Smith's $1M legacy to Penn State Harrisburg Library supports student success

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Robert L. Smith astonished the Penn State University Libraries’ Penn State Harrisburg Library with a $1 million estate gift. Although he had no known connection to Penn State except as a community borrower of library materials, his posthumous generosity will support future generations of Penn State Harrisburg students’ academic needs through books, technology and other equipment, and more.

“Mr. Smith’s gift to the Penn State Harrisburg Library Program Endowment will provide an enduring legacy to the students of Penn State Harrisburg and lasting funding to support library programs, resources and services and assist in necessary library enhancements over time. For me personally, this generous gift offers a message of hope in difficult and trying times and reaffirms my faith in generosity and the selflessness of people,” said Glenn McGuigan, Penn State Harrisburg Library director and head librarian.

“Mr. Smith has shown how goodness and charity endure, and has ensured that future generations can continue to benefit from our valuable facility,” McGuigan added.

According to his obituary, Robert L. Smith was born in Harrisburg on Aug. 28, 1929, attended John Harris High School and the University of Pennsylvania, and retired from the Princeton University Book Store. A first lieutenant in U.S. Air Force Reserves, he served four years of active duty in the U.S. and Germany.

In retirement, Smith resided at the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, where he died on Feb. 4, 2019, leaving no surviving relatives. He was buried in Paxtang Cemetery in his hometown.

Smith’s legacy, designated for the Penn State Harrisburg Library Program Endowment 17 years before his death, will provide funds for the benefit of Penn State Harrisburg Library’s users through the purchase of books and other collection materials; equipment, software and other technologies; enhancements of facilities and learning environments; and activities in specific areas of educational interest. It also will support professional development opportunities for library staff and faculty.

The Penn State Harrisburg Library supports the college’s 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and more than 570 faculty and staff as well as community borrowers not affiliated with Penn State. All residents of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania are eligible for borrowing privileges from any University Libraries location on Penn State’s campuses.

This gift 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