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Gift will boost student entrepreneurship

Joan F. and John M. Thalheimer '55

John M. Thalheimer '55 credits Lehigh with setting him on the path to success. Now, he wants to give other students the same opportunities by establishing, along with his wife, Joan, an endowed program fund for entrepreneurship.

Thalheimer says he came to Lehigh as "a shy, sheltered, immigrant and only child," and emerged as someone who "was well prepared for the business and social world.

"Lehigh taught me to cope with the challenges I encountered and helped me mature and become successful in life," Thalheimer says. "When [President] Greg Farrington suggested I sponsor the entrepreneurial program, I felt this would be my opportunity to encourage young students to develop new ideas into meaningful business endeavors."

The Joan F. and John M. Thalheimer '55 Entrepreneurship Ventures Endowed Program Fund will support Lehigh's entrepreneurial ventures program by awarding grants to the winners of the annual Student Entrepreneurs Competition. The fund will also support entrepreneurship teaching and program expenditures, at the discretion of the dean of the College of Business and Economics.

"The Thalheimers' gift will fuel the ventures and the creative spirit of future Lehigh entrepreneurs, giving them the resources to transform their innovative ideas into the real products and services that will serve us in the future," Farrington says. "Lehigh is enormously grateful for their foresight and generosity."

First winners recognized

The Joan F. and John M. Thalheimer '55 Student Entrepreneurs Competition is designed to promote a practical knowledge, understanding, and enthusiasm for all aspects of entrepreneurial undertaking and to promote a creative entrepreneurial spirit on the part of students in the College of Business and Economics. Grants range from $2,000 to $5,000 and may be used to develop an entrepreneurial idea within the program.

The Thalheimers' gift was announced by Thomas Hyclak, interim dean of the College of Business and Economics, at the inaugural Next STEP (Success Through Entrepreneurship in Pennsylvania) Awards Luncheon at Lehigh on Jan. 19. The event was hosted by Southside Bethlehem KIZ (Keystone Innovation Zone) and the Lehigh University Entrepreneurs Network. LU Entrepreneurs Network includes IPD, IBE, and Entrepreneurship program faculty, local and alumni entrepreneurs, and 2002-06 Student Entrepreneurs Competition winners. The event recognizes outstanding achievement by those students, start-up companies, and entrepreneurs who have most embodied and promoted the missions of the organizations.

The 2006 Joan F. and John M. Thalheimer '55 Student Entrepreneurs Competition winners are:

• Grand Prize Winner: Interactive Tube/Viddler -- Robert Sandie '06, Richard Reppert '07, Greg Gurevich '06, and Donna DeMarco '06G

• IBE Division Winner: Psyleron -- John Valentino '07

• IPD Division Winner: Baxter Audio -- Eric Winokur '06, and Chris Wojciechowski '06

• IPD Division Winner: South Mountain Design -- Robert Guzzon '06, Richard Kurz '04, '06G and Bradley Woodward '06

• Social Entrepreneurship Division Winner: Soccer without Borders -- Ben Gucciardi '07G, Kyle Hartman '06, and Justin McLennan '06G

• Technology Based Service Division Winner: BidGrid -- Brian Popek '08

• Technology Based Service Division Winner: Orion Securities -- Nicholas Baptiste '07, Brad Bartkowski '06, Nick Nickitas '07.

Generous supporters of Lehigh

A member of the Class of 1955, John Thalheimer earned a bachelor's degree in metallurgy and materials engineering. While at Lehigh, he was president of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity and an active member of the Hillel Society.

Thalheimer is the first member of his family to earn a college degree. His father, Gus, along with uncles Max and Martin, emigrated from Germany to Philadelphia and founded Thalheimer Brothers, a family scrap metal business, in 1939. John was one of the few employees of the business, to which he returned after graduation from Lehigh.

Joan Thalheimer is a graduate of Tufts University, where she was an English major. She serves as a Park House Guide through the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Thalheimers have two daughters, Gwen and Emily, and five grandchildren. They reside in Rydal, Pa.

The Thalheimers have generously supported Lehigh University in many ways over many years, including the Lehigh Fund, Challenge Scholarship Program, Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, the Zoellner Arts Center, and the College of Business and Economics' Financial Services Laboratory endowment for their Class of 1955 Reunion Gift. They are members of Lehigh's Tower Society and the Asa Packer Society. John Thalheimer has been a volunteer with the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science Advisory Board, his Reunion Committee, and the National Leadership Committee, which served the university during its last campaign.

The Thalheimers' gift is part of Shine Forever: The Campaign for Lehigh, a $500 million campaign to raise funds for endowment for faculty chairs, undergraduate scholarships, academic programs, and student life and athletics, in order to win the finest students and faculty and enhance the reputation of the university. With the help of its dedicated alumni and friends, Lehigh will reach its goal of $500 million within the next five years.

--Joanne C. Anderson

Posted on Friday, January 20, 2006

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