Penn State University: Campaign surpasses goal, raises $2.166 billion to create ‘A Greater Penn State’

Top Penn State donors and leaders, along with students and faculty who have benefited from philanthropic support, gathered in the Bryce Jordan Center on the evening of Friday, April 22, to celebrate the success achieved by the University’s current fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.”

After an hourlong live show featuring voices from the Penn State community and performances by students from the musical theatre program, the Blue Band and Essence of Joy, President Eric J. Barron announced that the six-year effort had surpassed its goal and raised $2,166,032,798 toward the three imperatives that Barron defined as the top priorities of a modern land-grant institution. Penn State is now one of only 15 universities nationwide to have raised more than $1 billion in three or more campaigns.

“Opening the doors of higher education and helping students to graduate on time and on track to success, creating the transformative experiences that help Penn Staters to become leaders, and impacting the world through research, outreach and service to communities close to home and around the globe — this is what it means to be a truly great public university,” said Barron. “As I prepare to step down from my role as president, I am profoundly grateful for the support we have received and for the belief of our alumni and friends in Penn State’s potential for leadership. The success of this campaign has given President-elect Neeli Bendapudi vital resources to take the University to even higher levels, to make us ‘A Greater Penn State.’”

Bendapudi was among the more than 1,440 guests at the event, which highlighted the impact of philanthropic support received since the campaign began in 2016. Board of Trustees Chair Matthew W. Schuyler noted, “The campaign’s success in reaching its goal is all the more impressive given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Penn State fighting spirit has never served us better than over the last few years. The University broke institutional records in four of the six years of this campaign, and we achieved six of our eight best fundraising years of all time. Our history and our future as a higher education leader demanded that we succeed in this effort, and through their gifts, the University’s alumni and friends are helping our students and our institution to thrive.”

Over the course of the event, speakers and videos highlighted landmark gifts, matching programs and other fundraising milestones that contributed to the $2.166 billion total:

Eight-figure gifts to name the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and the Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing.
An eight-figure commitment from Gene and Roz Chaiken to grow their scholarship support in the College of the Liberal Arts, making them the largest scholarship donors in the history of the University.
Support for programs intended to create a more diverse and inclusive Penn State community, including a $15.5 million gift to establish the A. James Clark Scholars Program in the College of Engineering and almost $11 million from donors, matched by more than $13 million in University funds, to endow Educational Equity Scholarships.
Gifts to name top academic programs and positions, including the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering, the Peter and Ann Tombros Dean’s Chair in the College of Agricultural Sciences, the Michael J. and Aimee Rusinko Kakos Dean’s Chair in the College of Arts and Architecture, and the John Leone Dean’s Chair in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
Scholarship gifts and matching funds that have created $93.3 million in endowed support for students in the Open Doors programs, designed to help undergraduates overcome challenges on the path to their Penn State degrees.
More than $25 million in support for the Invent Penn State initiative and other programs that encourage entrepreneurship and economic development across the commonwealth, matched 1:1 with University funds.
Support that has launched the construction of the new Palmer Museum of Art at the Arboretum at Penn State, expected to be a destination for thousands of students, families and visitors each year and to serve as a home for the nearly $15 million in new art committed to Penn State during the campaign.
Gifts from Dr. Keiko Miwa Ross, totaling more than $15 million, to name, create and transform spaces across the University, including support for the new Palmer Museum of Art, the Arboretum at Penn State, WPSU, the University Libraries and more.
More than $160.4 million raised for children’s health by Children’s Miracle Network, Four Diamonds and THON, and through gifts made directly to Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.
A $25 million commitment from Highmark for research and care at Penn State Cancer Institute.
Support for enhancing the student-athlete and fan experience through improved facilities, including nearly $41 million raised for the Football Excellence Fund; $7.5 million to create a new field hockey stadium; $5.5 million for Panzer Stadium, used by the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams; $3.5 million for men’s and women’s basketball facilities; and $2 million for the Morgan Academic Center.
Support from the campaign’s volunteers, including a commitment from campaign chair Rick Sokolov to name the Sokolov-Miller Family Financial and Life Skills Center.
Efforts that brought together donors at every level to support students in need, such as the Tackle Hunger and One Big Week challenges with Big Ten peers, the Student Care & Advocacy Student Emergency Fund, GivingTuesday, and the Returning Seniors Fund for student-athletes whose collegiate careers were cut short by the pandemic.
“The impact of this campaign will be felt widely and deeply for many decades to come,” said O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for development and alumni relations. “At colleges across the University and campuses across the commonwealth, Penn State supporters are ensuring that our ambition as an institution — to serve and to lead, to set a new standard for higher education — matches the ambition of our students. We have received support from nearly 684,000 donors since the campaign began, and each of those donors is committed to making our institution greater.”

The event also celebrated the contributions of Penn State’s fundraising volunteers to the campaign’s success. Campaign chair Rick Sokolov offered his thanks to the more than 700 alumni and community leaders who have served over the last six years. “Our volunteers have not only offered tremendous time and talent to ‘A Greater Penn State,’” said Sokolov. “They have also set a powerful example with their own giving, as have the Board of Trustees, the University’s academic deans and chancellors, and Eric and Molly Barron themselves. These demonstrated efforts underscored the importance of achieving success in this campaign and further ensured the ongoing commitment of the entire Penn State community to ‘A Greater Penn State.’”

The event marked one of the final public appearances by Eric and Molly Barron before the president’s official retirement on May 8. The program included a medley of the couple’s favorite songs, performed by students from Penn State musical theatre program under the direction of program head John Simpkins. Onstage and behind the scenes, more than 200 students and 17 faculty were involved in the live show, which was led by School of Theatre Director Rick Lombardo, and video components of the event were created in partnership with WPSU, the College of Arts and Architecture, and the Center for Immersive Experiences.

While the April 22 event marked the official public celebration of “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” gifts made before June 30 will be counted toward the campaign’s final total. “We have the opportunity not only to break every past record for philanthropy to the University, but also to secure support now that will fuel Penn State’s continued rise through the top ranks of global institutions,” said Bundy. “Across higher education, philanthropy is increasingly the margin between excellence and greatness, and the support of Penn Staters is essential to becoming ‘A Greater Penn State.’”

Additional gifts will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: Keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship.

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