Amount donated in 2010: $88-million
Beneficiary: Pennsylvania State University
Donors’ background: Mr. Pegula founded East Resources, an oil and gas exploration and development company, in Warrendale, Pa., which he sold to Royal Dutch Shell in 2010 for $4.7-billion. Mr. and Ms. Pegula together founded the Black River Music Group, in Nashville, and the Ayrault Sports Agency, in Charlotte, N.C.
The Pegulas pledged $88-million to Pennsylvania State University, in State College, to build a new athletics arena, to support the university’s men’s and women’s hockey programs, and to provide scholarships to hockey players who attend the university. Mr. Pegula, 59, earned a bachelor’s degree in petroleum and natural-gas engineering from the university in 1973. Although he did not play hockey when he attended Penn State, Mr. Pegula and his wife are lifelong hockey fans, and he and his family often attend the university’s games, said Joe Battista, the university’s associate athletic director for ice-arena operations.
Mr. Battista, who had met Mr. Pegula many years ago but didn’t know the philanthropist well, said the gift came about when, in fall 2005, Mr. Pegula called Mr. Battista (who was then a coach for the men’s hockey team) at his unlisted home number and asked him why Penn State didn’t have varsity hockey. Mr. Battista offered to meet with him to discuss the university’s then nonvarsity hockey programs. Over dinner, Mr. Battista told Mr. Pegula that it came down to money: The university could not afford to operate a top-level, varsity hockey program and probably never would. Mr. Pegula evidently disagreed.
“He said 'Joe, I think I can help you get to the next level,’” recalls Mr. Battista, who privately assumed Mr. Pegula had no idea how much money it was going to take.
Over the next couple of years, Mr. Pegula began meeting with university officials to discuss how much he could donate to create a varsity hockey program. By 2008 Mr. Pegula was preparing to sell East Resources and make the gift. Then the markets tumbled, and the financial crisis caused Mr. Pegula to hold off on the sale of his company and delay the donation. When the markets rebounded and the financial climate improved last year, Mr. Pegula resumed his plans to sell the company, which he did in May. In August he revisited his talks with Penn State officials, and Mr. Pegula, Mr. Battista, and other university officials then toured the hockey facilities of the University of Notre Dame, the University of Minnesota, and other institutions. In August, Mr. Battista received a text message from Mr. Pegula, who wanted the former coach to know that he had signed a pledge agreement to give the university $88-million over the next five years. The commitment from the Pegulas is the largest donation the university has received to date. The donation will be paid out in cash over the next five years.
— Maria Di Mento
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