Hamer Foundation supports areas of impact across Penn State and Centre County

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — New grants from the Hamer Foundation will support Penn State programs targeting nature education, community wellness and student veterans. Totaling nearly $400,000, the support will also carry forward the legacy of the late Donald W. Hamer, a Penn State alumnus and supporter and a community leader whose impact continues to be felt across the University and throughout the region.

“Don Hamer’s generosity has helped to make life better for the people of central Pennsylvania over many decades, and this commitment will further his vision of creating opportunities for families, communities and students,” said O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for development and alumni relations. “His foresight in creating the Hamer Foundation, and that organization’s ongoing investment in programs such as these, will continue to shape the future of our University and our region for many decades to come.”

The Hawks View Treehouse at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center

A grant of $250,000, the largest portion of the Hamer Foundation’s new commitment, will help to fund the construction of a facility that will further the educational mission of Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center. The Hawks View Treehouse, constructed at the edge of the expanded meadow habitat aside the existing Lake Trail, will be a free-standing structure nestled against the forest, raised 20 feet into the canopy, with fun, kid-friendly access points from below and an accessible trail and ramp built into the natural slope to the west. It will have a covered space for groups and an observation deck that overlooks the wetland, creek, meadow and lake to the southeast.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are partnering with Shaver’s Creek and the Penn State Forestland Management Office in the creation of the Hawks View Treehouse and the preservation of the surrounding habitat. The Hamer Foundation commitment represents a crucial investment from the Centre County community and an important endorsement from a longtime ally of the center, according to Shaver’s Creek Director Mark McLaughlin.

“From Don Hamer’s initial support of Shaver’s Creek interns in the 1980s, to the foundation’s lead gift toward our 2016 renovation and expansion project, the Hamer Foundation has been a vital partner of Shaver’s Creek’s mission for over three decades,” McLaughlin said. “With this new gift, we will create a destination to draw visitors and learners of all ages away from the built environment and deeper into nature to build new connections through play and exploration.”

Penn State PRO Wellness and Healthy Champions Program

A school-based program and partnerships with community organizations that share Penn State PRO Wellness’ commitment to healthy kids will receive a total of $80,000 in support from the Hamer Foundation. For more than 16 years, PRO Wellness has tapped the expertise of Penn State Health leaders to improve nutrition, mental health, and other aspects of well-being in communities across the commonwealth. The Healthy Champions program was founded in 2013 to enhance wellness education in Pennsylvania schools, and it engaged 649 schools last year. The Hamer Foundation’s support will deepen the Healthy Champions partnership with Centre County schools through tailored resources and events and through engagement with other groups in the community.

“Every year, I see firsthand how the Healthy Champions program helps children make choices for a lifetime of wellness,” said Dr. Deepa Sekhar, executive director of Penn State PRO Wellness. “This gift is a powerful expression of the Hamer Foundation’s commitment to Centre County families, and it will provide lasting inspiration and important support for our team, our partners in the schools, and the young people who become champions for their own health and well-being.”

Student veterans programs

“Don Hamer was himself a veteran who benefited from the resources of the G.I. Bill, and his life of success and service represents the extraordinary contributions that our servicemembers bring to their communities, long after they leave active duty,” said Renée Thornton-Roop, senior director of Penn State’s Office of Veterans Programs. “We are honored to receive funding from the Hamer Foundation so that we can better support the generations of student veterans who are following in Mr. Hamer’s footsteps.

Through a $63,000 grant from the Hamer Foundation, Thornton-Roop and her colleagues will be able to pursue three important enhancements of the resources that Penn State — routinely named one of the country’s most veteran-friendly institutions — offers to former servicemembers. A first-year seminar, designed to assist student veterans with the transition to collegiate life, will be able to expand its programming beyond the classroom to offer experiential learning opportunities and engage guest speakers from outside the University. Hamer Foundation funds will also enable the hiring of tutors dedicated to supporting student veterans and the creation of a loaner library to assist students in covering the costs of required textbooks.

The Hamer Foundation

Don Hamer established the Hamer Foundation to continue his own commitment to bettering life in central Pennsylvania. A Navy veteran with degrees from the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago, he came to State College in 1963 to work at a ceramic capacitor company. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Penn State and to launch State of the Art Inc., now a leading supplier of film-resistive components to the biomedical, communications, aerospace and defense industries.

He channeled his success into leadership and philanthropy throughout the region. With his wife, Marie Bednar, he supported areas across Penn State, including the University Libraries (where she was a longtime staff member); the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; the Center for Private Forests in the College of Agricultural Sciences; the Hamer Center for Community Design in the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture; The Arboretum at Penn State; Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center; and the Palmer Museum of Art, among others. Hamer was named a Distinguished Alumnus, the highest honor offered by the University to its graduates, and he received Penn State’s Philanthropist of the Year award in 2014. He passed away in 2016, but the Hamer Foundation continues to support many of his philanthropic interests.

“Don Hamer led a life defined by service to his community and a belief in the power of education,” said Hamer Foundation Trustee Pat Morse. “Carrying on this dedication is at the core of the Hamer Foundation’s mission. We’re pleased to continue our partnership with Penn State in strengthening the health of our region and advancing opportunity for those who live and learn here.”

Support from the Hamer Foundation will 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

Last Updated September 07, 2021