Effects of Smeal gift, naming still being felt 25 years later

By Andy Elder
September 10, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State Smeal College of Business benefactor Frank P. Smeal once said: “That’s why Penn State is my first love after my wife and family. It gave me the education I needed.”

The University reciprocated that love when it named its College of Business Administration after Smeal and his wife, Mary Jean, on Sept. 7, 1990, 25 years ago.

The Smeals’ $10 million gift to Penn State in 1989, then the largest individual contribution in the University’s history, led to the renaming and spurred an incredible 25-year cycle of growth for the college.

It created five endowed faculty chairs as well as a separate endowment for program excellence. Frank Smeal was also instrumental in creating the Goldman Sachs & Co. and Frank P. Smeal University Endowed Fellowship in Business Administration.

Smeal, a municipal bond market expert, retired as a limited partner of Goldman, Sachs & Co. after spending his 38-year career on Wall Street. As executive vice president and treasurer at Morgan Guaranty Trust Co., he was instrumental in counseling New York City through its 1975-76 fiscal crisis. Smeal became a partner and member of the senior management committee of Goldman Sachs in 1977 and retired in 1985.

“The gift from the Smeals is the most significant event in the history of our college,” said J.D. Hammond, the dean of the college, at the time. “I am overwhelmed and close to speechless. It secures our role as a leader among the nation’s major business schools, and no gift could have been made with better timing.”

In a variety of ways, the Smeal College of Business has evolved and changed over the past 25 years:

  • In 1990, Smeal counted more than 37,000 graduates of the college. Today, that number has more than doubled to more than 75,000 alumni.
  • Enrollment for undergraduate and graduate programs has grown from fewer than 5,000 students in 1990 to more than 6,000 today.
  • New academic programs launched since the naming of the college include the Executive MBA Program in Philadelphia, the Integrated and One-Year Master of Accounting Programs, and the online Master of Professional Studies in Supply Chain Management.
  • In 1990, the College of Business Administration was still housed in the Business Administration Building (now Ford Building). It wouldn’t move to the Business Building, its current 210,000-square-foot home, until 2005.
  • Fifteen years after the naming, the Nittany Lion Fund was started. Utilizing the resources of the Rogers Family Trading Room, the NLF provides Smeal finance students with a rare learning experience. It is one of the few University student-managed funds with actual investor money, not endowment dollars.
  • In 2006, a partnership of students, faculty and passionate alumni drafted the Smeal Honor Code. It has been a point of emphasis ever since.
  • Hammond was eventually succeeded as dean by Judy Olian, Jim Thomas and Charles Whiteman, who became dean in 2012.

“In the intervening 25 years since the naming in 1990, Smeal alums have been incredibly generous, donating tens of millions of dollars to the college,” said Michelle Houser, Smeal’s senior director of development. “The contributions of thousands of individuals have collectively combined to elevate Smeal’s excellence.”

Six donations of more than $2.5 million each have been made, including such notable contributions as: $5 million from John & Becky Surma to endow the dean’s chair; $4 million from J. David and Trisha Rogers to support the Business Building; $3.5 Million from Dr. John Garber for the Garber Venture Capital Center; and $2.5 million from Louis and Kathy Gatto for scholarship support.

All of that growth and more was set in motion by the Smeals’ gift, something Hammond foresaw.

“The positive impact is endless,” he said at the time. “The college can recruit and retain the best professors, who will attract the best students. I am sure among them will be another Frank and Jean Smeal.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 16, 2015