Gift to Schreyer Honors College reflects Penn State's lifetime impact

May 18, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- Listen to a conversation with Jerry Polis, and his Penn State connection comes through loud and clear.

"The biggest thing Penn State taught me was how to think, and I believe that’s helped me a lot in life," said Polis, who graduated from the University in 1953 with a B.A. in commerce and has lived in Nevada ever since. Today he's president of Polis Enterprises, a company with diversified real estate, commercial, and business holdings.

"I feel like Penn State was very good to me, and I would like to be able to repay it in a small way," he said.

Repayment came recently in the form of a $1 million commitment from Polis and his wife, Lotty, who also is involved with Polis Enterprises, to establish the Jerry Polis Family Honors Scholarship to benefit students in the Schreyer Honors College. First preference for the awards will go to science and engineering majors.

"I believe the honors college has the opportunity to rank with the Ivy League schools and the top schools in the country," Polis said. "I think it makes people look at Penn State differently, and it raises Penn State’s profile overall."

On a return visit to campus not long ago, he attended a dinner at which several Schreyer Scholars spoke.

"I was incredibly impressed with the quality of the students and what they were doing," he recalled, "They are really motivated. At that point, I felt this was something I would want to support."

The Polis' commitment to the Schreyer College is part of the University-wide capital fund-raising effort, For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. "Enhancing honors education" is one of the campaign’s goals: to ensure that scholarships and programs will provide exceptional students with the opportunity to experience the best honors education in the nation.

Christian M. M. Brady, dean of the Schreyer Honors College, said Polis has quickly emerged as one of the college’s staunchest advocates.

"Jerry has a loyalty to this university that spans more than 50 years," Brady said. "In the past year or so, he and Lotty have gotten to meet many Schreyer Scholars, and they share our students’ excitement about the possibilities for the future. The diversity of our Scholars’ interests reflects Jerry’s various interests and spirit as well. Jerry and Lotty’s support of the college through this scholarship shows that a place like Penn State is well positioned to develop the best young minds to lead us forward."

Visit for more information about the Schreyer Honors College, and to learn more about For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students.

Last Updated January 10, 2014