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A Unique Gift

People often remember Swarthmore in their estate plans, but donors almost always have some connection to the College. Not so with the late Philip Block: Although he had no formal association, the retired electrical engineer left Swarthmore more than $300,000 in his will.

What inspired this commitment? Research conducted on fuel-cell technology by Alex Bell ’09 and Andres Pacheco ’09 when they were seniors at Swarthmore. After learning about their work on a fuel-cell website, Block wrote them saying he and his wife “were convinced that the school is turning out some very capable engineers” and concluding that leaving a bequest to Swarthmore would be “a wise investment.” 

Block noted that he’d been a student and advocate of fuel cells for more than 40 years. He wrote to Bell and Pacheco, saying that he considered the fuel cell “the biggest advance in power generation since Thomas Edison turned on his station in 1882 on Pearl Street in New York City.”

Pacheco and Bell presented their gift-inspiring research at the June 2009 conference of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. These days, Bell works in New York City as the founder and CEO of Signal360 Inc., a software and hardware technology startup that provides marketing and analytics systems to retailers, sports teams, and hospitality. When in San Francisco, he makes sure to call on Pacheco, who now works at Tesla Motors as a business development manager focused on utility-scale energy storage solutions. His career in the renewable energy industry has included stops at Recurrent Energy, a San Francisco-based solar project developer, and E3, an energy consulting company.