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Penn State University getting record amount of donations, despite pandemic


University Park, PA — Even as a global pandemic and a national economic downturn unfold, Penn State’s alumni and friends have continued to support the University at unprecedented levels.

President Eric Barron announced to the Board of Trustees last week that donors committed more than $381,323,670 in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, surpassing the record of $372,555,732 set last year and continuing a three-year streak of record-breaking commitment totals.

“Penn Staters have rallied to the need of our students and our institution with gifts that express their belief in our shared future and our capacity to lead the way out of the present crises,” said Barron. “I know that these are difficult times for many members of the Penn State community, both near and far from our campuses, and that there are many demands upon their attention, energy, and resources. The continuing support we have received is both humbling and inspiring, and we are committed to fulfilling the faith in our institution that is reflected in this year’s fundraising results.”

Barron celebrated the generosity of the Penn State community at the same time he cautioned that these resources will not erase, in any way, the impact of lost revenue and increased costs associated with COVID-19. “More than 99% of the support we receive is designated for specific purposes by donors, and the University honors their vision by using their gifts only for those purposes,” Barron said, adding that endowed funds provide ongoing support. “The restricted use of these funds helps to ensure that the scholarships, programs and opportunities they support will continue to be available for students and faculty far into the future.”

Penn State also achieved the second-highest total in its history for receipts, with $290,309,868 in cash and equivalent gifts over the past year, and the Penn State Alumni Association ended fiscal 2020 with its highest membership number in five years and the third best in its history with a total of 174,697 members. More than 81,000 alumni and friends made their first gift to the University in fiscal year 2020, including more than 6,100 first-time donors who gave in response to the Tackle Hunger and #GivingTuesday challenges last fall. Tackle Hunger pitted Penn State against Ohio State to secure support for each institution’s initiatives to address food insecurity among students. Penn State beat its Big Ten rival, raising $213,183 in support for food pantries. Through its efforts on #GivingTuesday, a nationwide campaign that took place Dec. 3, 2019, the University raised $746,246 for a wide range of needs, from the Penn State Blue Band and club sports to a fund that provides textbooks for undergraduates who can’t afford their own. In total, Penn State received support from nearly 219,000 donors in fiscal year 2020.

“I am delighted that so many members of our community chose to make their first gifts over the past 12 months,” said campaign chair Rick Sokolov. “At a time when many of us are not able to visit Penn State’s campuses and participate in the many activities and opportunities offered, philanthropy is one of the most important ways that we can stay connected to the University. I’m especially inspired by the more than $650,000 raised for the Student Care and Advocacy Emergency Fund, directed to those struggling with the economic impact of COVID-19. Every gift to that fund tells our students that when you are a Penn Stater, there is support for you in hard times.”

The fiscal year 2020 fundraising totals also include gifts that will shape the University long after the COVID-19 crisis has passed. Private donors committed nearly $15.5 million to create a new home for the Palmer Museum of Art that is expected to be another driver of economic and cultural development in Centre County. The A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation invested $15.5 million to create the A. James Clark Scholars Program and support diversity in the College of Engineering. A $5 million gift from alumni Scott and Marcy Tariff has created the Tariff Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility in the Smeal College of Business. Longtime College of the Liberal Arts supporters Gene and Roz Chaiken deepened their commitment and welcomed new Susan Welch Dean Clarence Lang with a gift to enhance their scholarships in the college. Through funding that includes a $6 million grant from the Erie Community Foundation, Penn State Behrend became the academic research and commercialization partner for the Magee-Womens Research Institute, bringing clinical trials and new treatments to female patients in the region.

Thanks to these and other gifts that fueled the year’s record-breaking results, the University remains on track toward the objectives of its current fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.” Last fall, the campaign’s goal was raised from an initial $1.6 billion to $2.1 billion, and the timeline was extended by a year, to now conclude in June 2022. Penn State has already raised a total of $1.467 billion in the campaign and is 70% of the way toward its goal with just over 66% of time elapsed.

“The campaign’s continued momentum, even in the midst of this global crisis, reflects the commitment of our alumni and friends to its vision of Penn State as a higher education leader,” said O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for development and alumni relations. “Our land-grant mission to serve the greater good has never had more meaning or more urgency, and philanthropy will be essential to fulfilling that mission. Over the past year, our supporters have helped us to both meet the challenges of the present moment and set in motion our vision for a brighter future. Penn State is profoundly grateful for every gift, at every level, that helps us to become an even stronger and more resilient institution.”

“A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence” is 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 for committed 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.