Faculty and Academics Inspire Recent Major Gifts

A major gift to Ursinus College, the single largest outright gift in College history, honors the personal education that is the College’s hallmark and will enable Ursinus to further strengthen its flagship science programs. The gift was made during a period marked with additional philanthropy that resulted in nearly $10 million for the College during a recent week.

Phoenixville resident John F. (Jack) Rodenbaugh, Class of 1955, and his wife, Patricia, have given the Collegeville, Pa., undergraduate school $5 million in honor of his former economics professor. He says he never properly thanked for the education he received.

Additionally, The Berman Foundation, through its president, Nancy Berman, has given an art collection, previously on loan, with an estimated value of several million dollars, to the College for The Phillip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art, which is named in honor of her parents. That collection is the focus of an upcoming exhibition, “A to Z: Highlighting the Berman Collection.”

The $5 million from Mr. Rodenbaugh was inspired by Professor James L. Boswell, former Chair of the Economics Department (now the Business and Economics Department). He retired in 1961.

“Mr. Rodenbaugh’s extraordinary philanthropy was sparked by the personalized education we have always offered at Ursinus College,” said Ursinus President Bobby Fong. “Nearly 60 years later, the impact of a faculty member on a student is still felt. The student-faculty relationship is the cornerstone of what we do at Ursinus, and sometimes this can be the genesis of great philanthropy.”

Mr. Rodenbaugh said that he was encouraged by Dr. Boswell to seek support and attend a prestigious master’s program, but he had been drafted and headed instead to Germany, where he served his country. He went on to a distinguished business career, retiring as Vice President of Banking, Finance and Economics from Merrill Lynch. “But I never got to thank Dr. Boswell,” he said. “This gift is my thank you.”

He added that he wanted new generations of Ursinus students to be able “to experience the confidence-building that comes from a faculty member taking an interest in what you study, and how your life is lived.”

Senior Vice President for Advancement Jill Marsteller noted that “Ursinus has a longstanding distinctiveness in its focus on the student-faculty relationship and the transformative lifelong effect that has on a person coming of age in a liberal arts environment. This pivotal gift reflects the best of our culture and the desire of a donor to pay forward his own college experience to the next generation.”

The gift will be used for the planned Discovery and Innovation Center, an interdisciplinary center that will connect the sciences to the entire campus and its multifaceted programs.  Ursinus has long been known for integrating science and the liberal arts.

Marsteller announced two additional generous gifts, in addition to the $5 million from Mr. Rodenbaugh and the major gift of art from the Berman Foundation.

Northern Star Farm

Northern Star Farm on Rt. 113 in Collegeville.

The purchase of a parcel of the Northern Star Farm and Dairy in Collegeville, owned by the Wismer family, which will be used for the teaching of biology and environmental science as well as interdisciplinary courses, has been made possible by a gift of $225,000 by Donald Whittaker, Class of 1977, along with his brother Andrew, sister Elizabeth Magrann and contributors, including Jefferies LLC, to his mother’s memorial fund. Because Ursinus was such an important part of their parents’ lives, giving back to Ursinus was the perfect way for them to memorialize their late parents, Shurley Knaefler Whittaker Josephson, Class of 1949, and their father, Robert L. Whittaker. Additionally Mr. Whittaker has made a pledge for the renovation of the on-site barn in memory of his late partner, Juan E. Molina.

The Wismer family has claimed a proud association with Ursinus dating back several generations, and members of the Wismer family have called Ursinus their educational home.

Additionally, an entrepreneurial program called U-Innovate, which embodies the first business plan competition to inspire future entrepreneurs, was launched with the support of a gift. The three-year program is supported with a six-figure gift from Will Abele, Class of 1961, of Medford, N.J. Students with the best business plans will receive prizes of $7,000, $5,000 and $3,000, as well as a $500 prize for an oral presentation. This highly significant competition resulted from Mr. Abele’s desire to encourage creative business leaders of the future.

Smaller gifts from essential donors during the same week helped the College raised nearly $10 million. These gifts come on the heels of a $1.2 million gift this past summer from the late Chair of the Board of Trustees, Spencer Foreman M.D., of Westchester, N.Y., who died in May.

One thought on “Faculty and Academics Inspire Recent Major Gifts

  1. I was so touched to read that my grandfather’s kindness inspired this generous gift to Ursinus College. FaFa was an agnostic who believed in the golden rule of treating others the way you would like to be treated.

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