New Kensington donors feted and thanked at end-of-campaign celebration

June 10, 2014

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. -- Giving back to donors via an informal and entertaining evening of catered food and refreshments, Penn State New Kensington honored its campaign supporters May 23 with a campaign-closing celebration in the campus Conference Center.

"The Wait is Over...the Future Starts Now" was the theme of the celebration of achievement and opportunity. The event served as a thank-you to contributors to New Kensington’s seven-year campaign that has so far raised $3.86 million, nearly 130 percent of the original goal of $3 million.

The New Kensington campaign is part of Penn State's University-wide $2 billion fundraising effort, "For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students,” which also exceeded its goal, raising $2.1 billion since 2007. The "For the Future" campaign officially ends on June 30. The final tallies for the campus and the University will be available in July.

In the beginning, the goal seemed to be at the high end of the campus’ wherewithal. Administrators and volunteers were cautiously optimistic of reaching the number. During the previous Penn State campaign, "A Grand Destiny," 1997-2003, New Kensington’s goal was a more modest $1.8 million.

“To say the least, the campaign was challenging, but given the team that we assembled I also thought that it would certainly be doable,” said Larry Pollock, chancellor of the campus at the inception of the campaign. “Penn State New Kensington is a family campus, so everybody really enjoyed helping out."

Robert “Doc” Mueller, associate professor of engineering, shared Pollock’s concerns and heeded the call for volunteers to pitch in and help the campus achieve its milestone. In addition to chairing the annual Faculty/Staff campaign for five years, Mueller and with his wife, Linda Mueller, founder and president of a personal care home in Butler, Pa., established the $50,000 Doc and Linda Mueller Trustee Scholarship in 2012.

“Initially I thought that there was no way we would reach our goal,” said Doc, who joined the campus faculty in 1998. “That being said, it was a great team and I really enjoyed working with everyone.”

Donna Speer, director of development, led the campus effort throughout the campaign, working with two chancellors, four campaign co-chairs and numerous volunteers. Members of the Advisory Board and Alle-Kiski Alumni Society, along with students, faculty and staff from the campus, comprised the campaign committee. Together, they forged bonds with the donors who exhibited a passion for Penn State and the New Kensington campus.

“This is a great example of how Penn State New Kensington works in partnership with the community,” said Speer, who was named director in 2006. “The Alle Kiski region’s businesses and foundations and our alumni and friends understand the importance of providing an education for our students and bringing new initiatives to the area."

Among the special guests at the festivities were: Dale DiSanto, executive director of development for commonwealth campuses; Lee Beard, vice co-chair of the overall "For the Future" campaign; Patrick Kopnicky and Mardelle Kopnicky, co-chairs of the campus campaign; Robin Rarie, past co-chair of the campus campaign; and Pollock, who served as New Kensington chancellor from 2002 to 2008.

Chancellor Kevin Snider, who succeeded Pollock in 2008, addressed supporters on the importance of the student-centered campaign. He noted that private support allows the University to further its efforts to keep a Penn State degree affordable for students and families. He gave a summary of the money raised and where the funds were allocated. The campus campaign focused on five key objectives -- ensuring student access and opportunity; enhancing honors education; enriching the student experience; fostering discovery and creativity; and sustaining the University’s tradition of quality

Students were the main beneficiaries of donors’ largesse for the Ensuring Student Access and Opportunity fund, which garnered $1.2 million in support. Twenty new scholarships -- 16 $50,000 trustee matching scholarships; three general scholarships and an educational endowment -- and three program awards were created during the campaign. The Trustee Matching Scholarship program maximizes the impact of private giving while directing funds to students as quickly as possible, meeting the urgent need for scholarship support. Penn State provides an annual 10 percent match of the total pledge or gift. The University match, which is approximately double the endowment’s annual spendable income, continues in perpetuity, multiplying the support available for students with financial need.

“Scholarships are the lifeblood of the campus’ history and its vibrant future,” said Snider, who has initiated numerous campus programs to foster collaboration among student, faculty and industry. “Without the thoughtful support of our scholarship donors, many of our finest moments and educational opportunities for students would not exist.”

