Donors, faculty gather to honor endowed professors

October 18, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — About 250 donors, volunteers, faculty and staff gathered Oct. 13 for the inaugural Celebrating Faculty Endowments dinner to showcase the many ways endowed faculty positions elevate the student experience at Penn State. During the evening, Penn State faculty representatives and keynote speaker Dr. David Ho of Rockefeller University highlighted how philanthropy is crucial in expanding their roles as student mentors and leading researchers.

“Tonight is an opportunity for our faculty to spend time with the donors who created their endowments, but above all, it’s an opportunity to say thank you,” said Penn State President Rodney Erickson to open the program. “I’m here to thank everyone who has made the visionary investment in a faculty endowment, and to thank our endowed faculty for making that investment yield such extraordinary returns. Penn State would not be the institution it is today without private support for our researchers and educators.”

The event culminated with the keynote address from Ho, Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 1996. He detailed his work as director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and his relationship with its founding philanthropist, Irene Diamond. The endowed Irene Diamond Professorship he holds at Rockefeller University and financial support from the Diamond Center made possible his groundbreaking discovery of the “AIDS cocktail” treatment, which is responsible for keeping thousands of HIV/AIDS patients alive today.

“Most important is the positive impact Irene's philanthropy has had on the health of people on our planet,” Dr. Ho said. “Irene was more than just a donor; she was a participant. She was a partner. She never missed a board meeting, and she was never hesitant to ask very deep questions about what the scientists were doing. In my view, she is the unsung hero and a very quiet legend.”

Also at the dinner, Penn State donor Arnold Hoffman '57 announced that he and his wife, Bette '58, recently decided to endow the directorship of Penn State’s Child Study Center. In his remarks, Hoffman explained how fulfilling it was for the couple to provide the College of the Liberal Arts with permanent support in 1999 to bring a renowned scholar to Penn State through the Arnold S. and Bette G. Hoffman Professorship in Family Sociology and Demography. The current Hoffman Professor, Paul Amato, and the director of the Child Study Center, Karen Bierman, were present at the event to celebrate the couple’s generosity.

Judy Todd, the P.B. Breneman Chair and Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State, also spoke of the tremendous growth her department has seen thanks to funds provided by her endowed position. The endowment’s namesake, Breneman, was the chairman of that same department for thirty years, and his grandson, Mason Walsh '57, endowed that position in his honor.

“By gathering our faculty and their benefactors, we wanted to highlight what an important investment faculty endowments are to the quality of the education we can provide at the University,” said Rodney P. Kirsch, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations. “By bringing the best scholars and scientists to Penn State, we can create an academic community that allows our students to learn from the leading thinkers in their field. Institutions with faculty endowments have the competitive edge in higher education.”

Guests also saw the debut of "Pushing Frontiers: The Faculty Investment" feature video, profiling the work of three leading Penn State faculty and their students from the Smeal College of Business, the Eberly College of Science and Penn State Hershey Medical Center. To view the video online, visit

Celebrating Faculty Endowments will help build momentum toward the For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, a University-wide effort directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The campaign is engaging 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. For the Future is the most ambitious effort of its kind in Penn State’s history, with the goal of securing $2 billion by 2014.

  • Donor Arnold Hoffman, center, shared dinner with recipients of two of his faculty endowments, Karen Bierman and Paul Amato.

    IMAGE: Andrew Dunheimer

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 23, 2012