Penn Engineering Launches A. James Clark Scholars Program with $15M gift from the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation

Evan Lerner | elerner@seas.upenn.edu | 215-573-6604
Ali Sundermier | alisun@upenn.edu | 215-898-8562
Monday, September 25, 2017

The A. James Clark Scholars Program has been established in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania with an extraordinary $15 million gift from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation. It is the largest one-time gift to undergraduate support in the University’s history. The Clark Scholars Program will provide financial aid and create a new academic program for undergraduate engineering students.   

The gift honors the late A. James Clark, former CEO of Clark Enterprises and Clark Construction Group LLC, one of the country’s largest privately-held general building contractors. It is designed to prepare future engineering and business leaders, with an emphasis on low income families and first-generation college students. Clark never forgot that his business successes began with an engineering scholarship. This has guided the Clark family’s longstanding investments in engineering education and reflects its commitment to ensure college remains accessible and affordable to high-potential students with financial need.

“This spectacular gift partners the Clark Foundation with Penn Engineering around the shared goal of providing access to a stellar education in engineering to create the next generation of leaders,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “Each component of the program reflects our University’s commitment to inclusion, innovation and impact. Clark Scholars will benefit from a network of faculty, administrators, notable guests and fellow students to learn, experience and apply knowledge to benefit society throughout their professional and personal lives.”

The program will enroll ten students per incoming class, with recruitment underway for the first cohort beginning in fall 2018. Clark Scholars pursue rigorous engineering coursework, take at least two business classes, volunteer in community service activities and participate in enrichment seminars and events with leaders in the field. Scholars will also engage in personalized mentoring, research projects and innovation training. From their arrival on campus through their senior year, students will participate in a comprehensive, multi-faceted educational experience that includes programming targeted at each specific stage of their academic and professional journeys.  

“In addition to educating engineers who will invent and innovate, every Clark Scholar will have opportunities to gain research experience and enroll in service-learning courses. We will also provide them with the critical thinking and analytical skills required for entrepreneurship,” said Vijay Kumar, Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering. “We look forward to welcoming our first cohort of Clark Scholars to campus, and will support and guide them through this critical period of learning as they grow into leaders.” 

As part of the academic program, Penn Clark Scholars will participate in a first-year service learning course titled “Computer-Controlled Indoor Plant Growing Environment,” which integrates engineering, agronomy and biology. Enrolled students will apply technology to hands-on work in urban gardens at local Philadelphia schools.

“Mr. Clark believed in eliminating financial barriers so that promising students could achieve their full potential,” said Joe Del Guercio, president and CEO of the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation. “The program intentionally nurtures original thinking, cultivates broad perspectives, encourages the development of practical applications of new technologies and requires meaningful public service—all geared toward developing the leadership skills that the future will require.”

In addition to the University of Pennsylvania, the Clark Foundation has made engineering investments at the Johns Hopkins University, The George Washington University, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt University, with additional programs set to launch next fall.