Donald C. Graham
Donald C. Graham (Photo by Martin Vloet)
A significant financial donation to Penn State York will allow the school to continue to expand its entrepreneurial programs for students.

The campus received its largest gift in history from Donald C. Graham to create the Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies.

The Graham Center will not be a physical building, but instead solidifies a three-year pilot program for Penn State York students, a concept that fosters relationships between the students, faculty members and local businesses.

David Chown, chancellor at the campus, said the relationships established through the pilot program have allowed faculty members to stay current with business trends in the York community. The liaisons from local businesses have given faculty members better ideas of how they can prepare students for the business world after college, he said.

Those relationships have influenced updates in curriculum and have had impacts in other areas, such as which software equipment the engineering department purchases.

Chown said the school has not released the amount of Graham's gift, at the donor's request. But Chown said it exceeds that of any other single gift in campus history. The largest gifts to the campus before Graham's donation were around $2 million.

Chown said Graham's gift will go toward expanding the internship program, hopefully "into perpetuity," and will also allow the school to hire a director for the program.

Chown said he does expect the internship program to grow: Last year the program had 14 students who interned over the summer months at eight York companies, including The Graham Group, Dentsply, Glatfelter and Shipley Energy. Chown said he hopes to see that number grow to 25 students over the next three to five years.

In a statement from the campus, Graham said the gift is to enhance students' entrepreneurial thinking. To Graham, it's more than just starting a business.

"Companies of any size require an entrepreneurial process to successfully supply products and services to the market," Graham said. "It's very important that students are trained to appreciate and contribute to that process because it will improve their ability to serve their employer and themselves."

Chown said future plans could also mean offering entrepreneurial classes from Penn State's University Park Campus with students at York.

-Reach Nikelle Snader at nsnader@yorkdispatch.com.