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Donors David Frederick and Sophie Lynn visited Pitt to celebrate the renaming of the Honors College

Chancellor Gallagher, Sophie Lynn and David Frederick in front of the new college sign

From an academic session focused on Pitt students’ innovative research to an on-field ceremony at the first football game of the year, students, faculty and staff gathered on Sept. 1, 2022, to honor alumnus David Frederick (A&S ’83) for his historic gift to Pitt this summer and to celebrate the naming of the David C. Frederick Honors College.

“There are very few things at Pitt that go by one name — Swanson, Katz, Dietrich — and today we added Frederick to that list with the naming of the David C. Frederick Honors College,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “Thanks to David and Sophie, the Frederick Honors College — which is already well-respected — is certain to evolve and excel as both a national and global leader.”

David Frederick is Pitt’s first Rhodes Scholar and one of the country’s most successful lawyers focusing on appellate litigation. The gift made by Frederick and his wife, Sophie Lynn, will support student scholarships and high impact learning experiences, including study abroad and study away opportunities, stipends for internships and research experiences, and participation in academic and professional conferences. Frederick’s innovative gift also will help Oxford’s University College, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar from 1983-1986, create Univ North, a landscape-driven multigenerational community with up to 150 en suite study bedrooms, gym, study, meeting and lecture spaces, and more. The gift to Pitt is expected to create a permanent endowment valued at more than $65 million, benefitting the University and its students for generations.

Following a small gathering in the Frederick Honors College office on the 35th and 36th floors of the Cathedral of Learning to unveil the school’s new official sign, the couple attended an undergraduate research showcase featuring the works of several Honors College students and then had lunch with students who have benefited from past gifts from Frederick and Lynn.

“My summer research experience has solidified my passion for education equity and my desire to pursue a career dedicated to alleviating disparities in the nation’s public school system through the law,” said Hosea Wah, a senior information science major. “My David C. Frederick Public Service Internship Award allowed me to not only explore my area of interest, but also to engage with fellow Frederick interns working on different problems in diverse fields, which helped me see how my own research can connect with other global issues and be applied in new ways to improve society.”

For many students, the highlight of the day was an hourlong question-and-answer session with Frederick hosted by Honors College Dean Nicola Foote. The session touched on Frederick’s life from his days in Pittsburgh on the debate team, through his Oxford University experience, to his mentorship of Pitt students and his philosophy on giving back to his alma mater. The session opened with a brief video tribute.

“David has lived a life that epitomizes what it means to receive and honors education — a life of accomplishment, collaboration and public service,” said Foote. “I’m humbled to be the dean of the college that carries his name, and it was a pleasure to share the stage with him so that others could learn more about David and no doubt be inspired to set out on their own path of success.”

In the late afternoon, University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees Chair Doug Browning joined the festivities to offer a few thoughts and a celebratory toast at a special reception honoring Frederick and Lynn. Browning served on the Honors College Board of Visitors with Frederick and now serves with him as a trustee.

“When David first learned that I was going to chair the Honors College Board of Visitors, he sat down with me for two hours to talk about the future of the college and the potential it held. His passion for the students and the institution energized me,” said Browning. “I cannot think of a better way to celebrate David than by adding his name to the Honors College. At the same time, I can’t think of a better way to elevate the prestige of the Honors College and inspire its students than by naming it in honor of David.”

The evening wrapped up with the most visible of the events. Frederick, Lynn and their children had the privilege of “dotting the i” during the pregame festivities at the Pitt-West Virginia football game. One dignitary is chosen to dot the i of the marching band’s Pitt script formation at each home game. The sell-out crowd was also treated to a short video honoring Frederick and Lynn.

“I have been extremely fortunate to have experienced some momentous events in my professional life, and this one moved me more than any others,” Frederick said after the game. “The entire day was exhilarating — seeing the David C. Frederick Honors College sign for the first time, being with the students, standing on the field — it all was unforgettable for Sophie and me. Thank you.”

The David C. Frederick Honors College enrolled 2,550 students for the fall 2022 semester offering 66 honors courses. With the help of the Honors College, the University has produced eight Rhodes Scholars, 13 Truman Scholars and more than 300 Fulbright Scholars, including nine in 2021. Through Frederick’s generosity, there have been eight William J. Keefe Congressional Fellows, 22 Frederick Scholars and 36 David C. Frederick Public Service interns. The Frederick Honors College offers nine distinct programs including a Bachelor of Philosophy, Brackenridge Fellowships, a living learning community and national scholarship advising.


— Mark Nootbaar, photography by Joe Appel