This Tech Guy Centers His Philanthropy On Pennsylvania

Businessman and philanthropist Donald W. Hamer believes in supporting education, and it's no surprise. He was the first in his family to go to college, and he went with a bit of a vengence, earning two bachelor's degrees and an MBA before he was done. 

Hamer received his B.S. in Ceramic Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1945. In 1963, Hamer was employed by Erie Technological Products (now Murata Electronics) in State College, Pennsylvania. While working for Erie, he received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University. A year later, Hamer started State of the Art, Inc., which has evolved into a leading manufacturer of high reliability resistors in the microelectronics market. He earned his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. 

Hamer established the Hamer Foundation in the late 1980s, which has focused primarily on Central Pennsylvania. It wasn't until Hamer crossed paths with another Pennsylvania legend, though, that his philanthropy launched in earnest. The late Joe Paterno, longtime Penn State football coach, approached Hamer in the early 1990s about raising funds for what eventually became the Paterno Library at Penn State. Initially, Hamer says that he was just giving a few thousand dollars a year, but after his experience with Paterno, was motivated to give more.

These days, the Hamer Foundation holds more than $50 million in assets, and gave about $2.6 million in 2014. And a few years ago, the Hamer Foundation was bolstered when Hamer donated his investment portfolios. The foundation doesn't have much of a web presence, or a clear way to get in touch, but here are a few must-knows:

1. Hamer Has A Strong Interest in Education

Perhaps because Hamer was the first in his family to earn a college degree, starting at University of Illinois at age 16, Hamer is a strong advocate of higher education. He is a steady supporter of his alma mater, Pennsylvania State University, which is the site of the Donald W. Hamer Library and the Hamer Center of Community Design, itself part of the Stuckerman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. A nearly $1 million grant went to Penn State from the Hamer Foundation in 2014. Apart from Penn State, Hamer funded the Hamer Small Business Initiative at the University of Chicago with a $2.5 million gift in 2004. Support has also gone to the CPI Foundation, which supports the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology.

2. Supporting the Environment is Another Interest

Hamer has supported ClearWater Conservancy in State College, Pennsylvania, a land trust "dedicated to promoting conservation and restoration of natural resources in central Pennsylvania through land conservation, water resources protection, and environmental outreach to the community." Some $750,000 went to ClearWater in 2014. Money has also gone to Nature Conservancy ($200,000 in 2014), Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and Pennsylvania Land Trust Association. While much of this philanthropy has focused on Central and Western Pennsylvania, Hamer has also supported the World Wildlife Fund.

3. Hamer Has Supported Human Services Outfits

Hamer has given steadily of late to United Way in Pennsylvania, with local chapters in Centre County, Clinton County, Clearfield County and others receiving support. Money has also gone to Salvation Army and Housing Transitions, a "nonprofit corporation offering a variety of housing services to Centre County residents in need."

4. Hamer Recently Set Up A Disaster Relief Fund

Add Hamer to the list of funders concerned with disaster relief post-Superstorm Sandy. Hamer recently set up the Hamer Foundation Disaster Fund, a $1 million fund to help people in Centre County, Pennsylvania (where State College is located), and surrounding counties when a natural disaster strikes. The fund is managed by the Centre County United Way, and will serve as a “second tier” of emergency funding for rebuilding communities after American Red Cross, FEMA and others provide assistance. 

Related: Donald W. Hamer Tech Profile

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