College of Education > News and Publications > 2018: 10-12 news > Grateful alumnus uses estate gift to help struggling doctoral students

Grateful alumnus uses estate gift to help struggling doctoral students

Richard Dorman remembers his days as a financially frugal graduate student and he’d like future doctoral candidates at Penn State to have memories a bit more pleasant.

Richard Dorman
Richard Dorman, who graduated from Penn State in 1980 with his master’s degree and in 1990 with a doctorate in higher education, has pledged a percentage of his estate to the College of Education.
Richard Dorman remembers his days as a financially frugal graduate student and he’d like future doctoral candidates at Penn State to have memories a bit more pleasant.

Because of that, Dorman has pledged an estate gift to the College of Education. That gift, he said, is structured so that the College will receive a percentage of his estate.

“Therefore, I hope that the stock market remains favorable,” said Dorman, a retired college president currently active as a consultant. “Specifically, my planned gift will endow a research fund for doctoral students in higher education to assist them with collecting and processing data for their dissertation.”

He said when he was a doctoral student at Penn State in the late 1980s, he gathered his own data, which allowed him the flexibility to choose a research topic of strong interest to him (boards of trustees) rather than use a professor’s data.

“I was a starving graduate student and the expenses were a burden,” Dorman said. “In discussing my ideas with leaders in the higher education program, they felt that an endowed fund to help doctoral students would be highly prized, so that’s what I have done.”

Donations to one’s alma mater typically are based on good experiences. Dorman, who earned his master’s degree in counselor education in 1980 and his doctorate in higher education in 1990, is grateful toward Penn State.

“I have had a great career in higher education, and I owe so much of it to Penn State,” he said. “Penn State nurtured me as a student, provided internship opportunities during my coursework, gave me employment later on, provided both theoretical and practical knowledge to help me be successful in the various roles I assumed since graduating, and was the place where deep friendships were made.

“My two best friends, both in higher education, were at Penn State when I was a student, and they also have thrived as a result of their alma mater. It is a cliché, but I wanted to give back what Penn State has given me. An estate gift was the most generous way which I could do this,” Dorman said.

Dorman’s degrees provided him with the versatility to dot his resume with a number of positions: teacher at Red Lion High School near York; director of marketing for Prestige Expositions in Ridgewood, New Jersey; executive with the Penn State Alumni Association; assistant vice president for development at the University of Louisville; vice president for institutional advancement at Otterbein College; and president of Westminster College.

He and his wife, Beverly, retired to the Columbus suburb of Westerville, Ohio, and he is a consultant for various colleges and universities on advancement and strategic planning.

“Penn State’s higher education doctoral program is arguably among the most rigorous in the nation, and it prepared me very well for my career in college administration,” Dorman said. “That, plus a variety of exceptional experiences at Penn State, the University of Louisville, Otterbein University and Westminster, provided a rich reservoir of experiences from which I access when called to offer perspectives and direction by other schools.”

Dorman, a native New Yorker who grew up in northern New Jersey, earned a bachelor of music degree from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove. The challenges of secondary education, he said, coupled with the low pay, prompted him to work in education at a different level.

“My counseling degree in student personnel services (at Penn State) was viewed as a viable doorway to achieving that career goal,” he said. “After getting my master’s, I was hired as a research assistant in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Penn State in an assistantship capacity, which required continuing my education in their doctoral program in higher education.

“I loved the higher education milieu, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I had finally found my niche.”

He then became assistant director of special programs with the Penn State Alumni Association and ascended to associate executive director (from 1984-90). “Working for Penn State in Old Main permitted me to truly understand first-hand the challenges of higher education in one of the most complex universities in the nation,” Dorman said.

Dorman served as president at Westminster College, a small, liberal arts college in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, for eight years beginning in 2008, or the same time as the Great Recession, a two-year span of general economic depression.

“Colleges around America began to experience marked enrollment declines and financial pressures unlike anything previously experienced,” Dorman said. “Though blessed to be given the opportunity to lead Westminster, it was the most difficult and stressful job in my 40-year career.

“Being responsible for a $40 million budget, 400 employees, and positioning the college to adjust to the new economic realities brought about by the Great Recession at a very rural school in a depressed region of the Commonwealth was both challenging and exhausting. I had to make many difficult decisions, which is always dangerous in a field (higher education) that doesn’t like change,” he said.

The decision for Dorman to give back to Penn State and attempt to help doctoral students move forward was much simpler. “Educators, by their very nature working in the nonprofit world, aren’t usually in the proverbial top 1 percent of earners,” Dorman said. “Outright gifts to charity by educators will generally not be of the magnitude one sees in other fields.

“So, looking at planned gifts makes enormous sense for educators, as there are a variety of methods and gift instruments from which to choose that can conform to one’s specific circumstances.”

By Jim Carlson (November 2018)