Trustee's gifts to benefit PA 4-H students, rural leadership programs

May 13, 2008

University Park, Pa.--Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and Penn State Outreach programs will benefit from gift commitments made by University trustee and agribusiness leader Keith W. Eckel.

Eckel has given $50,000 to establish the Eckel Family Trustee Scholarship, which will support undergraduate students in the College of Agricultural Sciences who have financial need. First preference will be given to students who are present or past members of Pennsylvania 4-H, a youth development program of Penn State Cooperative Extension.

The Trustee Matching Scholarship Program, approved by the University's Board of Trustees in 2002, helps to keep a Penn State education accessible to all qualified students, regardless of their financial circumstances. The program has a unique matching component in which the University matches 5 percent of the principal of each gift annually and combines these funds with income from the endowment to effectively double the financial impact of the scholarship.

"As a Penn State trustee, Keith understands the critical need for undergraduate scholarship support all across the University," said College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Robert Steele.  "We're extremely grateful to him for his generosity."

In addition, as part of his estate plans, Eckel has committed $500,000 to endow Penn State Outreach programs in rural leadership and 4-H leadership. The Eckel Family Endowments and the Trustee Scholarship will be named in recognition of Eckel's family, to honor his late father, Fred W. Eckel; his mother, Dorothy A. Eckel; and his late brother, Frederick D. Eckel.

The Eckel Family Endowment for Rural Leadership, to be created with a gift of $400,000, will provide support for various rural leadership programs throughout Pennsylvania. Penn State's rural leadership programs bring together individuals from rural communities to explore local, regional, national, and global issues from a variety of perspectives and to develop and enhance skills that make them more effective leaders.

The Eckel Family Endowment for 4-H Leadership, to be created with a gift of $100,000, will provide funding for the expansion of programming to reach more Pennsylvania youth through the Pennsylvania 4-H Youth Leadership Council. The council represents 4-H as a whole and organizes several annual activities, including a service learning project and a leadership conference attended by youth across the state.

"Keith has demonstrated extraordinary vision and generosity in providing support for youth leadership," said Vice President for Outreach Craig Weidemann. "The endowments he plans to create will foster generations of effective community leaders among Pennsylvania's citizens, particularly those in rural areas."

A Scranton native, Eckel is the president of Fred W. Eckel and Sons, a vegetable farming operation in Clarks Summit, and the president of Eckel Farms. He has been a member of Penn State's Board of Trustees since 2001 and received the Master Farmer award from the University in 1982. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from Dickinson College.

Eckel has been a director of the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. since 1996 and was elected chairman of the board in April 2008. He serves on the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, which advises the federal government on agricultural priorities and issues. He also is a former board member of the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Land Preservation Board. He is a former president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, a position he held for 15 years, and the Lackawanna County Cooperative Extension Association. He has served as a board member and executive committee member of the American Farm Bureau Federation and is a former vice president of the Pennsylvania Council of Cooperative Extension Associations.

A longtime benefactor to Penn State, Eckel has previously supported the College of Agricultural Sciences and 4-H activities.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009