In Memoriam: Donald Devorris, ’56

Don and Nancy Devorris

A Life of Distinction

Don Devorris and his wife, Nancy, at a dinner hosted by Penn State Altoona in celebration of his Distinguished Alumni Award at University Park’s Pegula Ice Arena in 2015.

Donald Devorris, a Penn State alumnus and devoted advocate of Penn State Altoona and the University, passed away September 14, 2017, at the age of 83, after a seven-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his beloved wife of 56 years, Nancy (Scott) Devorris; daughter, Andrea, and her husband, Michael Cohen; son, Philip, and his wife, Colleen; five grandchildren, Allison and Scott Cohen and Max, Claudia, and Felicia Devorris; half-sister, Roz Aaronson, and her husband, Steve; and many friends.

Devorris was preceded in death by his parents, Mike and Rose Devorris; stepmother, Bea Devorris; and mother, Rebecca Chanin. He briefly served in the U.S. Army after earning a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Penn State in 1956.

Devorris’s distinguished record of service to Penn State includes his more than 30-year tenure as a member of Penn State Altoona’s Advisory Board, highlighted by a term as chair. Don and Nancy served on Penn State Altoona’s Grand Destiny Campaign Steering Committee and 60th anniversary organizing committee. In addition, the couple co-chaired Penn State Altoona’s first Renaissance Fund Dinner in 2005 honoring William J. Rossman which raised nearly $100,000, and the Renaissance Fund Dinner honoring Steve and Nancy Sheetz in 2015 which raised more than $615,000.

Don and Nancy have been recognized for their philanthropic support with induction into the Laurel Circle of Mount Nittany Society and the Ivy Circle of Penn State Altoona’s Ivyside Society—the highest level of giving. In 2007, Penn State Altoona’s Downtown Conference Center was renamed the Devorris Downtown Center in recognition of the couple’s $1 million gift commitment.

Devorris worked in New York for three years before returning to Altoona in 1959 to establish Blair Companies. As a young entrepreneur, he took over a small service company, Blair Electric, and quickly grew it to over 200 employees. Blair Companies expanded into real estate development, manufacturing, and construction with offices across the United States and Asia.

Through service on various boards and investment in a variety of commercial enterprises, Devorris has had a considerable impact on the economic vitality of countless communities throughout the United States. He invested his time and resources into hundreds of local real estate and business projects, including Lakemont Park, Sylvan Hills Golf Course, Blair Sign, Blair Fixtures, and Blair Lighting. Devorris dedicated his life to improving the Altoona area hospital system, Penn State Altoona, and downtown Altoona, and worked with the Altoona Blair County Development Corporation to support the business community and secure local jobs.

In 2000, Devorris received the Alumni Fellow Award, the most prestigious award given by the Penn State Alumni Association, and in 2010, he received Penn State Altoona’s Outstanding Alumni Award for his significant professional achievements. Devorris was also a recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award—the highest honor given by Penn State to alumni whose “personal lives, professional achievements, and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater.”

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