All with Thee
All Recognition Society Event
December 9, 2020
Molly and I are thrilled to welcome you to this first of its kind event—after a truly first of its kind year.
One of our students said this year was like watching grass grow—which we could all conveniently watch from our home offices. Although this “new normal” was often referred to it as working from home, the reality is more like living at work.
What a year this has been. Certainly, Molly and I have missed seeing all of you on campus—at our annual receptions and dinners, tailgates, and at the events across the Commonwealth. But we also feel incredibly fortunate.
We’re thrilled to be with all of you—members of the Mount Nittany Society, President’s Club, Atherton Society, and Golden Lion Society. If we all tried to fit in our home, it would be so crowded you could never get to the food table—or the bar.
But thanks to technology—and the creative and hardworking development team—we can celebrate the impact of this group with entertainment, inspiring students and alumni, and our sincerest gratitude.
Despite the hardships of this year, Penn State continues to thrive.
Our applications for admission for next year are on pace for an excellent class.
Consider that in early December new baccalaureate applications for Summer/Fall 2021 are being received at close to 5,000 per week, and total nearly 77,000. That’s up by 4,800 or about +7%, compared to the same time last year.
Out-of-state applications are up 13%; Pennsylvania applications are slightly down by less than one percent and international applications are down by 7%. Meanwhile, applications from underrepresented students are up by 9% compared to last year.
Many of you are probably aware that the pandemic disrupted the SAT and ACT testing schedule for high school students, making what is a challenging time in the best of times even more stressful. To ease some of the anxiety, this year we had a test optional admission program, which has exceeded all expectations—half of our applicants applied using that program.
I’m sure you have also been reading about the challenges of a fall semester filled with remote learning and college students who like to socialize.
Honestly, it was with great trepidation that we began this semester with a very strong enrollment, despite the pandemic. In fact, overall enrollment for fall 2020 saw just a 1.8% decline from the previous fall, and some of that can be attributed to the deferred admissions and leaves-of-absence elected by some students. These are students we expect will return as things begin to open up again.
It’s important to recognize that overall, our students outperformed our expectations for keeping the community safe. They wore masks, practiced social distancing, and followed guidelines for get-togethers. Clubs got creative in holding events and meetings online or outside—and THON will be virtual this year. Although we’ll miss the energy in the BJC, I can’t wait to see what the students have planned. I know it will be incredible, potentially reaching even more people around the world.
Our faculty and staff also deserve a shout-out for their hard work in adjusting to Zoom for teaching and meetings. I understand that there have been many guest appearances by children, dogs, cats, and other less common household pets—like fancy rats and a pig—and a very large pig at that.
Meanwhile, our faculty members have continued to build our powerful research enterprise.
This year, we passed the $1 billion mark in our research expenditures for the first time in our history. That’s up over 4% over last year, and things are looking up for the future.
The Association of American Universities has reported that the research university response to the pandemic has built a stronger degree of trust that’s bipartisan.
In addition, the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of interdisciplinary research.
This is a strength for Penn State. We have long been focused on global issues-- energy, water and food security; human health; economic development—as well as national needs such as AI, additive manufacturing, the opioid epidemic and more.
And our donors, volunteers and friends continue to humble us with their generosity and service.
Last month, we celebrated the Penn State Alumni Association as this year’s Renaissance Fund honoree—and we recognized the Association’s 150th year anniversary of bringing together Penn Staters near and far.
Not only was the event the first of its kind—a Renaissance Fund dinner where no dinner was served—but the event raised a record-breaking $1.5 million for Renaissance Fund scholarships that support Penn State students facing financial hardships.
Rich will share some of the other ways your giving has changed the lives of our students and faculty—and in doing so, changed our institution for the better.
Please know that every gift provides critical funding that impacts our credit standing, institutional rankings, ability to compete for outstanding students and faculty, and invest in the innovation that fuels economic development.
