Mortensen Trustee Scholarship promotes experiential learning

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- As a Penn State faculty member and administrator, James Mortensen was a firm believer in experiential learning. Now, he and his wife, Sharon, have endowed a new scholarship for students with financial need in the College of Agricultural Sciences that reflects that belief.

With a gift of $50,000, the Mortensens, of State College, created the James H. and Sharon Mortensen Trustee Scholarship. First preference for funds will go to students who have completed a for-credit internship.

"During our combined 50-plus years of experience at Penn State, we found the greatest pleasure watching students following their dreams and enriching their learning environment through valuable real-world experiences," the Mortensens said in a statement. "We stay in touch with many former students and take pride in these graduates' professional accomplishments and successes."

James Mortensen retired in 2004 as associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Agricultural Sciences, a post he had held since 1987. He joined the Penn State faculty in the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education in 1971 before becoming assistant dean for resident education in 1985.

Mortensen earned a bachelor's degree from North Dakota State University, a master's degree from Colorado State University and a doctorate from Penn State in agricultural education. He taught agriculture and science in North Dakota public schools from 1964 to 1969.

As a student, he was a member of Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Delta Kappa, Alpha Tau Alpha and Gamma Sigma Delta. In 2005, he was elected to the College of Agricultural Sciences' Armsby Honor Society.

Sharon Mortensen is retired from Penn State, where she held positions in student affairs and was director of the Center for Ethics and Religious Affairs. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Valley City State University, Valley City, North Dakota, with majors in math and physical education and a minor in library science. She received a master's degree in higher education/student personnel from Colorado State University.

The Mortensens have three grown children.

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 during the final phase of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, which concluded on June 30, Penn State will provide an annual 10 percent match of the total pledge or gift.

With the conclusion of the campaign, Penn State is now providing an annual 5 percent match for new endowments of $100,000 or more. Both University match levels continue in perpetuity, multiplying the support available for students with financial need.

The Mortensens' gift helped the College of Agricultural Sciences to achieve the goals of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, which raised a total of $2.188 billion for Penn State students, faculty, staff, and alumni. This University-wide effort was directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The campaign's top priority was keeping a Penn State degree affordable for students and families.

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Last Updated September 29, 2014