Smeal College of Business Farrell Center celebrates 20 years of entrepreneurship

April 18, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — From a newspaper route at the age of 9 to his current position as chairman, chief executive officer and president at Farrell & Co., a Pittsburgh-based investment banking firm, Michael J. Farrell, a 1971 Penn State alumnus in accounting, has been the epitome of an entrepreneur.

Recognizing his own unique path to success, and with a deep loyalty to his alma mater, Farrell wanted Smeal College of Business students to have the necessary tools to capitalize on entrepreneurial ideas as they came along in their own careers. In 1999, he created the Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the Smeal College recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of this seminal gift.

The Farrell Center provides educational opportunities, research initiatives, consulting programs, events and other collaborative solutions to help companies and students improve their innovations and successfully launch new business ventures.

On April 11, the Smeal College honored the Farrell Center’s founder with a visit from Farrell and a day of activities. Farrell started his morning as Smeal’s entrepreneur-in-residence and hosting office hours for students and faculty who are pursuing innovative business ventures. Later, Board of Visitors members, and Farrell Center faculty and staff, joined Farrell and his wife, Kristen Farrell, for a celebratory lunch prior to the Spring 2019 Board meeting.

After the event, Farrell shared that it was a terrific experience.

"It was wonderful to reflect on the accomplishments of everyone involved with the center over the last 20 years," he said.

“Few people have been as influential as Mike Farrell,” said Charles H. Whiteman, John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal. “He has been a strong advocate for Smeal to be a leader in the entrepreneurial culture at Penn State. His commitment to create the Farrell Center came long before entrepreneurship spread to other areas around the University, and it positioned Smeal at the forefront of entrepreneurship efforts and education at Penn State.

“Mike’s vision paved the way for an extraordinary climate at Penn State that fosters innovative thinking, ideas and the creation of businesses. Since Mike’s gift to create the Farrell Center, events and programs like Start-Up Week, Invent Penn State, Commercialization of Research, and Happy Valley LaunchBox, Powered by PNC Bank, have become synonymous with Penn State,” Whiteman said.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to see how Mike has laid the foundation for innovation and entrepreneurship at Smeal through his philanthropy,” said Michelle Houser, senior director of development and alumni relations for the college. “We hope his generosity and the impact of his gift inspires others to make an impact on initiatives they are passionate about.”

Shawn Clark, Michael J. Farrell Endowed Professor of Entrepreneurship and director of the Farrell Center, acknowledged the impact of Farrell’s gift on the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Penn State.

“Farrell’s gift made it possible for Penn State students to become innovators and business leaders, for Penn State researchers to commercialize their inventions, and for entrepreneurship professors to rise to their full potential,” he said.

With the support of the Farrell Center, Clark hopes to expand Smeal’s consulting-solutions arm to provide new ventures and small businesses with management consulting and other professional services; to enable students to earn credit through the experience of planning for and launching a startup; to provide seed funding for student and faculty ventures; and to establish opportunities for students interested in social entrepreneurship.

Clark concluded the event with a message of gratitude.

“I’d like to thank Mike for his friendship, encouraging me to seek my potential as a professor of entrepreneurship, and for giving flight to the center, which has improved the lives of so many,” he said.

Last Updated April 23, 2019