Carnegie Mellon’s prestigious College of Fine Arts just received the largest gift in its history, $10 million, to establish the Joseph Ballay Center for Design Fusion in the School of Design.

CMU Emeritus Professor of Design and alumnus Joseph Ballay and his wife, Sue, are donating the funds. Bailey joined the CMU faculty in 1970 to lead the newly established School of Design within the College of Fine Arts. In 1989, he formed the technology design lab MAYA Design with colleagues from CMU’s psychology and computer science departments. Today, MAYA is headquartered Downtown and employs 50.

“There is, I believe, an artistic base in all that we do, which satisfies human needs,” notes Ballay, who retired from CMU in 2001. “Through the center, we will continue interdisciplinary work using design thinking to solve problems. Carnegie Mellon is the right setting to make this happen.”

Joseph Ballay (center). Photo courtesy of CMU.

The Center will serve as a hub for CMU design courses, executive education, sponsored projects and design research. It’s going to be located in Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall, named after Andrew Carnegie’s mother.

“By establishing the Joseph Ballay Center for Design Fusion, he reinforces Carnegie Mellon’s culture, in which the creative and the technical live side-by-side, strengthening each other,” says Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian.

“The Ballay Center will be the ‘front door’ to design at CMU,” says Mary Ellen Poole, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “Joe is a visionary who knows the School of Design inside out, having been one of its formative faculty. He understands exactly what is needed to infuse design thinking throughout all aspects of human endeavor and is showing us how to throw that door wide open.”

Ballay grew up in Ambridge, where his family owned a hardware store. He got his undergraduate degree in management from Carnegie Tech, before it became Carnegie Mellon University.

“Pittsburgh is a city that has had to reinvent itself several times and continues to do so,” says Ballay. “With all its advances, though, Pittsburgh is still a steel town, and it reminds you that in this world, progress takes effort, it takes hard work.”

“That’s a lot like Carnegie Mellon, which is very special to me. It not only has the components to make this center a reality but also to make it happen with deep commitment. And by components, I mean a tradition of breaking rules and being willing to take chances. If you fail, you fail. But if you succeed, ‘Wow!’ Our goal, above all, is making the world better.”

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.