New scholarship memorializes agricultural educator and alumnus

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Much of LeRoy Smeltz's life centered on the field of agricultural education, so it is fitting that a scholarship in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences now bears his name, according to the family members who established it.

Lynn and Joyce Dietrich, of Chambersburg -- Smeltz's son-in-law and daughter -- created the LeRoy C. Smeltz Memorial Trustee Scholarship, which will benefit students in the college with demonstrated financial need. First preference will be given to agricultural and extension education majors.

"'We are ... proud!' is the inscription on his brick in the Alumni Walk (at Penn State's Hintz Family Alumni Center)," the Dietrichs said in a statement. "He gave so much of his life to education, agriculture and the community that 'we are ... proud' to have the legacy of Dr. LeRoy Smeltz continue with deserving Penn State students. In this way, his enduring commitment to education and agriculture will continue to positively influence future generations."

Smeltz was born and died on the Smeltz Family Century Farm near Sacramento, Pennsylvania. Engaged in farming his entire life, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in agricultural education and a doctorate in education, all from Penn State. He taught vocational agriculture for 33 years, all but one at Tri-Valley High School in Hegins.

During his tenure there, he initiated and organized the Tri-Valley Environmental Education Center. This facility now is recognized as a Schuylkill County Tree Farm by the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, and he considered it a special achievement.

Smeltz was active in several professional and community organizations, serving 32 years as president of the Tri-Valley Community Fair Association and five years as executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association. He served the local Rotary as president and chaired its scholarship committee. He was a member Zion Lutheran church in Erdman, where he served in various capacities.

Smeltz received the Honorary Keystone FFA Degree, the Honorary American FFA Degree and the Outstanding Service Award from the National Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association.

Lynn Dietrich also is a Penn State graduate, earning a bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering in 1973. The College of Agricultural Sciences named him an Outstanding Alumnus in 2010 and inducted him into the Armsby Honor Society in 2011. He is director of engineering at Manitowoc Cranes.

LeRoy Smeltz's Penn State legacy continues with Joyce Dietrich's sister, Nancy Hallowell, and her husband, James, as well as the Dietrichs' three children and two of their spouses, all of whom are Penn State alumni. The family notes that even his great grandchildren know the appropriate response to "We are ... ."

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 Dietrichs' 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 October 10, 2014