$1 million gift creates early career professorships in industrial engineering

Curtis Chan
May 12, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A $1 million gift from William B. and Wendy Korb will create three early career professorships in industrial engineering at Penn State.

The endowments, named the William and Wendy Korb Early Career Professorships in Industrial Engineering, are designed to attract and support talented faculty members at the start of their academic careers.

Two of the professorships will reside within the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering while the third will be with the industrial engineering program at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

The Faculty Endowment Challenge offers donors an opportunity to leverage a 1:2 match from the University for gifts creating new Early Career Professorships in any of Penn State's academic units. These awards rotate every three years to a new recipient in the first ten years of his or her academic career, providing seed money for innovative research projects and flexible funding for new approaches to teaching. The endowments typically require a minimum commitment of $500,000, but through the Faculty Endowment Challenge, donors may establish new Early Career Professorships for any of the University's colleges or campuses with a commitment of $334,000. The University will commit the remaining one third of the necessary funds, approximately $166,000, from unrestricted endowment resources, ensuring support for rising faculty stars.

"We feel an investment in education is one of the best investments you can make," explained Korb, a 1962 industrial engineering alumnus who attended two years at Penn State Behrend and then two years at the University Park campus. "To help support an early career professor is an excellent way to do it."

Korb's wife Wendy attended the medical technology program at University Park as part of the class of 1963.

Korb is the retired president and CEO of Marconi Commerce Systems, whose largest division was Gilbarco. Gilbarco is the world's leading supplier of fuel dispensers, credit card readers and point-of-sale devices for gasoline stations.

Paul Griffin, the Peter and Angela Dal Pezzo Department Head Chair in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at University Park campus, said there's a great deal of pressure on junior faculty members to balance their teaching responsibilities while doing groundbreaking research.

"We continue to face diminishing resources," Griffin said. "It's hard for faculty to be innovative when they don’t have the resources to innovate."

The department head said the Korbs' endowment will help the department solidify its reputation in traditional areas such as manufacturing, but also continue its expansion into new fields, including energy, analytics and health care.

Griffin said he's encouraging both new and senior faculty to collaborate with colleagues outside of engineering, such as meteorology.

"That's really driving how we're going to be hiring. We're going to be looking for people who can connect with others," he stated. "I’m a big believer in collaboration. You don't make an impact in our field if you don't collaborate with other domains."

And that's exactly the point of the early career professorship, Korb said. "It's to help the department take advantage of new opportunities."

In addition to their early career professorships, the Korbs have made a number of gifts to the University, including the William and Wendy Korb Scholarship in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, the Korb Family Trustee Scholarship in Engineering at Penn State Erie and the William B. Korb Family Endowment for Emerging Opportunities in Industrial Engineering. The couple has also contributed to a number of funds in the College of Engineering and across the University.

The couple resides in Johns Island, S.C. Their son, David, is a 1987 management information systems graduate from Penn State Erie.

Korb concluded, "Penn State gave me the basis for a wonderful career. This is a way for me to recognize what we've been given."

The William and Wendy Korb Early Career Professorships in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering will help the College of Engineering reach its goal in For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, a University-wide fundraising effort 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.

Last Updated May 12, 2014