Alumnus believes in friend-raising
Over 30 years since graduating from Penn State, Joe Henry ('76HD) enjoys reconnecting with the University through the Great Valley campus. A Penn State alumnus and current chair of Penn State Great Valley's advisory board, Henry believes he is indebted to his alma mater and welcomes the opportunity to acknowledge his gratitude to the University. So when Great Valley was looking for donors to support its campus art gallery he felt compelled to act. "The experiences I had during my four years at Penn State, the education I got, really changed my life and led to my having a successful career. Naturally, I think we must thank those who do something good for us. It's a courtesy and just makes sense."
And thank Penn State he did. This past January, Henry and his wife, Marilyn, generously donated $50,000 to help expand Great Valley's gallery facilities and programs. The gallery, which was established in 2009 to exhibit and feature local artists and art communities, has been renamed The Joseph and Marilyn Henry Gallery in honor of their philanthropic gesture.
Henry's alliance with Great Valley began through his connection with a fellow Penn Stater, Dan Pedriani, who was also a colleague at Independence Blue Cross where Henry worked for 30 years until retiring in 2010 as vice president of Corporate Strategic Planning. He jokingly admits, "I got my arm twisted," and in 2008 Henry joined the School's advisory board. "What I find fascinating is that [Penn State Great Valley] has the ability to evolve and respond to the needs of the business community. That's something that has always impressed me about Great Valley."
As Henry began attending the School's cultural and community events, he realized the significance of the program's mission to nurture a connection with the community and support the vibrancy of the area's resources by showcasing the work of local artists in the gallery. "Philanthropy can be a way to speak," reflects Henry. "If a gift like we've done enables this campus to establish a tighter relationship with the community, that's what we need to do. We are funding the development of a relationship between Penn State Great Valley and its community."
Henry hopes that the gallery will expand to broaden relationships with Chester County artists and art alliances. Additionally, the Henrys envision the gallery as an opportunity and venue for expanding the art programs of area elementary schools and high schools especially as these institutions become increasingly pressured to reduce art and music curricula.
Henry's vision for the gallery implies that his philanthropy has deeper roots than monetary value. "There's fundraising and there's friend-raising, and sometimes we must focus on the friend-raising opportunity. Isn't that what Penn State should do? Well, that's what the gallery is all about."