Monday, May 29, 2006

A Modern-Day Andrew Carnegie

Richard P. Simmons, former Chairman and CEO of Allegheny Technologies, celebrated his 75th birthday earlier this month. He deserves far greater recognition than he has received for the incredible impact he has made on this region over the past 25 years.

Simmons was born the son of a gas station owner in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and his father died while he was a teenager. He received a scholarship to attend MIT and graduated as a metallurgist. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, he got his first job at Allegheny Ludlum Steel.

Twenty-seven years later, in 1980, he led a $195 million management buyout of Allegheny Ludlum, and turned the company into the most successful specialty steel manufacturer in the world. In 1996, he merged Allegheny Ludlum with Teledyne, Inc. to create Allegheny Technologies.

3,000 Pittsburghers today work for the company that Dick Simmons created.

The thousands of high-paying jobs at Allegheny Ludlum/Allegheny Technologies have contributed billions of dollars to the Pittsburgh Region’s economy over the past 26 years.

But like Andrew Carnegie, Simmons didn’t just create jobs, he has also given back to the community in many ways.

A decade ago, Simmons recognized the importance of technology businesses and entrepreneurship to the future of the region’s economy. Not content to just talk about it, in October, 1996, he invested $20 million of his own money to create Birchmere Investments, a venture capital fund focused on startup companies in southwestern Pennsylvania.

He also championed greater involvement by young people, women, and minorities in the community.

During his tenure as Chairman of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development from 1996 to 1999, he recruited the first women and African Americans to the Board of the Allegheny Conference in its 50+ year history.

He invited young people to speak on stage at the Allegheny Conference’s Annual Meetings beginning in 1998, the first time in history that had happened. Matt Burger, then-President of PUMP spoke in 1998 about the importance of involving young people in the region. In 1999, Zena Francis and Deborah Gross, both recent imports to the region, spoke personally and passionately about both the region’s strengths and its weaknesses, such as the region’s lack of diversity and the hostility that many African Americans feel here. Thanks to Dick Simmons, over 1,000 community leaders heard their message.

Dick Simmons has also been a strong supporter of the arts and human services. He has been the single strongest force that has enabled the Pittsburgh Symphony to remain one of the world’s great orchestras, despite the enormous financial pressures the Symphony has faced in a region that has lost population for two decades. He has been a strong supporter of the United Way for many years, including serving as Chairman during the 1990s. Most recently, he donated $5 million to the Carnegie Museum for the R.P. Simmons Family Gallery, and his contributions to UPMC enabled formation of the Dorothy P. & Richard P. Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Diseases, in honor of his first wife who died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He has undoubtedly made many other contributions to many worthy causes.

In the tradition of Andrew Carnegie, Dick Simmons is a steel magnate with a heart of gold. We are lucky to have him in Pittsburgh.


Blogger Gerald Harper said...

Yes, he is the only former tycoon Pittsburgh has left, today, and his philanthropic endeavors are honorable.

6:27 PM  

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