Thorp scholarship honors architect committed to collaboration

Amy Milgrub Marshall
March 14, 2016

“He lived life large, and always thought the best of everyone.”

Those words, from Karen Flanigan Thorp, sum up how many felt about her husband, the late Charles Thorp, a Penn State architecture alumnus who touched numerous lives, both professionally and personally, in his own short life. According to Karen, Charles always wanted to help others succeed, so it was only fitting to establish a scholarship in his memory that would help alleviate the financial burden on deserving architecture and landscape architecture students.

Charles, who graduated in 1978, worked his way through college, juggling his job as a manager at McDonald’s with long hours in studio. “He did not want students to struggle like he did,” said Karen, who met Charles at Penn State, where she earned a degree in education. “He always believed in giving back, in paying it forward. He knew that loans were not always enough to get a student through college.”

Charles was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2002 and died just six months later, at age 48. However, before he died, at the suggestion of friend and fellow Penn State alumnus Robert E. Fenza, he designed a perpetual scholarship to represent his legacy.

“When you think about someone’s legacy, what better tribute than a perpetual scholarship that keeps his memory alive through education,” said Fenza, who graduated from Penn State in 1980 and is a longtime donor to the College of Arts and Architecture, member of Penn State’s Board of Trustees, and vice chair of the University’s Advisory Council on Philanthropy. “Charles was a good man, a good, solid human being. He stood out as a professional because he always encouraged a team approach, with architecture and landscape architecture working hand in hand.”

The Charles S. Thorp Scholarship Award is given annually to the winner of a design charrette competition involving both architecture and landscape architecture students. Charles, who was a partner in Waterer+Thorp Ltd., was committed to integrating architecture and landscape architecture and maximizing the end user’s experience.

According to Karen, his firm’s clients appreciated his education and experience in both architecture and landscape architecture. Fenza agreed, noting Charles “stood for collaboration.”

“He didn’t want to just make good projects, he wanted to make fantastic projects,” said Fenza. “He always wanted to take things up a notch.”

Chris Cardelli is the 2015-16 recipient of the Thorp scholarship and exemplifies Charles’ belief in the importance of integrating architecture and landscape architecture. For his architecture design thesis project, he is developing a system of efficient, low-impact, sustainable houses that will “foster a mutually symbiotic relationship with nature.”

Chris, who will graduate in May with a bachelor of architecture degree and minors in architectural history and environmental inquiry, said receiving the Charles S. Thorp Scholarship does more than relieve some of his financial burden. “I view this endowment as validation of my choice to pursue multiple avenues of design.”

Charles and Karen’s daughter, Colleen Conti, echoed her mother’s sentiments about her dad, and stressed that he loved projects that pushed people to be creative and do their best work. “He valued education, and those who worked hard,” she said. “He was a forward-thinking, creative person, and loved hearing others’ ideas. He just wanted to make the world better. It’s so fitting to have this scholarship in his memory.”

To contribute to the Charles S. Thorp Scholarship, send a check, made out to The Pennsylvania State University and referencing the scholarship, to The Pennsylvania State University, 1 Old Main, University Park, PA 16802, or call 1-888-800-9163 (toll-free).

Last Updated March 14, 2016