Cindy Cyert Steffes ’69 Establishes Scholarship at WT
A conversation with Lucinda “Cindy” Cyert Steffes ’69, proud alum, supporter of education, champion for Pittsburgh.
In the spring of 2014, Cindy Cyert Steffes ’69 decided to make a transformational gift to the Celebrate WT campaign, endowing a scholarship in memory of her parents, Dr. Richard and Mrs. Margaret Cyert. Dr. Cyert, who was President of Carnegie Mellon University from 1972-1990, also served on WT’s Board of Trustees from 1972-1979. He passed away in 1998; Mrs. Cyert passed away on April 9, 2014.
We spoke with Mrs. Steffes about her WT experience and her decision to establish the Cyert Family Scholarship.
What do you remember most fondly about your years at WT?
I loved history with Mrs. Brownlee and chemistry with Mr. Metcalf and, of course, the drama club!
Mrs. Brownlee had the greatest influence. She went to Wellesley and was a very strong advocate (still is) of single sex education. We remain friends today.
I have wonderful memories of my time at WT and realize that it had a major influence on my development as a person. Besides receiving a great education, I was given the opportunity to mature in a creative and caring environment that promoted the values and skills I would need to succeed for the rest of my life.
My years at WT were instrumental in helping me to develop into a self-confident successful woman. My passion for the theater began at WT when I performed strong female character roles such as Amelia Earhart and the Trojan Women. This passion flourished at WT and in the rich culture of Pittsburgh. My love for theater and the arts is an integral part of who I am. It is “my soul.”
You have said that education and Pittsburgh were important to your parents. How did their passions inform your decision to create a scholarship?
My parents spent most of their adult lives in Pittsburgh, working in education, and they both dedicated their lives to increasing the quality and impact of educational institutions in the Pittsburgh community. In addition to contributing to their institutions, they were both committed to helping others gain access to education. And they believed in giving back to Pittsburgh, both being very engaged in many civic activities. My father spent his entire career at Carnegie Mellon University. He was President from 1972-1990, and was instrumental in the University becoming known as a leader in areas like computer science and dramatic arts. My mother studied early childhood education and was able to develop programs that continue today at the Margaret Cyert Early Childhood Center. My family was enmeshed in Pittsburgh and its incredible educational institutions, including WT. Providing a scholarship to a WT student honors my family’s appreciation for Pittsburgh and its great educational opportunities.
My parents had always stressed the importance of a good education. My gift is to honor my parents, and, in their memory, provide that education for someone who otherwise might not have the opportunity from which I benefited.
Why is financial aid important to you?
I believe independent school education allows the student to flourish in a positive environment, smaller classes, diverse activities—and with teachers who get to know who you are, and care about your future. I was nurtured and encouraged to discover myself in ways that I believe would not have occurred in other schools.
I was very fortunate that my parents had the ability to provide me with a great education. But many ambitious and deserving students are not able to experience such a positive growth and learning opportunity, for lack of financial resources. Financial aid makes it possible for deserving students to share the benefits of a great education and have a better chance at success throughout their lives. It gives me a great sense of pride to honor them by giving others the same opportunity that I was given.
What would you say to other WT alumnae about giving back to WT? Why is it important?
What struck me [when I visited WT in May 2014] was how the students were excited to be there and that the teachers cared about the success and future of the students. I was pleased to see that the facilities are in great shape and new developments and upgrades, like the theater renovation, will make it better than ever.
The educational experience that WT provides is a treasure. This quality of education can only be sustained if the many who have benefitted continue to support it. Giving back to WT has touched my heart and keeps me connected with who I am and where I came from.