Erie businessman and philanthropist Joseph J. Prischak has been named an Honorary Alumnus of Penn State. He is one of only four people to receive the prestigious designation this year.
Honorary alumni status recognizes individuals who are not graduates of the university but have made significant contributions to Penn State’s welfare, reputation and prestige. The designation has been awarded fewer than 120 times since its creation in 1973.
Prischak, founder and chairman of The Plastek Group, played an instrumental role in creation of the four-year plastics engineering technology degree program at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. It is one of only four accredited programs in the United States; Penn State Behrend also has the nation’s largest laboratory dedicated to undergraduate plastics education. Based on the success of Penn State Behrend’s plastics engineering technology degree, in 1991 Prischak started an identical program at the University of Bratislava, Slovak Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia).
Prischak and his wife, Isabelle, created two scholarships for Penn State Behrend students, the Joseph and Isabelle Prischak Trustee Scholarship and the Prischak Family Trustee Scholarship. The former gives preference to graduates of Crawford County’s Conneaut Valley High School, Prischak’s alma mater, while the Prischak Family Trustee Scholarship is designated for Plastek Group employees and their children and grandchildren.
Prischak also is the founder of African 6000 International, a nonprofit that drills deep freshwater wells across the African continent.