Skip to Content

Year in Review: Alumna’s gift creates Nancy H. Handel Study Abroad Program

Thursday, December 19, 2019

In both her personal life and career as a finance executive, Nancy Handel (BSIM ’72) has traveled the globe.


“I had the opportunity to make my first trip abroad when I was 17, spending eight weeks in Italy as a Latin scholar through a statewide competition,” Handel says. “It changed my life and exposed me to another culture, another language and another history.”


Now, thanks to her generosity, others will have the same opportunities to open a window to the world.


After nearly 20 years of supporting undergraduates, Handel has committed $3.2 million to create the Nancy H. Handel Study Abroad Program, giving future students a chance for a similar transformative experience.


“Nancy Handel recognizes the inherent benefit to management students in providing enhanced study abroad experiences,” says David Hummels, the Dr. Samuel R. Allen Dean and Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Krannert School. “Her generosity over the years has allowed us to grow our study abroad participation exponentially and create a student culture where study abroad is a part of the conversation.”


Prof. David Schoorman, Krannert’s associate dean for executive education and global programs, says Handel’s latest gift will allow the school to expand its current study abroad opportunities for students and ensure that longer-term plans for new programs will have the necessary financial support.


“We are very grateful to Nancy Handel for her ongoing commitment to expanding our students’ opportunity to enhance cultural awareness, develop leadership skills and promote personal and professional growth through study abroad,” Schoorman says. “We will begin exploring new opportunities in Asia in 2020 and use the funding to offset the higher costs associated with travel to that continent.”


Handel, who also endows a financial aid scholarship, began sharing her passion for the world through the Nancy Handel Study Abroad Scholarship, a gift that has already provided more than 130 study abroad opportunities to Krannert students since 2016. Recipients of the scholarships had the unique opportunity to meet their benefactor in April when Handel visited the Krannert School of Management to share her career journey.


And quite a journey it’s been.


Handel is a corporate executive with experience in some of the most fast-paced and challenging global high-tech markets. As chief financial officer (CFO) for Applied Materials from 2004 to 2007, she earned a spot among the highest-ranking women in the Fortune 500.


During her nearly 22-year career with the company, Handel led financial teams to support the growth of Applied Materials to become a global technology leader with a broad portfolio of innovative equipment, service and software products that make possible virtually every new chip and advanced display in the world.


Handel, who was named one of the “Best CFOs in America” by Institutional Investor magazine in 2006, joined Applied Materials in 1985 and helped it grow from $175 million to more than $9 billion in annual revenues, with 14,000 employees around the world. She held a variety of key financial leadership roles, including two years as CFO, four years as deputy CFO, corporate controller and principal accounting officer, and 13 years as treasurer. 


In an era when increased scrutiny of corporations demands the highest standards of ethics and transparency, Handel set the “tone at the top” for a high integrity management culture and exercised broad responsibility for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Long listed on Fortune’s list of “America’s Most Admired Companies,” Applied Materials was named among the “100 Best Corporate Citizens” by Business Ethics magazine in 2006. Utilizing her skills as a financial executive and corporate governance expert, Handel also served as a director for a number of corporate boards of directors, including Broadcom.


Born in Indiana, Handel credits her plain-spoken style and pragmatic leadership to the Midwestern values with which she was raised and an environment of trust where business could be concluded on a handshake. As a young girl she joined the Brownies and then moved up within the Girl Scouts, serving through high school and building the character and skills for success. 


In her career, Handel translated her scouting commitment to make the world a better place into a focus on the community. As part of her executive responsibilities at Applied Materials, she provided leadership for the company's community affairs organization and global philanthropy program. In addition, Handel made a personal contribution of time and support to civic and nonprofit groups including serving on the board of directors of the Girl Scouts of Santa Clara County and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.


The creation of the Nancy H. Handel Study Abroad Program at the Krannert School comes from her strong belief that people need to experience different ways of life. 


“The world is a small place shared by many diverse communities, and I believe that embracing different perspectives opens a wealth of possibilities,” she says. “We can gain greater appreciation for both the diversity and the similarities through personal exposure to people in other countries and cultures.”


She continues to travel — and learn — to this day.


“My work as a finance executive provided the opportunity to travel to Europe and Asia, and my retirement has allowed me the opportunity to seek out and explore other parts of the world,” Handel says. “I think the concept of a global village has never been truer than it is today.


"The goal of my financial support is to allow more young people to experience our global diversity firsthand. Hearing other languages, seeing, tasting and smelling the unique beauty of another country, listening, learning and appreciating our cultural and historical differences — these are gifts of travel abroad that can transform our world views."


Undergrads like Mary Nicholson are grateful for the opportunities that Handel’s giving brings to their Purdue education. Nicholson, a sophomore majoring in accounting, spent this summer studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, which she describes as “a life-changing experience.”


“Thanks to the Nancy Handel Study Abroad Scholarship, I expanded my cultural knowledge and developed lifelong friendships with other Krannert students I met on the trip,” Nicholson says. “It also lessened the financial burden of a college education, something which my parents and I greatly appreciate. We are truly thankful!”