Monday was a day of lasts for departing University of Delaware President Patrick Harker.
During a morning event at the Perkins Student Center on UD’s campus, Harker presided over his last press conference, posed for his last photo op, and helped announce the last major gift of his tenure–a $3 million donation designed to help low income students finish college.
The money comes courtesy of Bob Carr, chairman and CEO of a payment processing company and founder of the Give Something Back Foundation. Carr’s donation will help 150 low income Delawareans graduate from the state’s flagship university debt-free.
It was a fitting finale for Harker, himself a first-generation college student from humble origins. Harker’s father, a pipe-fitter, died when the outgoing president was nine. His mom worked in a local tax office.
“I wouldn’t have gone to college without financial aid,” said Harker, a University of Pennsylvania graduate.
The Give Something Back Foundation provides financial assistance and mentorship to low income students. The foundation will pick 150 Delaware ninth-graders–50 each of the next three years–and match each with mentors tasked with keeping the students on track. Should those ninth graders eventually attend the University of Delaware, the foundation guarantees they will graduate debt-free so long as they maintain a full-time course load and graduate within four years.
“We want to influence kids who would not otherwise be able to go to college,” said Carr, a University of Illinois graduate who founded Heartland Payment Systems 18 years ago in Princeton, New Jersey.
There are currently 247 students in the Give Something Back program, Carr said. To date, all have come from Carr’s home state of Illinois. Of the students receiving scholarships, 92 percent graduate college withing four years, Carr said.
The $3 million gift to the University of Delaware comes as the foundation looks to widen its footprint. GIve Something Back recently announced $1 million donations to Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey and The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township.
Carr launched Give Something Back in order to ease the burden on high-achieving, low-income students, who, studies show, are less likely to complete college than their wealthier peers.
“If you come from the right places you go to the places,” Carr said. “We want to change that.”
Carr said he picked the University of Delaware because of his faith in Harker, a long time friend.
Harker leaves the university at the end of this month after an eight-year tenure that saw him tackle ambitious projects such as the new STAR campus, but also clash with faculty over the future of higher education.
Harker starts this Wednesday, July 1, as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
Asked what he’ll do on Tuesday, his last official day as the University of Delaware, Harker quipped, “Tomorrow’s my one day off before I start the new job.”