$3 million Willaman gift supports new science complex

September 15, 2004

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State alumnus Verne M. Willaman has given the University $3 million to help build and furnish the Life Sciences Building, now nearing completion on the University Park campus. Willaman, former chairman and president of Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp., ranks among Penn State's largest individual donors.

The Life Sciences Building will provide centralized laboratory, classroom and office space that will help to integrate and advance the work of Penn State's Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, which involve faculty and students in seven academic colleges. The new building will open later in the fall semester and will be officially dedicated on Sept. 17.

"Through his extraordinary philanthropy, Verne Willaman has already left an indelible imprint on the Eberly College of Science," said Penn State President Graham B. Spanier. "Now he has given a tremendous boost to one of our most important interdisciplinary initiatives. This new facility will enable the University to support the best and most innovative ideas and people in the life sciences, regardless of their academic department. We are deeply grateful for Verne's support."

The gateway that links the Life Sciences Building with the new Chemistry Building across the new Shortlidge Mall will be named in Willaman's honor. It includes a glass-enclosed walkway and gathering area that will provide space for formal and informal meetings and exhibitions by students and faculty.

"The Life Sciences Building will enable Penn State to take a dramatic step forward in research and teaching in this burgeoning area of science," said Daniel Larson, dean of the Eberly College. "The connection to the new Chemistry Building makes a practical and symbolic statement about the growing connections among the sciences and provides Penn State with a striking gateway to the sciences."

Willaman, a native of Greenville, graduated from Penn State in 1951 with a baccalaureate degree in biological chemistry. He joined Ortho in 1954 and rose through its executive ranks to become president in 1969 and chairman in 1976. A year later he became a member of Ortho's parent company, Johnson & Johnson, where he served on the executive committee and board of directors until his retirement in 1988. He and his wife, Betty, now reside in California.

Willaman's past giving has included endowment of the dean's chair in the Eberly College of Science, faculty chairs in the life sciences and in molecular biology, professorships and graduate fellowships in the Eberly College, and the Prescott and Mary Willaman Scholarships, which he named for his parents. He also served as a volunteer leader in Penn State's capital campaigns during the 1980s and 1990s. Penn State named him a Distinguished Alumnus, the highest honor it can bestow on its graduates, in 1993.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009