Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Stabler Foundation gives $2.5 million to Lehigh's STEPS initiative

Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler

Lehigh University has received a $2.5 million gift from the Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation in support of the university’s STEPS initiative.

One of Lehigh’s most ardent supporters, businessman Donald Stabler ’30 dedicated much of his life to leadership and service. The generous gift will enable Lehigh to further his legacy of service by addressing crucial areas of environmental and societal need.

The new STEPS initiative will create a collaborative, multidisciplinary platform providing extraordinary opportunities for undergraduate and graduate education, as well as world-class research in the areas of science, technology, environment, policy and society.

The Stabler gift will help enable Lehigh to construct its first science facility since 1975—the 135,000-square-foot STEPS facility located at the corner of Packer Avenue and Vine Street on Lehigh’s Asa Packer campus.

A wing of the STEPS facility will be named in honor of the Stablers, and will showcase collaborative learning spaces, a common area eliminating boundaries between classrooms and labs, and a 75-seat auditorium. This intellectual setting will foster teaching opportunities, spark breakthroughs in environmental research and offer problem-solvers the resources needed to answer today’s global challenges.

“We are so pleased to have the Stabler Foundation’s support of this important project,” said Lehigh President Alice P. Gast. “Donald Stabler was a visionary who believed in meeting the challenges of the moment through hard work and dedication. These attributes will be the hallmark of our STEPS initiative.”

Tackling global challenges

The university broke ground on the facility in the summer of 2008 and is slated to open in fall 2010. The new facility aims to achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified rating, certifying it as environmentally friendly and sustainable.

“Now is the time when, more than ever, we need to meet the challenges of the world and contribute real value to real problems such as energy, environment, infrastructure and resources,” Gast said. “The STEPS initiative will enable Lehigh to do that.

“As a nation and as a world, we must focus our attention on solving the fundamental problems of our planet—pollution, climate change, disease and hunger. Lehigh is very strong in this type of work and we are confident that with the support of the Stabler gift, and others, the STEPS initiative will ensure even greater contributions in the future.”

Donald Stabler has been a devoted Lehigh alumnus. Last spring, Lehigh received the largest gift in university history, $34.2 million, from the estate of Donald Stabler in support of the Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Endowed Scholarship Fund—to provide generations of Stabler Scholars the opportunity to attend Lehigh, regardless of their financial circumstances.

An artist's rendering of the STEPS building.

A statement released on behalf of the Foundation’s trustees said, “The Stabler Foundation is very pleased to support the important work that will take place in the STEPS building and across the campus. Undoubtedly, many Stabler Scholars will benefit from this new science facility and we are pleased to help make it happen.”

Donald Stabler was a member of the Lehigh University Board of Trustees for more than 30 years, serving as a corporate member and as a chairman of the Development Committee. During his two-year term as president of Lehigh’s alumni association, he traveled almost 20,000 miles to visit 30 alumni clubs. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1930 and a master’s in civil engineering in 1932, both from Lehigh.

In 1940, with just $1,300 in savings, he founded the Stabler Construction Company in Harrisburg, Pa. The company grew into Stabler Companies Inc., which included 13 subsidiaries involved in businesses such as highway construction; quarrying of stone, sand, and gravel; bituminous concrete manufacturing; the manufacture, sale, and servicing of highway safety equipment; and real estate development.

He served as chairman of the board of Stabler Companies Inc. until his death on Dec. 30, 1997. On his death, his wife Dorothy became a vice president and director of Stabler Companies Inc. and its subsidiaries. She passed away in February 2005.

In addition to the support of STEPS and the Stabler Endowed Scholarship Fund, the Stablers funded the Stabler Teaching Award and the Dorothy L. Stabler Tower Room of Iacocca Hall on Lehigh’s Mountaintop Campus. They were also the lead donors to the Stabler Athletic and Convocation Center, dedicated in December 1979. The facility, one of the largest of its kind in the East when it was built, provides a venue for athletic events, graduations, reunions, and entertainment for both Lehigh University and residents of the Lehigh Valley.

More information on Lehigh’s STEPS initiative can be found at www.lehigh.edu/steps.

--Duffy Ross

Posted on Monday, March 23, 2009

share this story: