UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Amid a national reckoning with questions of race and justice, spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Penn State has made a $10 million commitment to scholarships that will support diversity across the institution. Announced today, June 29, by President Eric J. Barron at a virtual town hall, the University’s commitment will be directed from a pool of resources designated for student support at the beginning of its current fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.” The funds will primarily be used to match new scholarships, created by Penn State alumni and friends with gifts of $25,000 or more, that “enhance our ability to recruit and retain students whose gender, race, ethnic, cultural, and/or national background contribute to the diversity of the student body,” according to the guidelines for the program.
To be known as the Educational Equity Matching Program, the initiative was inspired in part by a challenge issued at Floyd’s June 4 memorial service in Minneapolis by North Central University President Scott Hagan, who asked other institutions around the nation to join his own in creating scholarships in Floyd’s name. Penn State is the largest university to date that has responded to that challenge, endowing the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship in Educational Equity with a $50,000 commitment. The University has also committed an additional $50,000 to the Osaze Olufemi Osagie Memorial Scholarship for Educational Equity, created last year to honor a former Penn State student who died in a March 2019 officer-involved shooting when State College police responded to a mental health warrant.
Barron announced these commitments today and told the online audience that Penn State leaders want to build upon this support and engage the entire University community in creating a more diverse and stronger institution. “I am proud that our University is rising to the challenge and the opportunity presented by this historical moment, when we are all reflecting on our nation’s past and path forward,” said Barron. “The creation of the Educational Equity Matching Program is only one step on our journey to greater equity across our institution and our country, but it represents a promise to our students that we will help them to build a better future. I hope that Penn State’s alumni and friends will join us in that promise and become our partners in supporting the ambitions of students who can change our University and the world.”
The program offers two different matching levels, both requiring $25,000 minimum gifts to endow scholarships that will exist in perpetuity, providing awards to students out of annual income. Barron explained that scholarships awarded by the Office of Educational Equity or other central offices and programs give Penn State the greatest flexibility in meeting student financial need and fostering diversity, equity and inclusion across all colleges and campuses. Gifts that endow these scholarships will receive a 2:1 match from University funds, essentially tripling the impact of donor support.
Gifts that also qualify for this match level include scholarships that expand Penn State’s Bunton-Waller Program, named for the institution’s first female and male Black graduates, and Millennium Scholars Program, created to enhance diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Alumni and friends may prefer to target their support to the college, campus or other Penn State unit with which they feel the greatest personal affinity, and these gifts will receive a 1:1 match.
While gifts below $25,000 will not permanently endow scholarships or receive a match, donors at this lower level may add to the University’s support through gifts to the Floyd and Osagie Memorial Scholarships or create annually funded scholarships with a five-year commitment. Leaders in two Penn State colleges have already stepped forward to create such awards for their students. College of Education Dean Kimberly A. Lawless has funded the annual George Floyd Memorial Scholarship, to be awarded for the next five years to education students with financial need whose backgrounds contribute to the diversity of the college. Penn State Law leaders Dean Hari M. Osofsky and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Jill C. Engle have created a five-year, annually funded scholarship for one or more students, in the second or third year of their programs, who are participating in the Black Law Students Association.
“Every supporter, at every level, can express their commitment to a stronger, more diverse Penn State,” said O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for development and alumni relations. “At this pivotal moment in American history, our gifts will declare that ‘We Are’ stronger together than apart. I hope that Penn Staters — alumni, fans and friends of our institution — will lead the way in providing structural support for diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education and across our nation.”
Further details about the matching program will be available by mid-July, and information about the University’s diversity, equity and inclusion programs can be found at equity.psu.edu. Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for educational equity, said, “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once observed that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ As a higher education leader, Penn State must be a driving force in ending systemic racism and creating a welcoming and inclusive environment on our campuses and beyond. The support we secure through the Educational Equity Matching Program can help us to accelerate progress along the moral arc to justice and encourage our students to be a part of positive change at our institution and in the world.”
To make a gift to scholarships supporting diversity, equity and inclusion at Penn State, visit raise.psu.edu/DEI. 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 hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.