McCourtneys endow history professorship with $1 million gift

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State alumna Tracy Winfree McCourtney and her husband, Ted, have made a $1 million gift to the University to endow a professorship in American history. Preference for the appointment will be given to faculty working with the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center in the College of the Liberal Arts.

Tracy McCourtney, a 1965 Penn State graduate in English, and Ted McCourtney are creating the George Winfree Professorship in American History in memory of Tracy’s great-grandfather, who served in a Virginia regiment of the Confederate Army and who took part in Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. The couple, who are also previous donors to the Richards Center, had attended one of the Center’s earlier executive tours to Gettysburg.

“The seed of our gift was planted by the talk on Pickett’s Charge given by Penn State military historian Carol Reardon,” said Tracy McCourtney. “After the tour, I conducted research on my family, along with my brothers, to learn more about my ancestor’s role in the Confederate Army, including his capture and imprisonment in a camp near Chester, Pa. My great-grandfather was released and fought in two more battles, but signed his allegiance to the United States at the end of the war and returned to live in Chester. Ted and I are very excited to support the nationally prominent faculty who create such cutting edge scholarship at the Richards Center."

Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, said the Winfree Professorship will be awarded to Carol Reardon "in recognition of her incredible accomplishments as an award-winning teacher of undergraduate and graduate students and as a nationally prominent scholar in Civil War era and military history. I am grateful to the McCourtneys for providing the wonderful gift to enable us to recognize Carol in this way.”

Reardon has published five books on military history, has taken part in developing a PBS TV series on West Point and an A&E TV series on Ulysses S. Grant, and has appeared in book lectures for C-SPAN TV. She was the first woman to serve as president of the Society for Military History and as a member of the U.S. Secretary of the Navy’s advisory subcommittee on naval history.

“This exciting gift from the McCourtneys will not only enhance the national leadership stature of the center, department and the college, but it also will secure a major challenge grant of $1 million from the National Endowment for the Humanities,” Welch added. “As part of the NEH challenge grant, the college and Richards Center needed to raise over $3 million, and that goal was surpassed through the generosity of our alumni and friends who have committed over $3.8 million since 2005.”

After her graduation from Penn State, Tracy McCourtney worked with foster children and their foster parents and birth parents as a social worker in New York City. Ted McCourtney is an engineering alumnus of the University of Notre Dame and a member of its Board of Trustees. He embarked on a 30-year career as a venture capitalist with Venrock Associates after earning an MBA from Harvard Business School. Today, he remains an active independent investor and serves on several company boards.

The McCourtneys are longtime supporters of the College of the Liberal Arts. They have established three undergraduate scholarship funds, two endowed professorships, a graduate scholarship and three graduate fellowships, and an endowed fund to support humanities research. They also have supported the Moore Building project and the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center at Penn State. The couple received the Arthur Welsh Award for Outstanding Support of the Richards Center in 2007-2008.

Last Updated June 22, 2010