Lehigh University yesterday announced a $34.2 million gift, the largest in the school's history, from the estate of famed graduate and longtime board of trustees member Donald B. Stabler.

The gift largely will be used to make a Lehigh education available to more students in financial need, university officials said yesterday. The school enrolls 4,756 students.

Stabler, a 1930 graduate of the Bethlehem, Pa., school, made his fortune in the construction industry and real estate development. The largest gift to Lehigh had been $25 million from Peter C. Rossin, Class of 1948, to name the P.C. Rossin School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1998.

"This is a transformational day for our university and for the countless number of students who will benefit in the coming years from this incredible gift," Lehigh president Alice P. Gast said in a statement.

Stabler and his wife, the former Dorothy L. Witwer, funded the Stabler Teaching Award and the Dorothy L. Stabler Tower Room of Iacocca Hall on Lehigh's Mountaintop Campus.

Stabler, who died in 1997, was a member of Lehigh's board for more than 30 years. He earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering at Lehigh, and then a master's in civil engineering in 1932.

Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com

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