Update: Dr. Steven Spencer ’94 Supports the STEM Challenge

Last month, Girard College put out a call for the community to invest in STEM education by supporting The Henry & Virginia Grabowski STEM Challenge, which will create a state-of-the-art STEM Center and prepare Girard students for the careers of the future.

Steven Spencer ’94, MD, MPH, MBA has answered the call! Dr. Spencer has pledged $50,000 to jump-start the challenge, and is now calling on his fellow alumni to match that total, with at least $10,000 raised by June 30.

Dr. Steven Spencer '94

“In the spirit of the STEM Challenge, I’m asking for all alumni, but especially alumni from the classes of 1990 to 1999, to join me in supporting this critical program, Spencer said. “Join the STEM movement at Girard and help us meet our goal.”

Investing in STEM Education

The Henry & Virginia Grabowski STEM Challenge will stimulate support for the creation of a state-of-the-art STEM Center and accompanying program so that Girard students can see themselves in the careers of the future.

The future of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) at Girard College received a significant boost recently with a $500,000 challenge issued by 1958 alumnus Henry Grabowski, PhD and his wife, Virginia. The STEM Challenge will provide Girard students with the teachers, programs, and equipment they deserve to prepare for careers in health science, engineering, computer science and more.

Over the next 6-12 months, the College will seek to match this generous gift through individual fundraising, government grants, and corporate partnerships. The challenge builds upon the $1 million in RACP funding the College was awarded from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in December 2021.

I benefited from an excellent education in the STEM fields, and I am convinced that STEM education and research will be essential to solving many of our current global issues.

Henry Grabowski '58, Ph.D.

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“I am excited to make this challenge gift to establish a STEM Center at Girard,” Grabowski said. “I benefited from an excellent education in the STEM fields, and I am convinced that STEM education and research will be essential to solving many of our current global issues. I believe it’s important to provide students at Girard the opportunities to gain knowledge and interest in these fields from early grades through high school courses and graduation.”

Dr. Grabowski spent most of his professional life studying the role of innovation in global economic advancement, making significant contributions to the field of biopharmaceuticals throughout his impressive career at Duke University, where he served as Chairman of the Economics Department and was the Director of the Duke Program in Pharmaceuticals and Health Economics.

Dr. Grabowski has been a visiting scholar at the US Department of Health and Human Services and provided expert testimonies for the US Congress in support of incentivizing research for neglected diseases. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics at Lehigh University and a Doctor of Philosophy studying econometrics at Princeton University.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Grabowski has issued this challenge to our community,” said F. Christopher Goins, President. “The investment he and others are making in our students will propel them to achieve at the highest levels. His leadership empowers us to deliver on our commitment to academic excellence.”

The world of science was very different when Henry graduated as Valedictorian of his class in 1958. The space race was just beginning with the launch of Sputnik, and an entire branch of new careers was on the horizon. Henry, with his love of literature, had the imagination to match his academic ability, and spent much of his high school career writing for The Girardian magazine and The Girard News. It’s a skill that would serve him throughout his life, as he contributed many scholarly articles to prominent peer-reviewed journals such as the American Economic Review and the Journal of Health Economics.

Today’s Girardians stand at the precipice of another sea change in scientific advancement, with careers in medical science, robotics and artificial intelligence experiencing rapid growth. It’s likely that many of the jobs that will be available in these fields have yet to be invented. This challenge is not just for today; it’s for the next 20 years.

Planning for a STEM Center at Girard will be informed by faculty and students from all divisions as well as stakeholders and experts from a variety of fields. Curriculum development and faculty recruitment will be as important as equipment inventories and physical site needs. The College has contracted with project management firm Dan Bosin Associates to assess existing science spaces on campus and identify optimal locations for classrooms, makerspaces, and laboratories.

We know that people of color are under-represented in STEM fields. It’s important for our students to see themselves in a wide variety of career paths from an early age.

Raymond Pace, Former High School Principal

Engaging the professional community will also be a key strategy to demonstrate what is possible for our students as they take their knowledge beyond Girard. The greater Philadelphia area has many individuals in academic and corporate institutions that are engaged in STEM activities that can provide support and mentoring to our students.

“We know that people of color are under-represented in STEM fields,” said Raymond Roy-Pace, High School Principal. “And it’s important for our students to see themselves in a wide variety of career paths from an early age. We see a lot of interest in health and medicine right now from our students, because that’s been very visible in their lives, but we want to continue to expand their horizons to all types of professions.”

The Henry & Virginia Grabowski STEM Challenge is a testament to the impact that Girard College had on Henry’s life and career and serves as an inspiration for others to give back as he has.

The College is calling on the Girard community for input and support in the development of this vital academic program. If you or someone you know can lend expertise to this project – from curriculum development, equipment recommendations, or student work opportunities – please fill out our survey and stay connected on our progress.