Alumni and friends donate $3 million to honor Liberal Arts dean

April 30, 2012

Penn State President Rodney Erickson has announced that 280 alumni, friends, administrators, faculty and staff have made commitments totaling more than $3 million to honor Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, for her 20 years of leadership in the college. More than 80 percent of the commitments are targeted to graduate education, one of the dean’s top fundraising priorities in the current University-wide fundraising effort, For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students.

Penn State alumnus Gene Chaiken, who led the initiative to honor Welch, said, “My wife, Roz, and I have been active volunteers and lead donors to the college for many years and have seen Susan’s work first hand. I’m so thankful for the many donors that made a gift to this project -- to the best of my knowledge, no college at Penn State had ever raised more than $100,000 in honor of a dean.”

Welch is the longest active dean on the University Park campus and longest sitting female dean in the history of Penn State. She arrived at Penn State in 1991 from the University of Nebraska with the charge to lead the College of the Liberal Arts to national excellence and leadership. Over two decades, Welch has worked closely with University administrators, academic heads and senior faculty to develop and implement effective strategic plans and to focus key resources on programs with great potential. As a result, many of the college’s core programs have risen to the top 10 in their fields, including a number one ranking for the anthropology department.

“For more than two decades, Susan has had a transformative impact on countless teaching and research programs, and her leadership has brought national recognition to Penn State students, faculty, and the entire University," Erickson said.

One of the dean’s top goals has been to raise funds for graduate education as part of the quest for national prominence. Liberal Arts graduate students play a central role in delivering a world-class education to Penn State undergraduate students and in collaborating with top faculty in teaching and research innovations.

The $3 million in commitments is in addition to a $5 million gift that Doug and Julie Rock made in 2010 to endow the dean’s chair in the College of the Liberal Arts, which they also named in honor of Welch.

Chaiken said, “Beyond being a great leader and scholar, Susan has been a committed friend to many of us and has deeply involved everyone in the college’s success in attaining national leadership. On behalf of our fellow alumni and friends, we are thrilled to help create a fitting legacy.”

A video tribute can be seen at online.


  • Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated April 30, 2012