The Pittsburgh Foundation

Remembering Frank V. Cahouet

Max King

By Maxwell King

President and CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation

Pittsburgh has lost yet another larger-than-life business and philanthropic leader.

Frank Cahouet, who died at age 85 on Tuesday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, led a decisive turnaround of troubled Mellon Financial Corp. after being imported from the California banking world as its chairman and CEO. But as is the case for so many who land in Pittsburgh from other places, Frank and his wife, Ann, quickly tied their hearts and souls to the city and considered it their hometown. 

Beyond saving one of the country’s storied financial institutions, Frank contributed to the region’s development in myriad ways. He was especially generous and effective as a philanthropist – personally, through board service; and as an advisor to others. Those of us in the foundation community who were fortunate enough to have him on a board, or volunteering on a project, or providing advice in a crisis, understand the enormity of his contribution in improving quality of life in our region.

As brilliant and persistent as he was, he also was known as a humble man, deeply devoted to the work, and content to leave public credit to others. Beginning in the early 1990s and for much of the next decade, he served on the board of The Heinz Endowments. He led a successful investment strategy with the same relentless focus he applied at Mellon. Now, Chris Heinz, who recently moved back to Pittsburgh and succeeded Frank as chair of the Board’s Investment Committee, oversees a prosperous institution, thanks to the financial expertise and leadership that came before him.

Frank believed in the power of philanthropy to improve lives. A devout Catholic, he gave generously to many Catholic charities. After his Parkinson’s diagnosis, Frank tackled his many therapies with diligence and resolve. He also recognized the need for well-coordinated care. In 2016, he established the Cahouet Center for Comprehensive Parkinson’s Care through the Allegheny Health Network. Thanks to his generosity, the Center is open to all, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. 

In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interview connected to the public announcement of the new Center, Frank explained that using his personal resources to help others dealing with the same illness he was battling was much preferred to “sitting around moaning and groaning.” That was Frank’s way, and one that those of us in philanthropy could stand to model more: no-nonsense, forward-thinking, faith-driven and generous to those most in need.