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Campaign for Academic Commons Tops $8M

Rick Barry
4/13/2006 —
Penn State Wilkes-Barre's campaign for a new academic commons building has topped its $8 million goal, thanks to a recent gift from campus alumnus Richard J. "Rick" Barry.

The academic commons will contain an expanded campus library, as well as an art gallery, auditorium, classrooms, and study and meeting space for students. The two-story building will be named for the late Abram Nesbitt III of Wilkes-Barre. Nesbitt, his family and estate were major contributors to the campaign, which has now secured a total of $8.2 million in private and University funds.

Barry also designated a portion of his gift to support conversion of the current campus library to a student services center. It will be named for John Murphy, the campus' former student services director and mentor to many students, including Barry.

"We are extremely pleased that the Wilkes-Barre campus will have up-to-date facilities that bear the names of two people who are so closely linked to its history and development," said Penn State President Graham Spanier. "These two buildings remind us of the important role philanthropy plays in helping the University to offer students a first-rate learning environment.

"Construction of the Abram Nesbitt III Academic Commons is expected to begin later this year and be completed by August 2007. To be located across from Hayfield House, it will be compatible in design with that historic structure."The Nesbitt Academic Commons will ease the space and technology restrictions that currently hinder many campus programs, and will pay dividends in the form of generations of students who receive a truly outstanding Penn State education," Spanier said.

Renovation of the current library-the future John Murphy Student Services Building-will begin when the new Nesbitt Commons is occupied, and is expected to take a year to complete. John Murphy retired in 2004 after 37 years of service in various capacities at the University. The building will bring together for the first time in a central area such student services as financial aid, academic advising, career guidance and job placement, registration, and group and individual tutoring. The renovations will require substantial electrical, mechanical, and architectural upgrades.

"If you are very lucky in life, you will cross paths with someone with the wisdom and kindness of Dean Murphy," said Barry. "For 37 years, Dean Murphy helped people like me believe in themselves. I arrived at Penn State without the confidence that I could succeed and graduated with the belief that I could. Dean Murphy helped me gain that confidence. I am thrilled to be able to give something back to the University and Dean Murphy."

Barry graduated from Penn State in 1980 with a baccalaureate degree in political science and is now managing director and portfolio manager of a large California-based investment firm.

Penn State has had a permanent presence in the Wilkes-Barre area for 90 years. The Wilkes-Barre campus currently enrolls nearly 800 students.
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