to the Mellon Foundation, and Mellon frequently visited the Wyckoffs in Westmoreland County.

"After George Wyckoff's death, Paul Mellon visited Latrobe and set up a system where he would match grants we received for [Wyckoff's] fund," Mazero said.

"Now to receive this additional gift is just wonderful for a community hospital."

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