Joe Prischak’s legacy lives on in plastics program, scholarships at Behrend

Penn State Behrend Chancellor Ralph Ford poses with Joe and Isabel Prischak.

Penn State Behrend Chancellor Ralph Ford presented the Behrend Medallion, the college's highest award, to Joe and Isabel Prischak in 2021.

Credit: Penn State Behrend

ERIE, Pa. — Joseph Prischak, a longtime supporter of Penn State Behrend and its students, died Saturday, May 21. He was 91.

Prischak grew up on a Crawford County dairy farm and launched his own toolmaking business, Triangle Tool Co., while in his 20s. He founded Plastek in Erie in 1971, serving as president and chief executive until his retirement in 2002. Today, the Plastek Group is a worldwide manufacturer with more than 2,500 employees. Prischak was inducted into the global Plastics Hall of Fame in 2021.

In the 1980s, Prischak was instrumental in creating the Plastics Engineering Technology Program at Penn State Behrend. The program, which has produced more than 1,200 graduates, is one of just four nationwide to be accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET.

The Prischak Building on Penn State Behrend’s campus — originally home to the plastics program and now part of the college’s Science Complex — stands as evidence of Prischak’s commitment to the college and its students.

“Joe Prischak brought entrepreneurial thinking not only to his business, but to his philanthropy as well,” Chancellor Ralph Ford said. “His legacy in the plastics industry, in the Erie community and at Penn State Behrend will last for generations.”

With separate $1 million gifts, Prischak and his wife, Isabel, created two scholarships for Penn State Behrend students: The Joseph and Isabel Prischak Trustee Scholarship gives preference to graduates of the Conneaut School District in Crawford County, and the Prischak Family Trustee Scholarship is designated for Plastek Group employees and their children and grandchildren.

In 2021, the Prischaks were awarded the Behrend Medallion, the college’s highest award. Joseph Prischak also was a member of the Behrend Council of Fellows; in 2014, he received an honorary alumni award from Penn State.   

The Prischaks’ philanthropy has extended well beyond the Erie region, to another continent, in fact. In 2007, the couple created Africa 6000 International, a nonprofit organization that works to provide clean, fresh water in Africa. To date, Africa 6000 has more than 130 deep-water wells either operating or in the process of being drilled in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

In addition to his wife, Joseph Prischak is survived by their five sons and their families. For a full obituary, or to view or sign the online condolence book, visit Kloecker Funeral Home.