Mary Behrend’s decision to donate her family’s Glenhill Farm to Penn State was based in large part on her desire to serve the public good. World War II had ended, and a wave of veterans had left the armed services. Many were hoping to enroll at America’s colleges.
From the day Penn State Behrend opened, in 1948, the college has been a community resource. The old ice-skating rink, near what is now Wilson Picnic Grove, was open to the public, and for generations, our gymnasiums have hosted local high school proms. Those are just two of myriad examples.
Our most significant contribution to the public good has, of course, been the success of our graduates, who bring their talents to the companies where they work and communities in which they live. That’s the first pillar of the three-fold mission of teaching, research, and service that we deliver as part of Pennsylvania’s land-grant University.
The research and service components amplify our impact. In the past year, our students and faculty members received nearly $5 million in research funding. One team built a microwave tuner for NASA. Another discovered an invasive species in Lake Erie.
Through our Economic Research Institute of Erie, we provide locally focused, data-driven reports of the region’s economy that have guided local civic and business leaders since 1982.
Our open-lab model of engagement has brought new companies to Knowledge Park, our 106-acre technology complex. Companies partner with us, and locate near us, so they can tap into our pipeline of student talent and access equipment they can’t find anywhere else.
Our expertise and our track record of innovation also benefit smaller companies and individual inventors, some of whom come to us with little more than an idea sketched on a napkin. The Innovation Commons idea lab and the Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network have directly supported nearly 200 entrepreneurial projects, which have led to 10 new companies and $2.6 million in leveraged funding.
That’s good for the region we call home. Companies that have access to support networks and a steady source of outstanding employee talent don’t often pack up and move to a new market. They grow, and their roots reach deeper into the community. That leads to even more opportunity for those who choose to live and work here.
We contribute to the public good because it’s the right thing to do. As an educator, an employer, a neighbor, and a leading resource for business innovation and technical expertise, we are an asset to the community. We also are invested in its forward momentum, which has supported our own growth over the last seventy years.
As always, I invite you to share with me your thoughts and ideas.
Chancellor Ralph Ford