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Smeal College of Business Mourns Alumnus, Philanthropist John Garber

John D. Garber ’40 passed away last month in Palm Desert, Calif. He and his wife, Bette, were significant contributors to the Penn State Smeal College of Business, establishing the John and Bette Garber Venture Capital Center for Penn State Smeal MBA students in 1999.
April 11, 2014

John D. Garber ’40 passed away last month in Palm Desert, Calif. He and his wife, Bette, were significant contributors to the Penn State Smeal College of Business, establishing the John and Bette Garber Venture Capital Center for Penn State Smeal MBA students in 1999.

The Garber Venture Capital Center—part of the college’s Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship—is a $5 million venture fund that supports student-managed private equity investing in early stage technology-based companies.

“The generous contributions to our college from the Garber family have provided our MBA students with an unmatched opportunity, through the Garber Venture Capital Center, that prepares them to think critically about business, investment, and risk,” said Charles H. Whiteman, John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal.

“It is these kinds of opportunities, provided by our dedicated alumni donors, that truly set apart the quality of our programs here at Penn State.”

John Garber completed his degree in chemistry at Penn State in 1940. He then went on to earn a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Illinois, where he met his wife, Bette Cadmus Garber. During the course of his career, Garber worked as a research chemist with companies including Standard Oil Development Co., E.M. Wanderman & Co., Merck & Co., and American Cyanamid Co. He retired in 1978 as corporate manager of industrial research and development for CPC International, Inc., a New Jersey-based company that manufactured food and laundry products.

John and Bette’s $5 million commitment to Smeal in 1999 to establish the Garber Venture Capital Center was at that time the largest gift across the country to a program of this nature. Over the course of his career, John invested in numerous start-up companies and wanted to provide Penn State Smeal MBA students the opportunity to gain experience doing so as well.

Students engage in the venture capital process by enrolling in the Garber Practicum seminar. Entrepreneurs from several prospective investment properties present their business concepts, then students perform due diligence on these firms. Toward the end of the seminar, the student teams present their findings to their peers and vote on which, if any, properties warrant an investment.

“It is these kinds of opportunities, provided by our dedicated alumni donors, that truly set apart the quality of our programs here at Penn State,” said Robert Macy, director of the Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

John is survived by his three children—Douglas A. Garber, Linda J. Francis, and Randall B. Garber—and their families.

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