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Penn State establishes Miller/LaVigne professorship in political science with million-dollar gift

August 31, 2007

University Park, Pa. -- Bruce R. Miller and Dean D. LaVigne have given $1 million to establish the first endowed professorship in Penn State's Department of Political Science. Miller is a 1971 University graduate in political science.

Frank Baumgartner, former department head and most recently distinguished professor, is the inaugural Bruce R. Miller and Dean D. LaVigne professor. Baumgartner's notable academic career reaches internationally. He holds editorial board positions on several academic journals, and his works are widely published both as research compositions and books.

"Bruce and Dean's generosity to Penn State has already made a huge difference," said Baumgartner. "It will have a multiplying effect: I can use the resources made available by the endowment to do the initial stages of research projects, which then are better positioned to compete for external funding. Their longstanding commitment to the University makes it especially rewarding to see their confidence in me and in our department."

Bruce Miller is founder and retired president of Employee Benefits Corp. of America, a group health insurance brokerage firm headquartered in McLean, Va. Partner Dean LaVigne is retired owner of an interior landscape design and installation business, Plant Parenthood. Their commitment to Penn State is longstanding and includes their time, expertise and financial resources.

Miller received the College of the Liberal Arts Service to Penn State Alumni award in 1998 and the Penn State Alumni Association's Alumni Fellow award in 2004, and was named the University's Fundraising Volunteer of the Year in 2005. He chairs the college's development council and is a member of the executive committee of the University's recently launched capital campaign.

"This professorship will have a broader impact than our earlier contributions to Penn State," Miller said. "Those prior gifts directly affect students by providing scholarships at the undergraduate level and fellowships at the graduate level. This commitment will enhance the University's stature in political science and will benefit students by providing ongoing interaction in the classroom and through faculty and student research with one of the most prominent political scientists of our time."

Liberal Arts Dean Susan Welch concurred. "We are very proud to be able to establish this new professorship," she said. "This generous contribution enables us to fulfill one of our top campaign priorities -- recruiting and then retaining professors who connect the classroom to disciplinary excellence and to the issues of the greater world. Frank Baumgartner is not only an exceptional researcher, but also teaches undergraduates, including a freshman seminar this fall. He is a stellar example of the kind of talent we seek to encourage."

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