Hamer Foundation provides support for Center for Private Forests

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A Penn State center that helps ensure sound stewardship of privately owned forestland in Pennsylvania will enhance its programming, thanks to a gift from a foundation created by a Penn State alumnus and benefactor.

The Hamer Foundation, founded by Donald Hamer, of Bellefonte, Pa., has committed $500,000 over five years to support the Center for Private Forests housed in the College of Agricultural Sciences. The center uses applied research and outreach to address opportunities associated with owning and managing privately held forest. In doing this, the center seeks partnerships with and support from organizations and agencies that recognize the importance of conserving the economic, ecological and social values derived from forests.

"About 740,000 private landowners own 71 percent of the state's nearly 17 million forested acres," said center director James Finley, professor of forest resources. "To ensure that we have healthy, productive forests for tomorrow, it's essential that these landowners engage in the conservation and stewardship of their woodlands."

Finley noted that the Hamer Foundation gift will enable the center to hire new staff to conduct research-based outreach that will help landowners implement management practices aimed at caring for their forests and making informed decisions about their legacy for future generations.

"The foundation's generosity presents a real opportunity to encourage long-term stewardship and to focus on ideas that could make a big difference for water quality, wildlife habitat, connectivity and economic opportunity," he said.

Founded in 1989, the State College-based Hamer Foundation provides funding primarily for conservation and educational programs in central Pennsylvania. The foundation has supported activities related to the environment and natural resources, higher education, human services, libraries, museums, the performing and visual arts, and other fields.

"I'm enthused about supporting the Center for Private Forests," said Hamer, "primarily because it helps address concerns for landowners with smaller properties that haven't yet been helped, to aid them in proper management and maintaining a healthy forest."

Hamer already had a bachelor's degree in ceramics engineering from the University of Illinois and an master of business administration degree from the University of Chicago when he came to State College in 1963 to serve as chief engineer and then corporate research director for Erie Technological Products, a company that manufactured ceramic capacitors.

He started taking electrical engineering courses at Penn State to better understand his employer's products. By 1968, he had earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.

The following year, he launched State of the Art Inc. as a business specializing in thick film technology seminars and other consulting services. The company grew to become the leading American manufacturer of high-reliability thick and thin film resistive components for the biomedical, communications, aerospace and defense industries.

Nationally, Hamer is recognized as a conservationist. He has been involved with ClearWater Conservancy, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Pennsylvania chapter of the Nature Conservancy. In 1992, he received the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award in a White House ceremony.

He also was honored by Penn State as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2000 and was the 1995 recipient of the University's Renaissance Person of the Year award. He recently was inducted into the Engineering Hall of Fame at the University of Illinois.

The philanthropy of Hamer and his wife, Marie Bednar, a librarian at Pattee Library from 1974 to 1999 and a 1983 alumna of Penn State with a master's degree in comparative literature, has supported many other Penn State programs.

Those initiatives include the Hamer Center for Community Design in the College of Arts and Architecture; the Donald W. Hamer Endowment for Art Acquisitions and Exhibitions; the Hamer Professorship in Materials Science and Engineering in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; the University Libraries' Donald W. Hamer Maps Library; the Arboretum at Penn State; scholarships in the colleges of Arts and Architecture, Earth and Mineral Sciences and Engineering; the Renaissance Scholarship; and the Marie Bednar Libraries Internship Program Endowment.

The couple also has supported community organizations such as Mount Nittany Medical Center, Centre County United Way, the Centre County Historical Society and multiple human service organizations in Centre and surrounding counties.

The Hamer Foundation gift will help the College of Agricultural Sciences to achieve the goals of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. This University-wide effort is directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America.

The University is engaging Penn State's alumni and friends as partners in achieving six key objectives: ensuring student access and opportunity, enhancing honors education, enriching the student experience, building faculty strength and capacity, fostering discovery and creativity, and sustaining the University's tradition of quality. The campaign's top priority is keeping a Penn State degree affordable for students and families.

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Last Updated May 14, 2014