A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation named 2023 Foundation Partner of the Year

September 18, 2023

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Penn State News.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has named the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation its 2023 Foundation Partner of the Year. This award recognizes a foundation that has demonstrated extraordinary generosity in promotion and support of Penn State. Recipients are chosen on the basis of consistency of giving, support to areas of greatest need and impact across the University.

In 2020, with an investment of $15.5 million, the Clark Foundation established the A. James Clark Scholars Program in the Penn State College of Engineering, which leverages the college’s signature strengths to support talented engineering students with significant financial need. This was one of the largest private foundation commitments University-wide to “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” Penn State’s most recent fundraising campaign, as well as the largest outright gift to the College of Engineering during the campaign. The commitment also secured $10 million in University matching funds, the largest match to a private philanthropic gift in Penn State’s history. Both the foundation’s funds and the University match have been combined in an endowment that will provide permanent financial support for the Clark Scholars Program at Penn State.

“Penn State is committed, first and foremost, to student success and providing a world-class education to promising students, regardless of their financial background,” said Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi. “The Clark Foundation’s investment to create the Clark Scholars Program at Penn State has helped the College of Engineering empower some of the best and brightest students while advancing our shared commitment to academic preparedness, belonging, access and affordability. This is a true partnership between our University and the Clark Foundation, and I am thrilled to recognize the Clark Foundation’s tremendous generosity with the Foundation Partner of the Year award.”

Penn State’s Clark Scholars Program is a multifaceted initiative that provides both endowed financial and curricular support, allowing its cohort of 40 talented students each year — 10 in each undergraduate class — to focus on their education without taking on loans or outside work commitments that do not align with their academic pursuits. In addition to the standard academic and experiential offerings available to every engineering student, the Clark Scholars also participate in summer bridge programs, a cohort-based global experience, a shared residential experience and shared community service projects. In addition, the program supports the College of Engineering’s Equity Action Plan, a strategic initiative to sustainably foster equity in engineering, from the pre-college experience through to industry.

As the Clark Foundation’s signature initiative in engineering education, the national Clark Scholars Program is currently established at 11 U.S. universities, including Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania and Virginia Tech.

"Our engineering investments are grounded in the belief that students typically underrepresented in this field can succeed in top-tier programs with targeted support that goes beyond financial aid,” said Courtney Clark Pastrick, board chair of the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation. “We are so grateful to partner with Penn State as they consistently demonstrate their commitment to cultivating the Scholars as not just engineers but future leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. My father, A. James Clark, would have been proud to witness the impact of the Clark Scholars Program on these exceptional students as they pursue their academic dreams at one of the nation’s top engineering schools.”

Tonya Peeples, interim Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering, said, “We’re seeing the Clark Foundation’s investment in Penn State at work in our scholars. These are talented, driven young people who are already making their mark academically and on their peers as they build community. The Clark Scholars Program is giving them the opportunity to pursue an education at one of the best engineering schools in the country and providing them with support systems that ensure they can reach their fullest potential. I look forward to seeing what they achieve at Penn State and beyond — and the many ways that they will honor the Clarks’ remarkable legacy.”

The Clark Foundation also made a commitment of $150,000 earlier this year to support a micro-credentialing pilot program in engineering design entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering. This program will offer shorter and more flexible course options to provide graduate students with valuable training in the fundamentals of commercialization. It is designed to be part of a new master’s degree program in engineering design entrepreneurship, currently under development.

The A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation was established in 1987 to enact the philanthropic vision of A. James Clark, who built Maryland-based Clark Construction Group into one of the nation’s largest construction companies. The foundation supports a range of educational and community initiatives, especially those that build practical and immediate connections between effort and opportunity. To maximize the impact of its grant investments by focusing on today’s challenges, the foundation’s board of directors decided in 2016 to spend down its assets within the following decade.

“The Clark Foundation’s historic commitment to Penn State was a highlight of my tenure as dean of the College of Engineering, in part because it furthered the diversity, equity and inclusion goals that are — and will surely remain for many years to come — top priorities for the college,” said Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Justin Schwartz. “Though the foundation is expected to sunset within the next few years, its impact will live on through the Clark Scholars Program, which will continue far into the future. It is deeply gratifying to think of the many students who will benefit from the Clark Foundation’s generosity, and of the impact they will in turn have on the industries and academic communities to which they contribute.”

Past recipients of the Foundation Partner of the Year Award include the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation and the John E. Morgan Foundation.

Partners like the Clark Foundation advance the University’s historic land-grant mission to serve and lead. Through philanthropy, alumni and friends are helping students to join the Penn State family and prepare for lifelong success; driving research, outreach and economic development that grow our shared strength and readiness for the future; and increasing the University’s impact for families, patients, and communities across the commonwealth and around the world. Learn more by visiting raise.psu.edu


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