The holiday season always offers a wonderful opportunity for us to think about gratitude. What is it that inspires us to give thanks?
Certainly, our family and our granddaughter who always brings us joy and happiness. Molly and I are also grateful for our health, and the health of those we love. And we are grateful for all of you.
Six years ago, when Molly and I returned to Penn State, we were greeted with open arms and open hearts. The Penn State community embraced us and set to work realizing the ambitious agenda I had for our university.
We have achieved a great deal through new initiatives in economic development and entrepreneurship, new paths to incorporate technology into teaching and learning, new ways to address some of today’s most pressing problems, and new strategies for making Penn State more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and welcoming.
I’m very proud of the work we have done together, and I can’t wait to see what we can do in 2021. On behalf of Penn State, Molly and I wish you happy holidays and a very happy new year. And thank you again for all you do to make Penn State such a special place.
Thank you, Dr. and Mrs. Barron. Now I invite you all to sit back, turn up the speakers, and enjoy a performance by Penn State’s Essence of Joy. Tonight, the ensemble will sing Hope, composed by Ysaye M. Barnwell.
Essence of Joy Performance (five minutes)
Bravo! [claps enthusiastically]
Now to share a bit more about the fundraising accomplishments of the past year, I’m pleased to introduce Rich Bundy, vice president of development and alumni relations.
Rich Bundy (ten minutes)
Thank you, Gabriela. And thank you all—not only for joining us tonight, but for standing by this community during one of the most challenging times we have faced as an institution, a nation, and a world.
I’d also like to echo President Barron’s message that this time of incredible challenge has brought new opportunities. The opportunity to gather here tonight as such a large group from places across the country. The opportunity to be at the forefront of important research that is serving our broader community. The opportunity to recommit to the most important aspects of our institutional mission. The opportunity for me to be in an indoor winter wonderland! This is not something I would have anticipated just a few months ago, but here we are.
Last fall, we increased the Greater Penn State campaign goal from $1.6 to $2.1 billion dollars and extended the timeline one year. At the time, we made the decision based on both the breadth of enthusiasm from our supporters and the depth of impact we were making in opening doors, creating transformative experiences, and impacting the world. I was excited by the decision at the time, and I’m still glad that we took that bold and ambitious step for our students and our institution.
Of course, that being said, the year has brought challenges we never imagined: a global pandemic, an economic downturn, mounting unemployment, and the personal stresses placed on each of us as we worried about family and friends, made accommodations for work or childcare, and adjusted to a “new normal” that felt like anything but.
This year has been filled with surprises, with the unexpected—and frequently unwanted—looming around each turn. But one thing that hasn’t changed, one thing that I and my team could rely on each step of the way, was the dedication of this community. In the face of unimaginable pain and sadness, Penn Staters showed up, time and time again. In response to a global pandemic, we have raised $XX for the Student Care and Advocacy Fund that has helped XX students whose educational path was disrupted by the pandemic, and we awarded over $XX million to track how the virus spreads, develop treatments, and create guidelines for public policy. In response to questions about race and equality, we introduced the Educational Equity Matching Program and committed $10 million in University funds to match all gifts made to establish new scholarships that support students of diverse backgrounds. We’ll announce the full amount raised through that program in the new year, but I’m excited to share that it was the fastest we’ve ever completed a matching program and that we released additional University funds to match the enthusiastic support. And through it all, we remained focused on keeping this institution’s commitment to educational opportunity: investing in the Lion’s Pantry and other food insecurity programs that keep students on track to graduate, moving forward with opening our twenty-second innovation hub right here in State College to encourage entrepreneurship and economic development, and closing the fiscal year in June with a record-setting number of gift commitments.
All of that—the strength at which we entered the pandemic, our ability to quickly pivot to online learning and remote work, and the resiliency at which we have continued to deliver a world-class education—is thanks to this group, to our members of the Mount Nittany Society, the President’s Club, the Atherton Society, and the Golden Lion Society.
