Alumni couple endows LaunchBox directorship with $1M lead gift to Innovation Hub

September 29, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State alumni Jack and Dossy White have pledged a gift of $1 million to name the Jack White Family Directorship for Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank. This commitment is the lead gift in fundraising efforts for the new Penn State Innovation Hub in downtown State College, Pennsylvania.

The Whites’ gift will be combined with a one-to-one University match to establish an endowment of $2 million. This fund will support recruitment and retention of innovative leaders for Happy Valley LaunchBox, which provides programming and resources to support local entrepreneurs. It will also offer flexible funding that allows current director Lee Erickson and future Jack White Family Directors to fulfill their vision for Happy Valley LaunchBox, part of the Invent Penn State initiative.

The brand new Penn State Innovation Hub facility is scheduled to open in October. This newly constructed six-story, 85,000-square-foot building on South Burrowes Street will house Happy Valley LaunchBox, currently located on South Allen Street, and host state-of-the-art entrepreneurial and innovation resources, including makerspaces, a virtual-reality/immersive technology laboratory, student club storage, a sixth-floor vista point/overlook event space and collaboration areas. Several naming opportunities will be available for donors who wish to support the enhanced programming and resources that the new facility will make possible.

“Jack and Dossy White understand the value of entrepreneurship and innovation, and they also understand the importance of strong leadership in any enterprise,” said James Delattre, associate vice president for research and director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization. “Their gift — itself a remarkable example of philanthropic leadership — will ensure that the current director and future directors of Happy Valley LaunchBox have the resources they need to maintain the momentum we’ve already built up and develop new ways to meet the needs of entrepreneurs in our community. We are deeply grateful to the Whites for their generosity and vision.”

Jack White, originally from the Pittsburgh area, and Dossy White, a native of San Diego, California, met at Penn State in the late 1960s. Jack played football for Penn State and holds the singular distinction of having scored the Nittany Lions’ very first touchdown under head coach Joe Paterno, during the first game in which Paterno officially held that position, on Sept. 17, 1966.

After graduating from Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts in 1966 with a general arts and sciences degree, Jack went on to dental school at the University of Pittsburgh, and Dossy completed her degree, also in general arts and sciences, at Penn State in 1971. The couple then moved to San Diego, where he embarked on his career as a dentist, first for the U.S. Navy and then in the private practice that he would operate for more than 40 years. Dossy raised their three children, worked as a school administrator and in other positions and has long been active in various community organizations.

“Our family has been very fortunate in entrepreneurship, and we wanted to pay it forward, so to speak,” said Jack White. “I think it’s extremely important to get new ideas out there, and young people in particular have so many new ideas. But they often don’t know how capitalize on them. Happy Valley LaunchBox provides a comprehensive program, with mentorship and legal advice and other kinds of support for potential entrepreneurs. I think it’s wonderful that young people can benefit from all of that.”

“We have several entrepreneurs in our family, so we’ve seen this process firsthand,” said Dossy White. “We saw what our son Jack went through when he co-founded a company called Ballast Point Brewing: he had a great idea, and it became very successful, but he was largely flying by the seat of his pants, with little advice or guidance. We’re excited that by supporting Happy Valley LaunchBox, we’re helping to give other entrepreneurs access to the kind of advice and resources Jack didn’t have. That will not only make the process easier but will also give them a better chance of succeeding in the marketplace.”

Happy Valley LaunchBox offers no-cost business advice, legal and intellectual property advice, and co-working and meeting space, as well as structured startup accelerator programs. All services are available to anyone — students, faculty and community members.

“We work to de-risk and accelerate early-stage start-ups, and a big part of that is making entrepreneurship accessible,” said Lee Erickson, Jack White Family Director of Happy Valley LaunchBox. “That means demystifying it and giving entrepreneurs tangible, actionable steps to take toward success. We teach them the entrepreneurial mindset, help them to understand the risks and empower them to make their own decisions.

“The Whites’ gift will really amplify our ability to do all of this,” Erickson continued. “It will provide permanent salary support to the director’s position, allowing me and the directors who come later to carry out our work, which includes providing one-on-one consulting, organizing teams of aspiring entrepreneurs, organizing speaker series, and much more. It will also make available flexible funds that can be used, for example, to develop new programming that will educate and engage entrepreneurs in innovative ways.”

“The success of Happy Valley LaunchBox so far owes a great deal to Lee’s leadership,” Delattre said. “Eventually, she will move on, and the challenge in choosing future directors will be to find leaders who have similar entrepreneurial experience, interpersonal skills and an understanding of how to mentor — skill sets that are very valuable in the private sector. The prestige of a named directorship, and what it says about Penn State’s commitment to Happy Valley LaunchBox, will be instrumental in securing top talent in the future.”

The Penn State Innovation Hub is one of 21 innovation hubs at Penn State campuses across Pennsylvania. The University match was provided through the Economic Development Incentive Matching Program, which leverages Penn State funds for select initiatives that will drive job and business creation in the Commonwealth. Both programs are part of Invent Penn State, a Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success that was launched in 2015 by Penn State President Eric J. Barron and that has become a centerpiece of his tenure at the University.

That high-level focus was central to the Whites in considering their gift. “We were really impressed with President Barron’s vision for this initiative and the commitment he’s shown to carrying it through,” said Jack White. “It’s really important to have someone of his stature take a leadership role in this, and it’s a terrific bonus that the University is matching our funds to double the size of our endowment.

“Penn State has been great to us, and we’re very pleased to be able to give back in this way,” he added.

The Whites’ gift will also 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 serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship.

To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

Gifts to support Invent Penn State’s LaunchBox and Innovation Hub Network, as well as select economic development initiatives across the commonwealth, are a priority of the campaign, and two opportunities to leverage University funds — the LaunchBox Matching Program and the Economic Development Matching Program — are available through the end of “A Greater Penn State” on June 30, 2022, or until the pool of support is exhausted. To learn more about how to make a gift and secure a match, contact Heather Winfield at hbw11@psu.edu.

Last Updated September 29, 2021