Lane Commitment to Global Internships Supports Students Now and Into the Future
Bill Lane ’75 Bus, ’79 Cap spends his days lobbying Congress to promote free trade and global development for U.S. companies. A 37-year employee of Caterpillar Corporation, he has spent the last 15 years as director of the company’s Washington office. His international trade expertise makes him a sought-after speaker and board member for industry and humanitarian organizations.
Lane traces his interest in international trade to his days as a Penn State business student. In the 1970s, studying abroad was still a relatively new concept at public universities, but Penn State had built a solid relationship with the University of Cologne in Germany. Lane spent much of his junior year there, an experience that would shape his future.
“The study abroad program changed my perspective,” he says. “I used to think doing business in New York or maybe Florida was an exotic notion. But after Penn State I realized you had to embrace international commerce and not hide from it.”
Lane’s career with Caterpillar confirmed lessons learned at Penn State. For U.S. companies to be successful globally, they needed to understand the values and cultures of those countries. Through his involvement as a volunteer recruiter for the Penn State Undergraduate Admissions Office and later as a member of the Smeal College of Business Alumni Society Board, he noticed that more students were studying abroad than ever before, yet the vast majority continued to study in the traditional destinations of Europe—Rome, Paris, London.
When Lane learned about an initiative to promote international internships to non-traditional destinations, he knew this was a positive step and something he wanted to support.
“The engine of future economic growth is in the developing world. Many students would benefit from studying in Lima over London or Johannesburg over Paris,” Lane says. “Mind you that’s not an easy sale. Just remember when you were 20 years old. But students who focus on high-risk, high-opportunity markets will have a unique skill set and first-hand experiences that will add value to their employers and lead to more satisfying careers. I see it every day in the work I do.”
Along with his wife Jan, a retired American Red Cross executive who also worked at CARE, Lane hopes to encourage students to pursue international internships in developing countries. They are providing financial assistance for travel and associated expenses through the William C. and Janet P. Lane Global Perspectives Endowment. Through the combination of a planned giving vehicle known as a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT) and annual cash gifts, the Lanes are accomplishing a philanthropic goal and a personal financial goal simultaneously.
“Jan and I purposely came up on December 31 to make our commitment. We wanted to do it to show our support at such a difficult time for Penn State. We have never been prouder of the Penn State alumni and students,” Lane says.
By working with Penn State’s Office of Gift Planning, the Lanes found that through a CRUT they could receive income each year for the rest of their lives plus some limited support for their heirs from assets given to the trust. At the end of their lives, the balance in the trust will go the Lane Global Perspectives Endowment, which will support international experiences for students in perpetuity.
Knowing that the charitable purpose of their CRUT would not be realized by students for many years, the Lanes decided to jump start the process for today’s students by making annual gifts for the college’s existing global internship opportunities. Caterpillar, Bill’s employer, matches their contributions. These funds provide Community Engagement and Development Program (CEDP) grants that student can apply for through the college’s Office of Career and Corporate Connections.
“It’s actually a heck of a deal! The combination of the planned gift and the cash gift provides a new income stream for you and your family while making an investment in Penn State students. And the payback is immediate,” Lane says. “We are already getting notes from students. You quickly realize that by providing a stipend you can help change lives for the better.”
One of the first recipients of a CEDP grant was Serkan Saka, a senior majoring in Marketing who is also president of Smeal’s International Business Association. Serkan used the grant to travel to Turkey for an intern position with Red River Foods, a firm that exports dried fruit and nuts all over the world. Headquartered in Richmond, VA, Red River Foods maintains a number of international offices, including the Malatya location in southeastern Turkey where Serkan spent the summer learning about apricots.
“My experience was different than a study abroad program,” Serkan said. “It was an international sales internship that brought me to the largest apricot-producing region in the world. I met with growers and learned their customs for doing business. I developed negotiation skills and learned to adapt to challenging situations. It was almost like a dream. The work I was doing I would never have imagined I could do as an intern.”
“The mentoring and encouragement that Bill provides to Smeal students make a real difference for them,” says Charles H. Whiteman, the John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal. “I know Bill, and he is a free-market capitalist to his core. But he also realizes that philanthropic dollars are an investment in the future that opens even more doors for our undergraduates who want to venture outside their comfort zones for a meaningful work experience in the developing world.”