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$10 million Degenstein gift for university event center
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$10 million Degenstein gift for university event center

Susquehanna University has been awarded a $10 million grant from the Charles B. Degenstein Foundation to support the expansion of the university’s Charles B. Degenstein Campus Center into a premier event space for the campus community and the central Susquehanna Valley.

“I am so grateful for the partnership and immense generosity that Charles Degenstein and the Charles B. Degenstein Foundation have provided to Susquehanna University today and over the past 45 years,” said University President Jonathan Green.

“As a cornerstone of the university, the Charles B. Degenstein Campus Center provides for a strong future in the university’s commitment to our students and our community, both of which are at the heart of our mission.”

The campus center’s expansion will include adding a multipurpose banquet and event space to be named the Degenstein Event Center.

The event center, which will accommodate 400 to 600 people, will be first and foremost utilized for student, alumni, and campus activities.

The space will be a resource for the broader community and can be contracted for business, nonprofit, and personal use, from meetings and conferences to weddings.

The project will also encompass the renovation of existing smaller meeting and dining rooms and an expansion of the main kitchen to accommodate additional catering needs.

Facility enhancements are set to begin in the summer of 2024.

“Susquehanna University has benefitted from a long and generous relationship with the Degenstein family and the 1994 Charles B. Degenstein Foundation,” said Melissa Komora, vice president for advancement at Susquehanna University. “Through our continued partnership with the foundation, as stewards of Mr. Degenstein’s philanthropy, we look forward to serving the needs of the community and honoring the legacy of Charles Degenstein.”

For more than 41 years, Degenstein Campus Center has been the heart of Susquehanna University and served the community in myriad ways. Thousands of students and community members pass through its doors daily for shared meals, meetings, community gatherings, lectures, theatrical performances, and gallery exhibitions.

Annual usage of the Charles B. Degenstein Campus Center averages 750,000 total students, faculty, staff, and guests — close to 31 million since the center’s opening. Annual visitors to exhibits at the Lore Degenstein Gallery and performances at the Degenstein Center Theater are included in that total. The kitchen currently provides 1 million meals annually for the Susquehanna community and campus events, and more than 1,000 meals are prepared especially for Meals on Wheels.

Charles B. Degenstein was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His father, David Degenstein, was an immigrant from Austria. His mother, Bertha Degenstein, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Charles’ family moved in October 1906 from Atlantic City to Philadelphia, where his father established D. Degenstein & Company, a ladies’ coat and suit manufacturing company.

Mr. Degenstein was educated in the Philadelphia area. He attended James Blaine Public School, Central High School, Philadelphia Industrial Art School, Temple University, and Charles Morris Price School of Advertising, giving him a solid background in business. Education and improvement of life for the poor was always been a serious concern for Charles B. Degenstein.

Following along with his business training, he began his working career at Stern and Company in Philadelphia, with a brief stint at Progress Manufacturing Company in New York City.

During his Philadelphia days, he met Claire Elizabeth “Betty” Weis and her father, Sigmund, who influenced Charles’ life. Following his marriage to Miss Weis, he moved to Sunbury, Pennsylvania, where he entered into employment as an executive at Weis Pure Food Stores, later called Weis Markets, Inc. His business career launched, and he continued in that company’s work as it grew to a most successful chain of supermarkets serving Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia.

His love for and labor in enhancing the quality of education at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania was a crowning achievement.

The establishment of the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna was Mr. Degenstein’s way of helping others achieve success in business. He was chief benefactor of the Lore Degenstein Gallery at Susquehanna University through an endowment he made in honor of his wife.

Charles’ generosity led to capital projects at Susquehanna that included Apfelbaum Hall named after his dear friend and attorney, Sidney Apfelbaum, the studio art building, numerous residence halls, the Charles B. Degenstein Campus Center, the Degenstein Center Theater, the Cunnigham Center for Music and Art and its Stretansky Concert Hall.

He also established or supported program endowments establishing Charlie’s Coffeehouse, the Arlin M. Adams Center for Law and Society, and The Joseph I. and Ellen Weis Goldstein Fund for Jewish Life and Learning.

Photo: University President Jonathan Green

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