Robert Morris University

Peirce Family Makes Record Gift to Support Dyslexia Education

Nearly $9 million to Duquesne and Robert Morris universities to support ongoing collaboration for teacher education, student clinics to help people with dyslexia.

Peirce Family Makes Transformational Gift to Support Dyslexia Education

The Peirce Family Foundation has given nearly $9 million to two nationally renowned universities, Duquesne University and Robert Morris University, to support and extend programs focused on literacy education, with a special emphasis on dyslexia and related reading disabilities. The gift is the largest ever made in Pennsylvania by individuals to prepare teachers to help those with dyslexia, and among the largest gifts of such a focus ever made in the United States.  

Of the total gift, Duquesne University received $4.47 million and Robert Morris University received $4.35 million. 

The Peirces’ gift extends for a decade their long-running philanthropic support of reading clinics at both institutions, where hundreds of children have strengthened their ability to read over the several years each clinic has offered these services. In addition, the gift provides extended commitment to scholarship agreements, which create opportunities for regional teachers to develop their skills to help students with dyslexia. 

“For the last few years, our friends at Duquesne and Robert Morris have committed themselves to our vision of creating a regional network of education professionals who can help children succeed and learn in spite of challenges posed by dyslexia,” said Bob Peirce. “Joan and I are thrilled to make this additional commitment today. We’ve met truly inspirational students and teachers who have made incredible progress in the last few years, and it is due to their inspiration and example that we are most excited to be making this additional gift.”

The Peirce family committed $2 million to Robert Morris University in 2017 to establish the Bob and Joan Peirce Center for Structured Reading Teacher Training, which trains teachers to work with children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Robert Morris University also operates the RMU Dyslexia Outreach Network, which works with partner schools to share information about interventions for dyslexia and to provide professional development and training to its staff.

This most recent Peirce gift will benefit RMU’s reading clinic along with a scholarship program for passionate teachers who wish to pursue graduate-level education in reading.  

“The Peirces have ensured that there will be a teacher in every school in the greater Pittsburgh region who has the tools and knowledge to help children with dyslexia,” said Robert Morris University President Michelle Patrick. “This gift will have an impact for generations—an incredibly generous contribution to the people of Pittsburgh that will reverberate well beyond our region.” 

With its share of the gift, Duquesne University will establish the Bob and Joan Peirce Center for Dyslexia Education and Support in the University’s School of Education. The Center’s director will administrate the Peirce Family Scholarships in Reading and Literacy Education and oversee expanding the reach of the Duquesne University Reading Clinic. 

The Peirce Family Scholarships at Duquesne enable teachers from elementary and secondary schools throughout the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to pursue masters of science degrees in reading and literacy education, incurring no tuition expenses in the process. Three cohorts of the Peirce Scholars already have started or earned degrees under the program. 

“The Peirces’ gift is as strategic as it is exemplary,” said Duquesne University President Ken Gormley. “Their steady, effective approach is to teach the teachers, who can then impact many more students than all of our clinics combined. I’ve met young people who have benefitted from the teaching Peirce Scholars have provided, and it’s truly an inspiration how their world opens up thanks to the dedicated efforts of people prepared with the right tools.” 


Bob Peirce is a prominent alumnus of the Thomas R. Kline School of Law of Duquesne University, and he and Joan are longtime supporters of his alma mater as well as other causes and organizations in the Pittsburgh region. The couple have funded numerous scholarships and programs, including the Robert N. Peirce Endowed Scholarship in the Duquesne Kline Law School; the Peirce Family Foundation Grant and Loan Program, the Charles Hamilton Houston Fellows Program in law, and a mission trip to Liberia. 

Bob is founding partner of Robert Peirce & Associates. He’s also a former public servant who served as Allegheny County Commissioner, as well as Clerk of Courts of this County. He’s also a member of the Century Club of Distinguished Alumni here at Duquesne; a past recipient of the 2011 Meritorious Service Award from the Duquesne University Law Alumni Association; and a recipient of the elite McAnulty Service Award, the highest nonacademic honor bestowed by Duquesne. 


“With the additional gift from the Peirce family, RMU can continue to carry out their vision to train teachers in systemic and explicit structured literacy and assist families in instructionally sound interventions that will impact their children’s lives in positive ways,” said Carianne Bernadowski, University Professor and Coordinator of the Bob and Joan Peirce Center for Structured Reading Teacher Training at Robert Morris University, “Our mission at the Peirce Center is to continue to work in both capacities so that those who are affected by learning differences have access to affordable and accessible assistance. We consider our teachers and students the heart of what we do.

“The generous support from the Peirce Family Foundation has profoundly improved the ability of the Reading and Literacy Education program and the Duquesne Reading Clinic to support children with dyslexia or specific reading disabilities in our region,” said Carla Meyer, associate professor of education, Program Director of the Graduate Reading Education, and director of the Duquesne Reading Clinic. “For supporting educators’ efforts to provide reading support to children who attend Diocesan schools and helping our clinic to exponentially expand its services to dyslexic children who need intervention, the Duquesne reading family is eternally grateful for the financial support that allows us to serve both our students and the children in our community.”

About Robert Morris University

Robert Morris University is a nationally ranked doctoral-granting university enrolling approximately 3,700 undergraduate and graduate students in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. RMU offers fully online courses as well as a traditional residential college experience at its campus on 230 scenic acres 17 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. The Colonials compete in 15 NCAA Division I sports including basketball, football, volleyball, and lacrosse.

About Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.