New public policy program receives boost from Hyde-McCourtney professorship

May 17, 2018

Over the course of their professional and philanthropic careers, Jeff (1977, pre-law and education; 1980g, law) and Sharon (1982g, law) Hyde discovered that finding common ground in public policy negotiations requires more than a simple understanding of law and policy. They also discovered that many public policy programs did not equip individuals with the communication and negotiation skills needed to find that common ground.

The Hydes hope developing those skills will be an integral component of the new Master of Public Policy program being launched by the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts. To help bolster those efforts, the couple recently made a $500,000 estate commitment to establish the Jeffrey L. Hyde and Sharon D. Hyde McCourtney Endowed Career Development Professorship in the College of the Liberal Arts.

The couple’s gift is being matched dollar-for-dollar by the college’s Tracy and Ted McCourtney Endowed Professorship Matching Gift Program, which allows the college to activate the endowment immediately -- even before the estate gift has been realized -- and establish a Hyde-McCourtney Early Career Development Professorship. Upon receipt of the Hydes’ estate gift, the early career professorship will be converted to a fully endowed named professorship.

Jeff was senior tax counsel for General Electric Company in Stamford, Connecticut, and started GE Capital Corporation’s state tax policy practice in 1996. Before joining GE, he was a partner with Arthur Andersen in the Washington, D.C. area. Sharon is a longtime member of the League of Women Voters and served as a chapter leader in Connecticut. She is now the membership co-chair for the State College chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that advocates for gun reform.

“Public policy has always been my passion,” Sharon said. “How can we bring the other side into the conversation?  Through communication and the foundations of a good liberal arts education.”

“You need to have classes that put you in difficult positions and make you think on your feet,” Jeff added. “You might find yourself in a situation where you are presented with a position you don’t believe in and you have to talk through it and get it to where you want it to go.”

The Hydes’ desire to help individuals develop real-world policy skills aligns with the goals of the college’s new Master of Public Policy program. The degree will draw upon the College of the Liberal Arts’ interdisciplinary nature to prepare graduates to tackle some of the toughest problems facing the United States today— everything from climate change to health care.

“I am grateful to Jeff and Sharon for their generosity and their confidence in the college and its new public policy masters’ program,” said College of the Liberal Arts Dean Susan Welch.  “Public policy education and training will add to Penn State’s status as a university leading in solving our nation and world’s vexing problems. This gift will give us a great start as we recruit new faculty for the program this year. I also very much appreciate Ted and Tracy McCourtney’s matching gift program.”

The Hydes’ most recent gift is their latest philanthropic gesture in support of the college and its programs. The couple has also supported the Hyde/Board of Visitors Early Career Professorship in Political Science, created the Susan Welch Director’s Fund in the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, and established three Trustee Scholarships in the college.

The Hydes’ and McCourtney’s ongoing support also helps to advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections.  With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship.To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit


  • Jeff and Sharon Hyde

    Jeff (’77, pre-law and education; ’80g, law) and Sharon (’82g, law) Hyde recently made a $500,000 estate commitment to create the Hyde McCourtney Endowed Career Development Professorship in the College of the Liberal Arts.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated May 17, 2018