Rod and Shari Erickson commit additional $1 million to For the Future

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State President Rodney A. Erickson and wife, Shari, have committed to give Penn State $1 million. This gift ushers in the University’s on-campus celebration of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students this weekend and will add to the couple’s previous philanthropy to the campaign. The campaign officially closes on June 30, 2014.

“Rod and Shari Erickson have been dedicated partners throughout For the Future, and we are fortunate to have their additional generosity as this campaign comes to a close,” For the Future Campaign Chair Peter G. Tombros said. “From longtime members of the University community, their gift serves as a meaningful testament to the quality of this institution and its bright future. I am privileged to have worked with a couple so dedicated to Penn State and this campaign.”

The gift will benefit The Arboretum at Penn State, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and the Smeal College of Business. Half of the $1 million gift will endow a future space or program at The Arboretum at Penn State, and the other half will be used to create an Early Career Professorship rotating between the Department of Geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and Department of Management and Organization in the Smeal College of Business where President Erickson holds his faculty appointments. Early Career Professorships are given every three years to a new recipient in the first 10 years of his or her academic career, providing seed money for innovative research projects and flexible funding for new approaches to teaching.

“Shari and I have been fortunate to watch The Arboretum at Penn State grow from just an idea to a thriving destination for our community,” President Erickson said. “We deeply value the contributions our faculty make to Penn State’s mission of teaching, research, and service and want to help promising scholars launch their careers at this University. We felt this gift would be the perfect way to give back to the University community that has given us so much.”

The Ericksons have previously contributed to For the Future by creating the Rod and Shari Erickson Trustee Scholarship in the Schreyer Honors College. The Trustee Matching Scholarship Program maximizes the impact of private giving while directing funds to students as quickly as possible, meeting the urgent need for scholarship support. For Trustee Scholarships created through the end of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students on June 30, 2014, Penn State will provide an annual 10 percent match of the total pledge or gift. This level is an increase from the program’s original match of 5 percent, and it is available only for new endowments of $50,000 or more. The University match, which is approximately double the endowment’s annual spendable income, continues in perpetuity, multiplying the support available for students with financial need.

The Ericksons have been philanthropic to many programs across the University, and their giving to Penn State spans more than three decades. In addition to creating the Erickson Fund in Geography, the couple has contributed to the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, the Four Diamonds Fund, the University Libraries, the Palmer Museum of Art, the Center for the Performing Arts and the Renaissance Fund.

“If any couple understands the quality of a Penn State education, it is the Ericksons,” said Keith Masser, chairman, Penn State Board of Trustees. “They have been active participants in all aspects of the University community since they first arrived at Penn State. As they have seen the University grow during their time here, their gift will provide critical support that will allow Penn State to continue being an exceptional institution for many more decades to come.”

Rodney Erickson is Penn State’s 17th president.  A graduate of the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington, he first joined the Penn State faculty as an assistant professor in 1977. He served as the University’s executive vice president and provost from 1999-2011, and previously as vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School. He has worked as a faculty member and administrative leader to improve the academic excellence of the University and enhance the success of its students. Shari, a University of Iowa alumna, was a social worker in her early career and a State College-area realtor for more than 25 years. She and Rod have been married 44 years, and both are Life Members of the Penn State Alumni Association, which named Rod an Honorary Alumnus in 2010.

For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students is directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The University is engaging Penn State’s alumni and friends as partners in achieving six key objectives: ensuring student access and opportunity, enhancing honors education, enriching the student experience, building faculty strength and capacity, fostering discovery and creativity, and sustaining the University’s tradition of quality. The campaign’s top priority is keeping a Penn State degree affordable for students and families. The For the Future campaign is the most ambitious effort of its kind in Penn State’s history, with the goal of securing $2 billion by 2014.

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Last Updated April 11, 2014