99-year-old alumnus leverages University match to create graduate fellowship

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Class of 1939 alumnus Robert “Bob” Hasek celebrated his 99th birthday in July with a philanthropic milestone. With a gift of $265,000 to endow the Dr. Robert H. Hasek Graduate Fellowship in the Eberly College of Science, Hasek became the first Penn State supporter to leverage the University’s Graduate Scholarship Matching Program, an initiative of "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence." The University will match Hasek’s gift 1:1, enabling Hasek to endow the fund at $530,000 and doubling the support available to graduate students in the Eberly College who receive the fellowship.

“As we continue to build momentum for 'A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,' Penn State is fortunate that Bob Hasek has chosen to partner with the University to support our graduate students,” said O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for development and alumni relations. “Bob used his Penn State education to launch a distinguished career as a scientist, and his philanthropy will enable future generations of graduate students to forge their own paths toward success.” 

Hasek’s undergraduate work at Penn State was the first step toward a distinguished career as a chemist for Eastman Kodak. A native of State College, Hasek studied chemistry under Frank C. Whitmore, the renowned dean of the School of Chemistry and Physics and a professor of chemistry. After graduating at the top of his class in 1939 with a bachelor of science, Hasek accepted a graduate teaching fellowship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study organic chemistry at the doctoral level. As he pursued his doctorate, Hasek spent summers working at Eastman Kodak’s research laboratory in Rochester, New York, and made a name for himself within the company.

When he completed his doctorate in 1943, Eastman Kodak offered him a job at its research facility in Kingsport, Tennessee, Eastman Chemical. With several job offers in hand, Hasek was drawn to the idea of living in a small town nestled in the mountains, like the one in which he had grown up, and he accepted.

Hasek was one of many chemists Eastman Kodak recruited during World War II to research munitions at its Tennessee facility. During his career, Hasek designed, built and operated a new high-pressure laboratory for the facility; developed the glycol that was used to make Eastman’s first polyester, which was marketed as Kodel and used to produce high-quality carpets; and developed a plastic that is now used as an alternative to BPA. By the end of Hasek’s career, he was leading Eastman’s entire chemical research operation in both the U.S. and Switzerland. His discoveries during his career earned him status as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a distinction he retains today.

“I’m proud of all that I accomplished during my career at Eastman Chemical, but I owe a lot to Penn State,” said Hasek. “The training and mentorship I received from Frank Whitmore sparked my passion for chemistry and started me on the path I followed for the rest of my life. I hope that my graduate fellowship will enable aspiring scientists to have similarly rewarding experiences in Happy Valley.”

In accordance with Hasek’s wishes, the Dr. Robert H. Hasek Graduate Fellowship will be available to graduate students across any discipline within the Eberly College of Science, providing the college with the flexibility to direct Hasek’s support where it is needed most. The first fellowship will be awarded in 2018.

“Graduate students are integral to every facet of the college’s academic mission, and providing competitive support for top graduate students remains a critical priority,” said Douglas Cavener, Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science. “We are deeply grateful to Bob Hasek for his gift, and we hope that the recipients of the Dr. Robert H. Hasek Graduate Fellowship will take inspiration from his outstanding achievements as a scientist and a Penn Stater.”

Hasek’s gift will be multiplied through the Graduate Scholarship Matching Program, designed to encourage alumni and friends to partner with the University in creating scholarships for graduate students. For all endowments meeting the program criteria that are created between now and June 30, 2018 (or until the University’s pool of matching funds has been distributed), Penn State will provide a permanent 1:1 match from its own funds, doubling the impact of donors’ philanthropy in perpetuity.

In addition to Penn State, Hasek has supported Kingsport’s Methodist church, Symphony of the Mountains, and the town’s library as both a philanthropist and a volunteer. After 36 years of marriage, his first wife, Jean, died at age 58. In 1978 he married Maryann Heppert. Between these two marriages, Hasek has five children. He continues to reside in Kingsport, Tennessee.

Gifts from Penn State’s alumni and friends have been essential to the success of the University’s historic land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence" is focused on the three key imperatives of a public university. Private support will keep the door to higher education open and enable students to graduate on time and on track to success; create transformative experiences on Penn State campuses and around the globe that tap the full potential of Penn Staters to make a difference; and impact the world through discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

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Last Updated November 03, 2017