Pitt alum David Frederick makes unique gift to benefit Honors College

Four people pose in garden for portrait


Pitt’s first Rhodes scholar, David C. Frederick, will make a unique multi-million-dollar gift that will benefit Pitt’s Honors College — which will be renamed the David C. Frederick Honors College — and University College at Oxford University in England, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced on July 6.

Frederick, 61, graduated in 1983 from Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences and attended Oxford from 1983 to ‘86 as a Rhodes Scholar, earning a doctorate of philosophy degree in politics. He went on to get a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law, serve as clerk to Supreme Court Justice Byron White and become a prominent appellate attorney who has argued more than 50 cases before the nation’s highest court.

The unusually structured gift starts with $35 million to help develop Univ North, with Oxford’s University College. The new multi-generational community in North Oxford will house students, adults, senior citizens and kids. It will have up to 150 bedrooms with private bathrooms, a café and gym, as well as study, meeting and lecture spaces. The site already has an existing residential home for seniors and will include a nursery for up to 54 children.

As part of the deal, Oxford’s University College will have a 50-year commitment to distribute some of the income generated from the completed development to Pitt for the Honors College. The gift to Pitt, which also includes $5 million outright, is expected to create a permanent endowment valued at more than $65 million.

A portion of the $5 million has already been given to Pitt, Frederick told the Post-Gazette, and payments will continue in roughly $500,000 increments during the next few years.

Frederick told the Pittsburgh Business Times that the payments will be regular but also structured with flexibility to benefit both institutions and their financial stability.

“They spent a lot of time modeling a range of different scenarios so that this absolutely protects University College and Pitt, regardless of the financial circumstances that may arise, because there’s built-in flexibility,” Frederick said. “It’s not a loan where there’s a fixed amount that comes due. I think it’s innovative in that way.”

At the Honors College, the gift will focus on students and fund high-impact learning experiences, including study abroad and study away scholarships, stipends for internships and research experiences, and participation in academic and professional conferences. It also will support recruitment partnerships and mentorship programs for students from first-generation and historically under-represented backgrounds, including scholarships for students who graduate from honors programs at community colleges in Pennsylvania. The gift enables the Honors College to build partnerships with Oxford to create a new set of educational opportunities for students.

In a news release, Frederick said he and wife Sophie Lynn, “are delighted to participate in an innovative philanthropic model that benefits two important institutions where I spent many happy years as a student.”

“The University of Pittsburgh Honors College will derive substantial and enduring benefits from this arrangement,” he continued, “which also will ensure modern, multi-purpose facilities for University College, Oxford, where students can flourish and deepen their sense of community with the college and city of Oxford. Our hope is that the project will enrich the educational experience in an inclusive way at both institutions for many decades to come.”

He also told the Business Times: “I am very focused on trying to figure out how to leverage philanthropy to create more benefits than just simply giving a gift to one institution,” he said. “One of the things I’m most excited about this program is as a model of philanthropy to help both capital projects and program projects.”

Frederick’s gift and the naming of the Frederick Honors College will be celebrated on Sept. 1 with an event at Pitt.

“David has filled his life, personally and professionally, with moments of impact. Now, his name is inextricably linked to a college at the University of Pittsburgh that is devoted to doing the same,” Gallagher said. “Pitt Honors students are exceptionally gifted and eager to make a difference — just like David. I am grateful for both his and Sophie’s support, friendship and continued investment in our students, their academic careers and their lifelong success.”

Baroness Valerie Amos, master of University College, Oxford, said the Univ North development will be transformational for the college, “enabling us to further realize our vision through our commitment to academic excellence, diversity and inclusion.”

Honors College Dean Nicola Foote said Frederick’s gift “will significantly expand the range of learning opportunities available to Honors students, allowing us to support a diverse body of intellectually ambitious students in an expansive range of unique enrichment experiences. The naming of the college is especially significant, as David Frederick in his own life story truly represents the embodiment of what an Honors education can and should mean.”

At Pitt, Frederick was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies, competed with Pitt’s nationally ranked debate team, and was selected as a Harry S. Truman Scholar and a Rotary International Scholar. He received the Emma Locke Award as the Outstanding Graduate in 1983. 

This is not his first gift to Pitt. He established the William Stanton Award in the Department of History in honor of his former professor and created the G. Alec Stewart Endowed Student Research Fund in the University Honors College to support undergraduate research projects. Stewart was the first director of the University Honors Program, which became the Honors College in 1987.

He also established the William J. Keefe Congressional Fellowships and the Frederick Fund, which has supported scholarships and public service internships for more than 60 students.

Since 2001, Frederick has been a partner at Washington, D.C., law firm Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick, P.L.L.C.

At the Supreme Court, he has represented individuals, workers, investors, immigrants, classes of consumers, farmers, Native Americans, small corporations, public-sector unions, trade associations, large companies, foreign governments, U.S. states, the European Union, and the United States. His cases have established precedents in the fields of federal-state relations, worker and pharmaceutical safety, environmental protection, and business competition.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 724-244-4042.


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