Alumnus and longtime donor supports football, theatre with $2 million gift

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State alumnus and longtime donor John Leone has committed to give Penn State $2 million for Intercollegiate Athletics and the College of Arts and Architecture. The gift will provide $1.5 million to name the John and Willie Leone Family Strength and Conditioning Center in the Lasch Football Building as part of the Football Excellence Fund and $500,000 to increase the Willie Leone Endowed Scholarship Fund in Music Theatre.

The John and Willie Leone Family Strength and Conditioning Center will provide funding for the Penn State football program under Head Coach James Franklin in his first season at Penn State. The strength and conditioning facility will be officially named in honor of the gift.

“The Leone family have been longtime partners with Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics, and John’s recent generosity will ensure our football program can continue to compete with the top programs in the nation,” said Dave Joyner, director of athletics. “His gift provides a significant vote of confidence in Coach Franklin and his staff and will ensure they have the resources necessary to create a well-rounded program for our football student-athletes.”

“Penn State fans are legendary for their passion, and John Leone has always been one of the most dedicated supporters of our football program,” Franklin said. “John knows what it takes to build a nationally respected team and to provide our student-athletes with the proper training. I am very grateful to John for his visionary support of our program and our coaching staff.”

The Willie Leone Endowed Scholarship Fund in Music Theatre was created in 1998 for students majoring in Musical Theatre who are particularly talented in the area of dance. Leone’s recent gift will add to the endowment.

“John and Willie Leone have been tremendously generous to our Musical Theatre students, both through their philanthropy as well as their personal support of our program and its students over the years,” said Barbara Korner, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture. “John’s additional gift will help so many more students to pursue their dreams and remind future generations of Mrs. Leone’s passion and devotion to the art of musical theatre.”

John Leone is president and chief executive officer of Bonney Forge, with manufacturing operations in Mount Union, Pa.; Houston, Texas; Shanghai, China; and Bergamo, Italy. Bonney Forge, founded in 1876, is an industry leader in manufacturing and marketing forged steel fittings and unions, branch connections, forged steel valves, cast steel valves and specialty engineered products for the energy industries.

“Whether you’re in athletics, academics, or business, the key to success is preparation,” Leone said, “and I want to be part of the Coach Franklin’s vision for the program, which emphasizes preparation. We wanted to make a gift that would allow his plans to take a significant step forward.

“I also wanted to add to Willie’s scholarship in Musical Theatre to build on the foundation she started and ensure the program would benefit many more students like the ones she adored. With her passing, I thought it was a meaningful way to honor her and show our gratitude to Penn State.”

Leone graduated in 1956 from Penn State's petroleum and natural gas engineering program and earned a master of business administration degree from Northern Illinois University in 1976. He is a life member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a Pipe Valves and Fittings Industry Hall of Fame honoree. At Penn State, he was named an Earth and Mineral Sciences Centennial Fellow in 1996, a recipient of the C. Drew Stahl Distinguished Achievement Award in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering in 2006, and a Penn State Alumni Fellow in 2008. The Leones have also supported the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences with the naming of the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering. Willie Leone, a former professional ice skater, passed away in 2013.

The Leones have a long history of supporting Penn State, dating from their first gift to the University in 1984. Their philanthropy includes gifts for undergraduate scholarships in petroleum and natural gas engineering, theatre and dance and Penn State athletics.

The John and Willie Leone Family Strength and Conditioning Center and the addition to the Willie Leone Endowed Scholarship Fund in Music Theatre will support For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. This effort 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.

Media Contacts: 

Ken Cutler

Director of Development, Nittany Lion Club

Last Updated June 03, 2014