Robert E. Eberly '39, one of Penn State's most generous benefactors and a member of the family for whom the University named the Eberly College of Science and Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus, died early today (May 19) at the age of 85.
Robert Eberly, along with the Eberly Family Foundation, the Eberly Family Charitable Trust, and his wife, Elouise Eberly, made gifts totaling more than $40 million to various programs and units of the University.
Robert Eberly and his father, Orville Eberly, played leading roles in convincing Penn State's Board of Trustees to establish the Fayette campus in 1965 and in securing the local support necessary to build and sustain the campus.
Bob Eberly's passing saddens the entire University community. He was an absolute joy to be around and one of the most optimistic individuals I have ever known, said Penn State President Graham B. Spanier.
Spanier pointed to Eberly's leadership as a volunteer in two University-wide capital campaigns.
Bob led by example -- he never asked someone to give their time or resources to an endeavor until he had made a commitment himself, Spanier noted. His participation in key leadership roles in those campaigns helped measurably to ensure their success. Although he was a man of great influence, he showed a genuine humility and deep concern for the welfare of others that I found to be a great personal inspiration. Literally
thousands of young people at Penn State and elsewhere were able to attend college because of the scholarship support he and his family provided.
Eberly served as treasurer of the Campaign for Penn State, a six-year effort that raised $352 million against a $300 million goal. He served as an honorary chair and member of the steering committee for the Grand Destiny campaign, which concluded June 30, 2003, and secured $1.37 billion in private support over seven years. The Eberly family, including Robert Eberly's sisters, Carolyn Blaney and the late Margaret George, contributed major gifts during both fund-raising efforts and the interim between the campaigns.
The Eberly College of Science was named to recognize the family's generosity in 1990. Four years earlier, as part of a $10 million gift for science research and instruction, the Eberlys directed $8 million to endow eight faculty chairs in the college. It was the first time in all of American higher education philanthropy that an academic college received, in a single gift, endowed chairs for every one of its departments.
The University's Board of Trustees in March approved naming Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus for the family. The Eberlys have given about $22.3 million to support scholarships, building construction, faculty endowments and other initiatives at the campus.
In addition to supporting faculty endowments, scholarships and other programs in the Eberly College, and at Fayette campus and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and College of Medicine, Robert Eberly was instrumental in directing his family's philanthropy to building funds for the Paterno Library and the Bryce Jordan Center. He also provided a major gift for the construction of the Hobby-Eberly telescope, a collaboration between Penn State and the University of Texas that ranks among the world's largest optical telescopes dedicated to analyzing light from stars and other distant cosmic objects.
We want to help create for all Pennsylvanians and Americans one of the best universities in the world, and we believe it can be done at Penn State, he once remarked, in explaining the goal of his family's support of the University.
Eberly was also widely known for his devotion to helping his native Fayette County. He was a major benefactor to numerous civic, educational and economic development programs in southwestern Pennsylvania. In fact, the Eberly family's most recent philanthropy in support of Penn State was a major gift for construction of a Fayette campus community center, which is expected to become an important asset for the local economy. The center, scheduled for completion this summer, will host social, cultural, athletic and other events for the surrounding region.
Robert Eberly graduated from Penn State in 1939 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. He worked for the Navy Department during World War II and then joined his father, first in the family's gas well drilling business in western Pennsylvania and other states, and later in the banking business.