Harrisburg couple donates $1.3M to HACC

HACC received an almost $1.3 million donation from the estate of a Harrisburg couple.
(l-r)HACC President John J. “Ski” Sygielski,, HACC Foundation Executive Director Dr. Linnie Carter, Mark Mateya. (Photo: Submitted)

Harrisburg Area Community College has received the largest donation in its history – a $1.3 million grant that will be used to fund programs in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

HACC officials first learned of the gift, made to its foundation, last fall.

The donation of approximately $1,295,305.30 will support the college’s STEAM initiatives and will almost cover the $1.5 million goal the community college planned to raise for the program, according to John J. Sygielski, HACC president. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

“It’s really a monumental day for HACC,” he said.

The gift is from Gloria W. Paxton, who died in 2017, and represents 70 percent of the estate belonging to her and her late husband, John E. Paxton. He died in 2007.

The couple, who lived in Harrisburg, were involved in philanthropic activities their entire lives, according to Mark Mateya of the Carlisle-based Mateya Law Firm.

The Paxtons’ estate was handled by the late Harry Bricker, a Harrisburg-based attorney, who died in 2016. Mateya took over the estate and, after Gloria Paxton died, he contacted the college to inform them of her bequest.

The couple had connections to HACC, Mateya said, as John Paxton worked as a surveyor on a few of the campus’s oldest buildings and Gloria Paxton participated in HACC events and activities.

The donation was the first gift the couple made to HACC, according to Dr. Linnie Carter, vice president of college advancement and executive director of the HACC Foundation.

It will be used to establish the John E. and Gloria W. Paxton Fund for Excellence in STEAM, which will support technology and related programs at the school.

The fund won’t be used to support any capital projects, Carter said.

According to HACC’s website, the fund will help pay for projects such as Full STEAM Ahead, a mentoring program for underrepresented or marginalized first-time college students enrolled in STEAM programs; and Achieving the STEAM, a selective cybersecurity program that will help underrepresented students receive access to full scholarships and off-campus housing stipends.

In addition, funding will help provide students free access to STEAM textbooks, as well as allow faculty to design and create degrees for STEAM disciplines.

Finally, the funding will provide more video classrooms that will allow students to virtually attend classes that are not offered at their home campus. Students who would otherwise have to travel to another campus to attend a class required for their majors will be able to remain at their home campuses to “attend” the class, according to the HACC website.

Carter said that while the Paxtons did not have children, their gift will benefit thousands of HACC students now and in the future.

“They now have 18,000 children in our HACC students,” she said.

HACC was established in 1967 and currently offers 100 career and transfer associate degrees, certificates and diplomas. It has campuses in Harrisburg, Gettysburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York.

The HACC Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1985 to raise private and corporate revenues in support of HACC. It provides funding for student scholarships, academic programs, training equipment and modernized facilities.