How can your institution properly and respectfully show appreciation to its most significant benefactors and life-long donors?

The University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA) has answered the question with the formation of the Cathedral Learning Society. Each year, donors to the university who have given $1 million or more in their lifetimes are acknowledged in a formal ceremony in the Cathedral Learning Commons Room on the university campus. The 2015 ceremony was held in mid-June and recognized nearly 20 members into the society.

“The Cathedral Learning Society is the most widely recognized symbol of the university and serves as an enduring monument to the spirit of philanthropy,” says Jennifer Park, manager of donor recognition programs with the university's institutional advancement department. “It is so important for us to pay tribute to the outstanding individuals whose leadership inspires others.”

Park says the Cathedral Learning Society accomplishes the following:

  • Recognizes the benefactors who have made a life-long commitment to the university.
  • Displays the gratitude and respect of the university and the Pittsburgh community.
  • Provides the opportunity for students to honor and pay tribute to individuals who have dedicated their lives to the education of young people.
  • Inspires and motivates philanthropy in other community leaders and members of the university family.
  • Builds a culture and tradition of benevolence and goodwill throughout the university and the community.
  • Creates an opportunity for major donors to communicate, share ideas, plan events and activities and build relationships.

“The Cathedral Learning Society has become a lasting symbol of what is possible and has helped the university to thrive,” says Park.

An example of the significance of the Cathedral Learning Society's impact on the university was evident in the recently completed Building Our Future Together multiyear capital campaign. The campaign raised more than $2.1 billion, with nearly 300 donors of $1 million or more and 90 major donors who had not previously given to the university.

Source: Jennifer Park, Manager of Donor Recognition Programs, Institutional Advancement Department, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Phone (412) 624-8247. E-mail: Website: