Taking Care of His Alma Mater Now and For the Future
When Stephen Hart '76 was selected as an undergraduate to join Muhlenberg's Cardinal Key Society as a student ambassador, he emulated the role for life. Stephen's devotion to his alma mater is evident through his volunteerism and philanthropy - most of it directed at helping students, which includes establishing an endowed scholarship fund in honor of his parents, Marion and Clinton Hart.
"The reason I want to stay involved with the College is because of the students. Their stories are very inspiring with what they've accomplished, and what they accomplish as alumni coming out of Muhlenberg is pretty amazing too," said Stephen, an attorney who spent 15 years in private practice representing real estate and securities law clients and general corporate practice for hospitals. In 2015, he retired as lead counsel of customer solutions after nearly two decades with Siemens Medical Solutions USA, a high-tech medical equipment manufacturer.
Having served on Muhlenberg's Alumni Board for nine years and as board president from 2015 to 2019, Stephen made many terrific memories interacting with students at campus events and continues to encourage his fellow alums to give back in any way they can.
"I try to remind them how much the College did for them and that it's time to give back to who's behind us," said Stephen, who regularly volunteered at First-Year Student Orientation, the Innovation Challenge student pitch competition and with the Career Center's Muhlenberg Network. "You can be involved by just writing a check, and that's enough, or you can be involved as much as you want. There are so many opportunities."
A first-generation college student, Stephen earned his BA in psychology from Muhlenberg and then a master's in education from Lehigh University in 1978. After teaching second grade for two years, he decided to pursue his career aspiration of becoming a lawyer and earned a juris doctorate from Rutgers University in 1982.
"Muhlenberg gave me the foundation to be successful in whatever career I chose to pursue," said Stephen, who credits the critical thinking, writing and leadership skills that he acquired to his liberal arts education. "I attribute my success to Muhlenberg and I want to give back to students so that they have the same or, frankly, better opportunities."
A member of the Loyalty Society, Stephen's longstanding generosity has supported the College's student-athletes, the Helm Study Abroad Fund and the Emergency Grant Fund. Knowing that he wanted to leave a lasting legacy, he established an endowed scholarship during a time when a scholarship match program was offered by the Board of Trustees, which ultimately helped to raise more than $10 million dollars for the College. Stephen fulfilled his pledge commitment within four years and was thrilled to meet the first recipient of his fund at the January 2020 Scholarship Luncheon.
"When you're meeting the student who's benefiting from your scholarship and hearing their personal story … well, it's just great," he said.
Wanting to do more to help students afford a quality education at Muhlenberg, Stephen created a planned gift establishing that his existing scholarship fund would receive an outright bequest of $75,000 and a portion of his residuary estate.
"If you feel you don't have the money now to commit to something outright, making an estate gift is really easy to do," said Stephen, who became a member of the Circle of 1848 Society by philanthropically supporting the College with a planned gift.
Stephen continues to stay intimately involved with Muhlenberg and the Class of 1976. He served on the reunion planning committee for his 35th reunion, and as co-chair of the planning committee for his 40th and upcoming 45th reunions. He also served as Class Leadership Committee co-chair for his 40th reunion, a role that encourages fundraising and engagement and one he will fulfill again for his 45th. He also volunteers on the comprehensive campaign leadership team and says that every gift to Muhlenberg is important and will make an impact. For his philanthropic dedication to the College, he received the W. Chester Hill '20 Award for Leadership by a Class Fund Chair in 2015 - an award he proudly shares with three other alumni who co-chaired the committee.
Natalie Kulp Hand '78 P'07, assistant vice president of Alumni Affairs and Career Services, has had the pleasure of collaborating with Stephen for a decade. "Whether it is welcoming incoming students and their families on Move-In Day, presenting alumni achievement awards at An Evening of Distinction, serving as the reunion chair for his class, or supporting the College philanthropically, he embodies Muhlenberg's mission as a critical thinker equipped with ethical and civic values who leads a life of leadership and service," she said.