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Earl and Kay Harbaugh honored as Penn State's Fundrasing Volunteers of the Year

Posted: October 31, 2016

Penn State has recognized Earl Harbaugh, a 1961 alumnus of the College of Agricultural Sciences, and his wife, Kay Harbaugh, as its 2016 Fundraising Volunteers of the Year. The award, which was officially presented to the Harbaughs on Oct. 7 for their service to the University, honors the leadership of alumni and friends in securing philanthropic support for Penn State. The Harbaughs are longtime volunteers for the College of Agricultural Sciences, and they have focused their service and philanthropy on promoting entrepreneurial education and scholarships within the college.
Earl and Kay Harbaugh were recognized as Penn State's 2016 Fundraising Volunteers of the Year at an event on Oct. 7.

Earl and Kay Harbaugh were recognized as Penn State's 2016 Fundraising Volunteers of the Year at an event on Oct. 7.

“Earl and Kay have been visionary advocates for entrepreneurship, and the initiatives they’ve fueled dovetail with the University’s new efforts to promote entrepreneurship through Invent Penn State,” said Penn State President Eric Barron, referring to the Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success. “Their achievements in the College of Agricultural Sciences will create a model for areas across the University as Invent Penn State continues to grow.”

The couple have served as volunteer leaders across three major fundraising initiatives, most recently For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, which raised more than $90 million for the college. Their own gifts have created the Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Forum, which brings leading entrepreneurs to campus; the Ag Business Springboard Competition, which challenges students to develop and pitch innovative business plans; and scholarships for students who wish to pursue entrepreneurship; among other initiatives.

Keith Masser, immediate past chair of Penn State’s Board of Trustees and a fellow volunteer for the college, said of their leadership, “It’s clear that the Harbaughs’ philanthropy and service is driven by a heartfelt commitment to faith, family and our students. Earl and Kay are dedicated to preparing students who may be the first in their families to attend college to one day create businesses of their own.”

A first-generation college student, Earl is chairman and CEO of Ditch Witch Midwest in Carol Stream, Illinois, a leader in the underground construction industry, and the founder and CEO of four other businesses in Carol Stream: Illini Power Products, Gen Power, Rentals Plus, and First Choice Equipment. A graduate St. Luke’s School of Nursing and Case Western Reserve University, Kay previously taught obstetrics at St. Vincent School of Nursing.

“Earl and Kay remind us that it’s not only what you do, but how you treat people while doing it that makes a difference,” said Dan Azzara, the interim head of the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education and the director of entrepreneurship and innovation for the college. “The Harbaughs are making a difference in how we work, but even more importantly, they’re making a difference in the future of our students.”

The couple’s commitment to volunteer service has extended beyond the University. Kay has served on the Board of Directors of Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Illinois. Earl has served as a trustee of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and as president of Associated Equipment Distributors. They split their time between Illinois and Florida, and they have three children, Leanne, Scott and Mark.

“We accept this award humbly for the College of Agricultural Sciences and for our fellow volunteers,” said Earl Harbaugh. “Penn State was founded on philanthropy, when James Irvin donated 200 acres to The Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania, and this tradition continues today. We’re blessed to be a part of it. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the opportunity to give, to serve and to lead.”

Supporters like the Harbaughs are invaluable partners in fulfilling the University's land-grant mission of education, research and service. Private gifts from alumni and friends enrich the experiences of students both in and out of the classroom; expand the research and teaching capacity of our faculty; enhance the University's ability to recruit and retain top students and faculty; and help to ensure that students from every economic background have access to a Penn State education. The University's colleges and campuses are now enlisting the support of alumni and friends to advance a range of unit-specific initiatives.