Endowments help generations of Behrend student-athletes

ERIE, Pa. — In December 2019, when longtime Penn State Behrend men’s basketball coach Dave Niland earned his 500th career victory, he received an unexpected gift: More than 50 former players, team supporters and friends had collectively given more than $41,000 to establish an athletic endowment in his name at the college.

“I was extremely humbled and grateful for the generosity of our alums and supporters,” Niland said. “It was something that I was totally surprised to receive, and the more I found out about it, the more emotional I got.

“I started thinking about all the people who have been part of my time here, and it’s really touching that they did this in my name,” he said. “It means a lot, and I hope it helps our student-athletes for a very long time to come.”

The Dave Niland Men’s Basketball Endowment is the 14th athletic endowment created at Behrend. Division III student-athletes are not eligible for sports scholarships, so endowments are the best way to support their athletic endeavors, said David Johnson, associate director of development and alumni relations at Behrend. Endowments can be directed to the athletic department in general, or to a specific sports program.

“Because budgets for Division III sports are limited, most of the funds allocated to athletics programs have to be used to cover the basics, like uniforms,” Johnson said. “They don’t cover expenses like travel, additional equipment needs, and the cost of food and accommodations on the road. So, for the teams to travel, they have to fundraise a good amount of that money themselves.

“Endowments help offset those costs,” he said.

The largest athletic endowment at Behrend came in the form of a $2 million gift from Ted and Barbara Junker in 1997, but most involve much smaller amounts. While the minimum amount to establish an endowment is $25,000, there is no minimum on the number of people who can contribute, said Brian Streeter, senior director of athletics at the college. Supporters also can make ongoing contributions to established endowments.

In total, about 340 student-athletes compete on Behrend’s 24 teams each year. The goal is to establish athletic endowments for every one of those teams.

“Endowments are a great way for former teammates and team supporters who love the sport and the school to give in a way that will impact generations of student-athletes,” Streeter said. “Our student-athletes play Division III sports not for scholarship money, but because they love the experience of being on a team and competing together. By creating an endowment, you’re helping those teams succeed not just now, but for years to come.”

Alumni and friends interested in learning more about establishing an athletic endowment or contributing to an existing endowment should contact David Johnson at 814-898-6780 or at [email protected].

Gifts to athletics endowments will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.