HARRISBURG – Penn State announced Saturday it blew past the $2 billion goal in a seven-year fundraising campaign that has expanded student scholarships, brought a big-time hockey program to campus and built a new children’s hospital in Hershey.
The university’s “For the Future” effort has generated nearly $2.2 billion with more than two months left in the campaign and despite what has been a rough economy and the negative attention brought by the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
“This is something that our donors get very passionate about, helping our students,” said Peter Tombros, a biotech and pharmaceutical executive who chaired the campaign. “It’s been very important to our history, and it was very important in this campaign.”
More than 600,000 people contributed, which the university believes may be a record. The money has funded more than 91,000 new individual scholarships and awards for nearly 45,000 students. Total pledges for undergraduate scholarships, the top priority, amounted to $519 million.
“Approximately one-third of our student body are first-generation students,” said Rod Kirsch, Penn State’s vice president for development and alumni relations. “Penn State is really a ticket for a better experience and a better life for these students.”
The school added $783 million in donations and pledges to increase its endowment.
The campaign included $65 million to build the new children’s hospital and $102 million to build a new arena and establish a Division I hockey program. It also raised more than $175 million to endow faculty positions and programs and more than $175 million for the school’s various campuses outside the flagship at University Park.
Penn State brought about 1,300 people to campus in recent days to celebrate the end of the effort that began in 2007.
“The key distinction of this campaign is that we really tried to link the power of philanthropy to the student experience,” Kirsch said.
When the campaign started, its honorary chair was Joe Paterno, the school’s legendary head football coach who died in early 2012. Paterno died a few months after the arrests of Sandusky along with two school administrators, accused of a criminal cover-up of complaints about the former assistant football coach. The Washington native Sandusky is currently serving a prison sentence in SCI-Greene for child sexual abuse, while the administrators await trial.
Kirsch said Paterno’s widow Sue served on a couple of fundraising committees during the campaign, and the Paternos have made a number of substantial donations.
Nearly 13,000 faculty and staff contributed about $61 million, and the former and current members of the board of trustees kicked in more than $110 million.
On Friday, outgoing Penn State President Rodney Erickson and his wife Sheri added $1 million, which is earmarked for the school’s arboretum and to support early career faculty.
The school’s previous fundraising push, “A Grand Destiny,” which ran from 1996 to 2003, raised $1.4 billion from 320,000 donors.
Kirsch said another campaign will follow, but the details will have to be determined by the trustees and incoming school president Eric Barron.
“While all of us who worked on the campaign feel very good about it and proud of the accomplishment, the real winners here are our current and future Penn State students,” Kirsch said.