UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has named William C. Lane, a 1975 graduate of the Penn State Smeal College of Business who has led initiatives on global learning, and Richard M. Barger, a 1971 graduate in business from Penn State Harrisburg whose volunteerism has fostered entrepreneurship and addressed college affordability, as the 2023 Fundraising Volunteers of the Year.
The awards, which recognize individuals, couples or groups who demonstrate exceptional commitment and leadership in building philanthropic support for the University, will be presented at a ceremony this fall. The dual selection reflects Penn State’s ongoing commitment to honoring volunteerism at both University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses.
“I am deeply grateful to both Rick and Bill for their leadership and dedication to creating a positive impact in our community; their generosity continues to reverberate and be felt across the University,” said Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi. “Their commitment to service is a true reflection of our University’s ‘We Are’ spirit, and serves as an inspiration and reminder to all Penn Staters that our community is at its strongest when we commit ourselves to giving back, building each other up, and creating new opportunities for future generations.”
Lane’s service to Penn State has been informed by his long career in advocating for strong and beneficial relationships between the U.S. and the international community.
“If we put out a call for volunteers, Bill is always one of the first to raise his hand. He has a deep belief in the importance of international experiences and has worked tirelessly to bring Smeal’s global footprint into areas that will enrich the curriculum and give our students an edge in understanding emerging markets and industries,” said Charles H. Whiteman, John and Karen Arnold Dean of the Penn State Smeal College of Business. “I’m thrilled that this award can shine a light on his passion for helping students and his extraordinary efforts to marshal resources to launch new initiatives.”
Raised in Miami, Florida, Lane relocated to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to complete high school at Central Bucks West and went on to attend Penn State Smeal at University Park, where he participated in student government and the fraternity Phi Kappa Phi. He also took advantage of a fledgling Penn State foreign study program in Cologne, Germany, which laid the foundation for his interest in multinational engagement and cooperation.
After launching his career at equipment manufacturer Caterpillar immediately upon his graduation from Penn State in 1975, he climbed the ranks to become the company’s director of global government and corporate affairs, and he earned a master of administration degree from Penn State Harrisburg in 1979. Over the following decades, he pursued an interest in government policy and international markets. From 2004 to 2015, Lane was named one of Washington’s top corporate lobbyists by The Hill newspaper, and in 2016, he was awarded the Washington International Trade Association's Lighthouse Award. Today, Lane is chair emeritus of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, which supports U.S. funding for diplomacy and development. He is an executive board member of Global Communities, and a Wall Street Journal paid editorial contributor.
At Penn State, Bill Lane’s volunteerism has included membership on Smeal’s committee in “For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students” and nine years of service on Smeal’s Alumni Society Board. He remains an active member of Smeal’s Hammond Society, which honors alumni who have completed their elected terms on the board. The University provost selected Lane to serve as the inaugural chair of the Penn State Global Advisory Council. His professional achievements were honored with the University’s Alumni Fellow Award in 2011, and his more than 15 years of service and volunteerism earned him the Service to Smeal Award in 2020.
Lane shares his passion for service with his wife of nearly five decades, Jan Pursell, whom he met at Central Bucks School District in the late 1960s. A graduate of Elizabethtown College, Jan spent two decades as an officer in the American Red Cross, where she rose to the rank of vice president for governmental affairs. Following her retirement from the Red Cross, she held roles at George Washington University and CARE, an international humanitarian organization, and she continues to be a volunteer leader of her alma mater, serving as vice chair of the board of trustees. The couple have two sons who graduated from Smeal, David in 2004 and Douglas in 2005.
The Lanes have complemented Bill’s service to Smeal with philanthropic initiatives centered on global experiences. The William C. and Janet P. Lane Global Perspectives Endowment provides support for Smeal undergraduates participating in an unpaid internship at an international organization outside of the standard rotation of European capitals, and the Lanes have also made provision for the fund in their estate plans. In 2021, the couple established the Lane Global Engagement Leadership Fund to explore the creation of a Global Leadership Academy at Smeal and support the Office of International Programs faculty and staff in developing global initiatives in Southern Africa. These initiatives include international travel to develop curricula, meet with industry partners and alumni, and discover cultural opportunities.
