The Philanthropic Legacy of Cordelia Scaife May

Cordelia Scaife May was a remarkable figure whose philanthropic efforts left an indelible mark on society. Born into the prominent Mellon family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May dedicated her life and considerable wealth to causes that reflected her vision for a better world. 

One of May’s most significant contributions was the establishment of the Laurel Foundation in 1951, when she was just 23 years old. Through this foundation, May supported various causes, including the arts, education, and female empowerment. Organizations such as the National Aviary, the Allegheny Land Trust, and Planned Parenthood were among the beneficiaries of her generous grants. 

However, May’s philanthropy went beyond traditional causes. Mary Cordelia Scaife May recognized the complex interplay between population dynamics and environmental sustainability. Understanding that unchecked population growth could strain finite resources and harm the environment, May became a champion for sustainable immigration. 

Her belief in managing population growth and preserving the planet’s resources led May to advocate for immigration reforms. She aimed to strike a balance between the needs of growing populations and the finite capacity of the environment to support them. May’s commitment to female empowerment was also evident in her staunch support for the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh (WC&S). Through sustained grants, May enabled WC&S to provide safety, healing, and empowerment to survivors of domestic violence. Her anonymous contributions played a crucial role in the growth and success of the organization. 

In 1996, May’s philanthropic vision culminated in the establishment of the Colcom Foundation. This foundation became a platform for addressing key issues related to sustainability and climate change activism. May’s substantial endowment ensured that her commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable development would continue long after her passing. 

May’s philanthropic journey was one of compassion, foresight, and a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of social and environmental issues. Her legacy serves as an inspiration for others to make a positive impact on the world, reminding us that even a single individual can create lasting change. Refer to this page for related information. 


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