by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Longtime Dickinson friends Jim Chambers ’78, George Hager ’78 and Doug Pauls ’80 have shared many memories and milestones over the years, from their undergrad days to their work on the college’s board of trustees. So it seems fitting that they entered Dickinson’s Founders’ Society together too.
Chambers and his wife, Niecy; Pauls and wife Terri; and Hager are the newest inductees to the Founders’ Society, honoring dedicated Dickinsonians, parents and friends of the college whose transformative giving to Dickinson totals $1 million or more. Members are commemorated with a plaque, displayed in Old West, alongside commemorations of the college’s founders, and with a celebratory induction ceremony.
For this year’s five honorees, the May 6 induction celebration was all the more joyful because it was shared.
Chambers, Hager and Pauls bonded as undergrads, and they’ve remained in close touch with each other, and with a core group of friends, over the years. After the death of classmate Gary “Pugs” Knechtel, Pauls joined with fellow Dickinsonians to establish a scholarship and foundation in Knechtel’s honor, and he and Hager are loyal supporters of the Pugs Foundation, which helped fund the Durden Athletic Training Center (named for William G. Durden ’71) and a new locker room. All three also champion additional athletics initiatives and programs, including Red Devils basketball and lacrosse, and they are key drivers of the project to protect and renovate the Historic President’s House.
George Hager '78 and the plaque that bears his name. All Founders' Society members are honored with a plaque that's included in a permanent display commemorating the college's history. Photo by Dan Loh.
Each of them became more deeply connected to their alma mater as members of the college’s board of trustees. Chambers and Pauls have served on the board since 2008, and Pauls is the current chair. Chambers continues his involvement with the board as an emeritus trustee. Hager has served on the board since 2012. All three were delighted to see their friend and former fellow board member, John E. Jones III ’77, P’11, take the lead as Dickinson’s new president. Chambers and his wife, Niecy, additionally founded the John Robert Paul Brock Scholarship Fund in 2008 in honor of John Robert Paul Brock, class of 1901, the earliest known African-American graduate of Dickinson College, and the James D. and Niecy A. Chambers Annual Scholarship. In 2021, they made a $1 million gift to Dickinson, deepening their support for scholarships, financial aid and the preservation of historic campus buildings. Hager established the George V. Hager ’78 Scholarship to benefit worthy underrepresented and/or underserved students with demonstrated financial need and the Stephanie Hager DeBoey Fund for cancer research in memory of his beloved niece.
The George V. Hager Program Fund for Health Studies at Dickinson promotes the training of cross-disciplinary, global critical thinkers within the health care profession. Pauls and his wife, Terri, established the DTP ’80 Internship Fund, making internships attainable for students who might otherwise not be able to afford to serve them. The couple supports Dickinson’s Serve the World service projects and hosts Dickinson service-trip groups and student-interns at their home. In 2020, he was awarded Dickinson’s Walter E. Beach Distinguished Alumni Award for Service.
The joint induction celebration began with remarks by Jones.
Honorees Doug Pauls '80 (left) and Jim Chambers '78 (center) pose with President Jones in Old West. Photo by Dan Loh.
“Our inductees have served our college well through their time on the Board of Trustees and through their remarkable philanthropy. Their significant investments in scholarships, internships, academic programs, research, athletics and campus spaces will leave an indelible mark on the Dickinson experience,” Jones said.
Marcus Witherspoon ’20, a former Red Devil football player and current member of the Alumni Council, also spoke about his admiration for the inductees and their ongoing work on behalf of the college. Alan Seretti, assistant athletics director and head men’s basketball coach, took to the podium with three student-athletes and pointed out the ways that alumni support benefits—and inspires—young lives.
“Your continued connection to one another and your dedication to the college models the behavior we wish to see in all of our graduates,” Seretti said.
Claire Simpson ’22, a three-time recipient of the Gary Knechtel Memorial Scholarship, thanked the trio of alumni on behalf of herself and fellow Dickinsonians who have benefited from the honorees’ generosity.
“The plaques in Founders’ Hall are beautiful, but they don't tell the full story of what your philanthropy does for students. To gain a better sense of all you’ve made possible, multiply our stories of discovery, achievement and service by an unknowably large number. That will get you closer,” Simpson said.
Jim '78 and Niecy Chambers. Photo by Dan Loh.
Asked to share a few words during the ceremony, Pauls and Hager spoke about the transformative friendships and professional ties they’ve gained through Dickinson across the decades. Pauls also fondly recalled his late friend, Knechtel, and added that the Dickinson community needs to be “protected, promoted and preserved for future generations.” Hager spoke movingly about a faculty member who connected him with Dickinsonians at top cancer centers, after a member of Hager’s family was diagnosed with the disease.
Chambers noted that Dickinson’s faculty comprise “the heart and soul of the college,” and that the student-athlete experience is fundamental to many students’ undergraduate education. “This college is on a roll, and it’s up to us to keep that going,” he added, sounding a rousing call to action among fellow Dickinsonians, Dickinson parents and friends of the college.
Jones agreed and added that, together and separately, Chambers, Hager and Pauls have built tremendous momentum on that score.
“Because of their investments, more students will be able to attend Dickinson, more students will be able to study abroad, more students will benefit from career exploration through internship opportunities, more students will participate in research projects that could lead to future medical advances—and more graduates will be prepared to change the world,” Jones said. “Their gifts are truly changing lives, and the Dickinson community is grateful.”
Published May 26, 2022