- Since the Mount Nittany Society was created to celebrate individuals whose cumulative lifetime giving to Penn State has exceeded $250,000, members have established more than 3,400 endowments to support students and programs in perpetuity.
- The President’s Club now boasts more than 5,000 members who give $2,500 or more each year—or, for recent graduates, $1,000 per year—and, last year, gave a collective $62 million to areas across the University.
- Our more than 3,000 members of the Atherton Society help us invest in the future by including Penn State in their wills or other estate plans, often right alongside their closest family and friends. This year, we received several incredibly generous planned gifts. Harold and Arlene Cheatham committed support through their revokable trust to create two endowed funds in the Office of Educational Equity, David Brensigner gifted his home to establish a cancer research endowment in his wife’s memory at Penn State College of Medicine, and Tom and Cindy Hess opened a donor advised fund with Penn State to support future generations of Penn Staters—just to name a few.
- And last, but certainly not least, tonight we are joined by members of the Golden Lion Society, donors who have given every year since graduation or at least four consecutive years. Last year alone, Golden Lions gave over $30 million—and they played a huge role in some of our most successful annual giving challenges, like beating Ohio State in the Tackle Hunger Giving Challenge and setting a new record in community support during [this year’s #GivingTuesday].
Of course, the support you all have offered to our students far exceeds monetary gifts or pledge commitments. Our donors and volunteers also go out of their way to build personal relationships with students and faculty. Before the pandemic, I would hear many stories about Penn Staters opening their homes to student interns who needed help with temporary housing—or just a homecooked meal—and so many of these one-off offers have evolved into mentorships, career opportunities, and life-long friendships. Even in our current, socially distant reality, I have heard about Penn State alums and friends zooming with our students to hear about their current experiences, sending framed photos to THON volunteers to keep them inspired, and otherwise reaching out to make sure our students know that this community still has their back.
Now many of you have heard me speak before, and you know that while the big numbers are snazzy, I prefer to speak about the impact we are making on individual students, their lives, and their futures. Tonight, we have a special video for you that showcases one of those unique stories through the eyes of Apolonia Prout. We started filming this video before the pandemic, so this is also an opportunity to see how the student experience has changed over the past year.
Polly Video (five minutes)
To continue putting faces to numbers, it’s now my honor to introduce one of our generous donors, whose support this year and over many years has contributed to the successes we’ve outlined this evening.
Ramon Guzman is a 2017 graduate of the College of Education. During his undergraduate career, Ramon was a leader on campus, chairing the 2016 Class Gift Campaign, serving as a Lion Ambassador, volunteering with THON, and being recognized as the 2015 Mr. Latino Penn State and a member of the 2016 Homecoming Court. He was also the recipient of several privately funded scholarships and awards, including the Nancy S. and Glenn W. Gamble Trustee Scholarship, the Anne D. and A. Douglas Dunsmore Scholarship, and the Mildred S. Bunton and Calvin H. Waller Undergraduate Fellowships. Following graduation, Ramon entered the world of professional fundraising and now works as an annual fund officer and first-ever digital gift officer at Villanova University. But tonight, Ramon joins us as a Penn State donor and member of the Golden Lion Society.
Please join me in welcoming Ramon.
Ramon Guzman (ten minutes)
Delivers keynote remarks
Thank you, Ramon for sharing your story as both a scholarship recipient and a donor. It’s certainly inspiring for me to hear your perspective, as my own graduation seems to be approaching way too quickly.
With that, I’d like to thank you all, again, for joining us tonight for this special chance to take a pause from our hectic schedules and celebrate good news and shared success. And thank you for allowing me the opportunity to join as your host—this has been a joy and I hope we get the chance to cross paths on campus soon.
To close out our event, we have a special rendition of the Alma Mater performed by members of the Penn State Glee Club. I know you are all muted, but please feel free to sing along.
Alma Mater (five minutes)
Delivers goodbye message on cue cards