“I counsel students to consider Peru, not Paris,” said Lane. “Now, don’t get me wrong. Italy, France or Spain are wonderful destinations, but if you really want to differentiate your résumé from your peers, you go to the markets of tomorrow. Jan and I saw an opening for Penn State’s programs to allow students to seize the moment and reach after untapped opportunities. Our graduates are well-trained academically and poised to become the leaders of tomorrow all over the world, and that’s what Jan and I have always intended to help make possible.”
Rick Barger never had a masterplan to attend Penn State. Born in Butler, Pennsylvania, he enrolled for two years at Butler Community College and in the summer of 1968 took a job at Armco Steel Co., where he worked as a furnace tender heating ingots to be rolled into coiled steel.
“Our crew took a break, and the guy next to me told me he was going to enroll in what was called at that time Penn State’s Capitol Campus,” Barger said. “That idea appealed to me because it had the resources of a major university but still had the feel of a close-knit community. I never worked with that guy again, but that conversation changed the course of my life.”
Barger attended Penn State Harrisburg and earned his bachelor’s degree in business in 1971, encouraged by his girlfriend and then wife, Patty. The Bargers’ gratitude for the life and the family of seven children that they have built together has driven them to become leaders and supporters for the campus where Rick got his start.
“I was the first in my family to go to college,” said Barger. “Everybody I knew worked in a factory, but the professors gave me individualized advice. They saw my talent for accounting and guided me in the right direction.”
In 1971, Barger joined the accounting firm Ernst & Ernst, which later became Ernst and Young, where he was named partner in 1985. After finishing out his career at Ernst and Young, now known as EY, Barger became the executive vice president and CFO at Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Today, he continues to serve on one of its board of directors.
As he advanced in his career, Barger also completed the Executive Program at Northwestern University’s J.J. Kellogg School of Management and became a certified public accountant.
Barger always prioritized making time for volunteerism, with many roles and responsibilities at the campus where he got his start. He served as the chair for Penn State Harrisburg’s campaign committee throughout the most recently completed fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.” Under his volunteer leadership, Barger met with major donors and prospects, led a planned giving outreach effort, and ultimately helped shepherd the record-setting completion of a $44.9 million campaign.
“Rick and Patty have been outstanding leaders in identifying the challenges facing students and devising solutions,” said John M. Mason Jr., former chancellor of Penn State Harrisburg. “Because of their efforts, we’ve built a more affordable and accessible University, and our entrepreneurial programs are better equipped to train students to adapt, innovate and excel.”
Patty is a now-retired registered nurse who enjoyed a long career at UPMC Harrisburg, including an extended stint in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit. While their children were in school, she served on the school board, and she devotes time to raising caterpillars and releasing Monarch butterflies.
In addition to their volunteerism, Rick and Patty are lifelong donors to the University. The Barger Fund for Penn State Harrisburg in Memory of Jonathan P. Barger honors their son Jon, who died tragically in a car accident in 1997. The endowment assists students with international travel opportunities. As the Bargers became increasingly aware of the challenges around access and affordability, they established the Barger Family Trustee Scholarship in 2013 to assist students with demonstrated financial need.
Most recently, the couple endowed the Barger Family Fund for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to support a range of business-related educational priorities. Their philanthropy earned the couple a place in the Platinum Circle of the Capital Society at Penn State Harrisburg and, as of 2017, in the Mount Nittany Society.
In addition to their gifts to Penn State, the couple have been generous donors to their church, St. Joan’s of Hershey, Pennsylvania, and longtime supporters of other community organizations.
In recognition of his volunteerism, service and professional achievements, Barger has garnered numerous awards, including the 1982 Penn State Harrisburg Alumni Achievement Award, a 1989 Penn State Alumni Association Alumni Fellow Award, and the 2018 Penn State Alumni Association Philip Philip Mitchell Alumni Service Award.
Donors like Bill and Jan Lane and Rick and Patty Barger advance the University’s historic land-grant mission to serve and lead. Through philanthropy, alumni and friends are helping students to join the Penn State family and prepare for lifelong success; driving research, outreach and economic development that grow our shared strength and readiness for the future; and increasing the University’s impact for families, patients and communities across the commonwealth and around the world. Learn more by visiting raise.psu.edu.