Chapel family commits inaugural funding for Paterno Fellows program

November 24, 2008

University Park, Pa. — With a commitment of $1 million, Penn State alumna Virginia Chapel and her husband, John Chapel, have endowed the first scholarship to be awarded to students participating in the Paterno Liberal Arts Undergraduate Fellows Program in the College of the Liberal Arts.

The Virginia Todd Chapel Student Enhancement Fund will assist Paterno Fellows by defraying costs associated with pursuing internships and/or capstone experiences. The fund will begin to support students in fall semester of 2009, with preference given to students majoring in English or participating in the college's business minor.

The Paterno Liberal Arts Undergraduate Fellows Program, established earlier this year, was named to honor Nittany Lions Head Football Coach Joe Paterno and his wife, Sue, both of whom hold baccalaureate degrees in the liberal arts. The fund aims to challenge liberal arts students who want to maximize their potential by engaging in rigorous academic and co-curricular experiences that will enhance their education at Penn State.

To be eligible to become Paterno Fellows, students should maintain a minimum grade point average and engage in such academic pursuits as taking a second major, earning a certificate in communications excellence, or participating in out-of-classroom experiences such as study abroad, an internship or community service. Paterno Fellows also will be accepted into the University's Schreyer Honors College.

Virginia "Jinnie" Chapel, a 1965 graduate of Penn State, where she was an English major and merit scholar, recently retired from the management consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton. She said her awareness of the value of enabling ambitious students to maximize what they take away from their undergraduate education led her and her husband to make their million-dollar gift.

"We have enormous respect for Sue and Joe Paterno's extraordinary leadership at Penn State and in the College of the Liberal Arts," she said, "and we're pleased to support an initiative that challenges students to achieve the kind of personal and academic excellence that the Paternos hope all students will strive for."

John Chapel is an entrepreneur and founder of the Virginia-based consulting firm, AVIEL Systems.

"Both Jinnie and I worked hard to support ourselves in college and that tradition continued through our careers," he said. "Before I graduated, my own college career had to be interrupted several times, working to earn enough money to afford another semester. We know how alleviating some of the cost issues can help those students who are trying to help themselves."

Susan Welch, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, sees the Paterno Fellows program as a win-win for the University and students.

"Affordability for higher education has been an issue for quite some time, but recent economic events have made it ever more urgent," she said. "Through Jinnie and John's generosity, high-potential students will have the same sort of broad-based yet deep set of experiences in the Paterno Fellows program as students enrolled at costly private institutions. The fact that we will be able to provide these experiences and financial support to the students who engage in them is exciting. We are grateful to the Chapels for this wonderful leadership gift."

Visit for more information about the Paterno Liberal Arts Undergraduate Fellows Program.


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Last Updated January 10, 2014