Daily Collegian Story - Eberly most generous living Penn State benefactor

Robert Eberly '39

Robert Eberly '39

One Penn State alumnus might truly know what it means to bleed blue and white.

At the age of 83, Robert Eberly is Penn State's most generous living benefactor. His contributions to the university total $39 million, including his most recent $6.9 million donation to the Fayette Campus.

"With this superb act of generosity, Bob and his family become Penn State's greatest living benefactors," Penn State President Graham Spanier said in a prepared statement. "Eberly philanthropy has transformed Penn State in many ways, for undergraduate scholarships to faculty chairs to new facilities and from medicine to science to the libraries."

The bulk of the Eberly Foundation's philanthropy has been to the Eberly College of Science, the Hershey Medical Center and the Fayette Campus, said Penn State spokesman Mike Bezilla.

Eberly, a 1939 graduate of Penn State, is a retired bank executive.

As Fayette County residents, Eberly and his father Orville helped to found the Penn State Fayette Campus in 1965 by convincing the university to set up a commonwealth campus in the area. Today 1,130 students — 80 percent of which are Fayette County residents — are enrolled there. Eberly remains an active beneficiary in the Fayette area and the university by providing scholarships for Penn State Fayette students.

Most recently, the Eberly Foundation donated $6.9 million to the Fayette Campus to help establish a new community center for cultural, social and athletic events.

"It will not only benefit the campus but also the community," Penn State spokeswoman Laura Stocker said.

The new community center will contain spaces for performances, along with a cafeteria and dining hall, fitness center and auditorium. A series of outdoor public spaces suitable for large gatherings will be available.

"My family and I see this building as another step by the campus to meet the needs of the surrounding community. There is a great need for this kind of building in our area. We want to encourage students, businesses and all the people of Fayette County to take full advantage of the campus' many opportunities for educational, social and cultural enrichment," Eberly, who could not be reached for comment, said in a prepared statement.

Rod Kirsch, vice president for development and alumni relations, described Eberly as a scientist fascinated with the world around him and interested in how things work.

His contributions to the university are not limited to the Fayette area. In 1997, Eberly donated $5 million to the Hershey Medical Center for research.

"His donation to the Hershey Medical Center is very much in keeping with Bob as a person," Kirsch said.

In 1986, Eberly donated more than $10 million to the Eberly College of Science. With his donation, Eberly endowed a chair in each of the eight departments in the college.

"This was the first time a college with a university received a gift that endowed a faculty chair in each department," Kirsch said.

The Eberly Foundation recently donated about $5 million to renovate the Eberly Building on the Fayette campus.

"He is often amused with the fact that in the 1960s it cost about $700,000 to build, and the most recent renovation was about $6 million," Kirsch said.

Keeping with his interest in the sciences, Eberly also donated close to $2 million to fund the construction of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, a uniquely designed telescope created by Penn State.

"In both breadth and depth, (Eberly's) support is unparalleled at Penn State," Spanier said in a prepared statement. "We are profoundly grateful."