Grant from First Commonwealth Enables Expansion of Fallingwater Outreach to Local Schools

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy received a $25,000 grant from Indiana, Pa.-based First Commonwealth Financial Corporation for educational outreach at Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Mill Run, Pa.

The grant enables Fallingwater to expand its popular “Wright in Our Backyard” program, which offers local students the opportunity to visit the world-famous house free-of-charge and participate in innovative, interactive educational workshops. Currently offered to schools in five counties, the program will be available to students in Indiana County as a result of the grant.

“We are grateful to First Commonwealth for giving more students the chance to be inspired by Fallingwater,” said Lynda Waggoner, vice president of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and director of Fallingwater.

The “Wright in Our Backyard” program curriculum incorporates Pennsylvania Board of Education-approved academic standards in reading and writing, history and math, science, environment and ecology, and arts and humanities into each student’s visit. Teachers integrate their Fallingwater visit into regular classroom plans and prepare students in advance to interact with the educational staff. In addition, the program reimburses school districts for transportation to and from Fallingwater.

“For three quarters of a century, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has worked tirelessly to ensure the vitality of our region’s natural surroundings,” said John Dolan, president and CEO of First Commonwealth Financial Corporation. “The Conservancy’s preservation of Fallingwater may be the greatest symbol of these efforts, and as an ardent supporter of educational programs for the youth of our communities, First Commonwealth is proud to be a part of bringing this important lesson to the students of Western Pennsylvania.”

“Wright in Our Backyard” has reached growing numbers of students in recent years due to the success of the program and increased community and corporate support. During the 2008-09 school year, Fallingwater provided educational engagement for 3,795 participants from 39 schools in Butler, Fayette, Somerset, Greene and Washington counties.

Previous participants in the program offered their own perspectives on its value:


  • Mary DeFazio, a third-grade student from Marshall School, said, “It was amazing. It was better than I imagined—really! When I grow up, I want to work there. I also learned that an architect has a fun job. I might want to be an architect when I grow up. Fallingwater really inspired me.”
  • Drew Colebank, a student at Albert Gallatin North Middle School, said, “The beauty of the main house blends in with its surroundings, and astonishes you as you approach it…Who could think a house in the Great Depression could be designed with such amazing structures as cantilevers? The Kaufmanns must have greatly enjoyed the escape from the hectic city life. I surely did, for it was the inspiration which I decided to become an architect.”
  • Natalie Novak, a third-grade student from Marshall School, said, “What I liked about the house was how you actually felt like you were outside when you were really in the house. I also liked the windows…The nature trip was fun, too! You made the tour better than anything because who would let us pick up worms on a regular tour and you taught us to respect nature and I think that’s pretty important.”




About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) enhances the region’s quality of life by protecting and restoring exceptional places. A nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1932, WPC was responsible for the founding of six state parks and has conserved nearly 225,000 acres of natural lands and waterways. The Conservancy owns and operates Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Mill Run, Pa. that symbolizes people living in harmony with nature. In addition, WPC enriches our region’s cities and towns through 140 community gardens and greenspaces that are planted with the help of 8,300 volunteers. The work of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is accomplished through the support of more than 10,300 members. For more information, visit


About First Commonwealth

First Commonwealth Financial Corporation is a $6.4 billion bank holding company headquartered in Indiana, Pennsylvania. It operates 115 retail branch offices in 15 counties in western and central Pennsylvania through First Commonwealth Bank, a Pennsylvania chartered bank and trust company. Financial services and insurance products are also provided through First Commonwealth Insurance Agency and First Commonwealth Financial Advisors, Inc.


Media contact:


Stephanie Kraynick
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
(412) 586-2358