The bulk of campus donations, $2.4 million, were dedicated to the Sustaining a Tradition of Quality fund, which supports campus and community programs. Among the programs created were:

  • STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), a statewide effort dedicated to preparing Pennsylvania students for global competitiveness through a strategy of enhanced education and career development opportunities;
  • GECKO (Green Environmental Challenge for Kids Outreach), which fosters an understanding of local and global ecological systems and natural resources for youngsters in elementary schools;
  • COMETS (Courses On Math, Engineering, Technology, and Science), which supports and guides middle school girls as they develop impressions of their abilities in science, engineering, math, and technology;
  • GREAT (Growing Regional Engineering through Academics and Training), a collaboration of the New Kensington campus, Penn State Electro-Optics Center and industries in the region, which establishes internships at local companies for engineering students; and
  • ASPIRE (A Scholarship Program Inspiring Responsible Economics), a support system to educate campus students on the importance of making healthy financial decisions.

In addition, the fund supported the creation of a campus speakers series, renovations to the Athletics Center, establishment of Leadership and Global Initiatives fund and STEM programming for Kids in College summer camps.

“The new programs that we created with For the Future campaign support are designed to provide a richer academic experience for all our students, whether they are just starting college after high school or are adult learners, coming back to build on your educational experience,” said Speer, a retired chief master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. “We are reaching out to prepare a stronger workforce and a better understanding of the global economy for our region.”

The Kopnickys thanked all the volunteers and gave an overview of the campaign and Penn State’s mission of teaching, research and service. They spoke of their experience as co-chairs and about the benefits that students can reap from a small campus in Upper Burrell. The co-chairs have been involved with the campaign since the beginning. They established the Patrick Kopnicky and Mardelle Sacco Kopnicky Trustee Scholarship in 2008, and assumed the chairmanship of the campaign two years later.

“It was a very gratifying experience to solicit the money to support Penn State New Kensington,” said Mardelle Kopnicky, who earned a bachelor of science degree from Penn State in 1964. “We are making sure that the campus can continue to offer a wonderful educational experience to students from every economic background.”

“This campaign was an incredible opportunity for Penn Staters to make a difference for future generations," said Patrick Kopnicky, a 1966 Penn State architecture alumnus “We were eager to connect with those who share our belief in the future of the New Kensington campus. Supporting Penn State New Kensington has been deeply rewarding for us.”

The Kopnickys succeeded Barbara Arnold and Rarie as co-chairs of the campus campaign. Arnold, founder and president of PrepTech Inc., and Rarie, an attorney for Brenlove & Fuller LLC, headed the two-year private phase of the campaign, which began in 2007. Both are Penn State graduates who started at the New Kensington campus and members of the campus advisory board.

Since she was in on the ground floor of the campaign, Rarie too was a tad anxious about the prospects for success of the campus goal, as well as Penn State’s overall goal. After the number was divided into five distinct objectives, concern gave way to optimism.

“Three million dollars for this campus seemed like a daunting task, let alone $2 billion for the entire Penn State System,” said Rarie, past president of the advisory board. “It seemed overwhelming at first, but as we were able to break it apart, it seemed more manageable.”

The celebration featured heavy appetizers and desserts, catered by Chef Mike Tokarek, resident director of AVI Fresh, the campus food service. A performance by Second Floor Standup Comedy, a comedy troupe of Penn State students from the University Park campus, provided the entertainment. The donor guest list included alumni and friends, faculty and staff, and community and business leaders. As a parting gift, guests received a special Penn State New Kensington edition of a box of Valos Chocolates.

For more about the campaign, visit

For photos of the closing celebration, visit

For a list of new scholarships and awards, visit

  • For the Future closing

    Vera Spina Greenwald, class of 2003, and her husband, Jason Greenwald, pass through the balloon trellis on the way to Penn State New Kensington's end of the campaign celebration.

    IMAGE: Bill Woodard

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Last Updated June 11, 2014