John and Elizabeth Surma endow Smeal dean's chair with $5 million gift

April 28, 2010

University Park, Pa. -- John and Elizabeth "Becky" Surma have committed $5 million to endow the Elizabeth L. and John P. Surma Jr. Dean’s Chair in the Penn State Smeal College of Business.

John Surma is chairman and chief executive officer of United States Steel Corp. and vice chairman of Penn State's Board of Trustees. Both John and Becky Surma are Penn State alumni, having graduated in 1976 from Smeal and in 1977 from the College of Health and Human Development, respectively.

The Smeal Dean’s Chair endowment will provide Dean James B. Thomas and future deans with funds to benefit students by creating new scholarships, fellowships, and other educational opportunities. Among many potential uses, the endowment will strengthen existing programs and can be used to launch new research centers and institutes. It will help to provide faculty with research and professional development grants, and also can be used to attract top researchers and educators to Smeal.

“John and Becky have always been tremendously generous toward Smeal and Penn State, and this gift is yet another example of their commitment to the University and our students,” said Thomas. “Their gift will have a wide and lasting impact on the success of the college by providing new opportunities for our students while ensuring that they are learning from the best business faculty. We're extremely grateful for their generosity and proud to have them among the college’s most committed alumni and friends.”

The Surmas have a long history of supporting Penn State. Their philanthropy includes gifts for the construction of Smeal’s Business Building, the establishment of the John and Elizabeth Surma Enrichment Scholarship for Smeal, and annual unrestricted support to both Smeal and the College of Health and Human Development.

In addition to his role as a University Trustee, John Surma is a member of the Smeal Board of Visitors and the advisory board of the Presidential Leadership Academy, which aims to develop critical thinking skills among select undergraduates. In 2006, the Penn State Alumni Association named him an Alumni Fellow, and in 2005 he was named Smeal’s Outstanding Accounting Alumnus of the Year.

A native of Pittsburgh, John Surma became vice chairman and chief financial officer of U.S. Steel on Jan. 1, 2002. He was named president in March 2003, and president and chief operating officer in June 2003. In 2004, he was elected president and CEO, and in 2006 he was named chairman and CEO.

Prior to joining U.S. Steel, John Surma served at Marathon Oil Corp. in a variety of leadership positions, including as president of Marathon Ashland Petroleum and president of Speedway SuperAmerica. Prior to joining Marathon, he served as Pittsburgh office leader for Audit and Business Advisory Services and as national co-leader of the Products Advisory Group of Price Waterhouse.

Becky serves as chair of Baptist Homes Society, a Pittsburgh-area nonprofit continuing care community serving adults of all faiths who require assistance because of age, illness, or disability. In addition to her bachelor’s degree from Penn State, she holds a master of public health from the University of Pittsburgh.

The Surma Dean’s Chair endowment is a part of a University-wide fundraising initiative, For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, which officially kicked off on April 23. The campaign 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 education accessible 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.

  • Becky and John Surma

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010