Architecture alumnus establishes endowment to support study abroad

May 26, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Today, spending a semester abroad is an integral part of Penn State architecture students’ education. In the early 1960s, their international studies were confined mainly to books and photos — until George Ehringer and his classmates organized a semester in London, the department’s first official study abroad trip.

Ehringer, who earned his bachelor of science in architecture from Penn State in 1964, recently made a $25,000 gift to create the George D. Ehringer, Class of 1964, Award for Study Abroad in the Department Architecture, an endowed award to support outstanding students who are fulfilling educational and professional objectives by studying in an international locale. All undergraduate architecture students now spend a semester abroad, a requirement that was implemented in the early 1970s. The Penn State architecture department established its program in Rome in 1991. Prior to that year, architecture students studied at other locations in Europe.

Ehringer, who retired as a senior vice president for the Michael Baker Corporation, established the endowed award because his study abroad experience made such an impact on him. “It has served me well,” said Ehringer, whose career took him to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Central and South America. “It made my Penn State experience that much better.”

Penn State Architecture Class of 1964 in London

Members of the Penn State Architecture Class of 1964 were the first in the program to study abroad, in London in 1963.

IMAGE: Penn State

Ehringer and about 18 of his classmates spent the spring semester of their fourth year at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, thanks in part to support from Penn State faculty and administrators who recognized the benefits of studying abroad, including professor Phil Hallock, department head Gregory Ain and College of Arts and Architecture dean Jules Heller.

“It was challenging to come up with the costs, but we made it work,” Ehringer noted. “Studying abroad turned out to be a really diversified experience — a profound and wonderful experience,” he said, adding the professional staff of the Architectural Association provided excellent learning opportunities.

Professional architects working in London frequently visited the studio to review the students’ work. “I remember one man,” Ehringer explained, “who was particularly interested in what we were doing. He was never introduced. It was only later we learned it was Buckminster Fuller!” Richard Buckminster Fuller, of course, was the renowned architect who developed and popularized the geodesic dome.

Ehringer and his classmates were a close-knit bunch who have remained in contact over the years, holding regular reunions at Penn State. Following their semester abroad, many of them traveled together throughout Europe. “We didn’t have a lost moment,” he said.

Ehringer hopes some of his classmates will contribute to the award, both to support today’s students and to recognize the Class of 1964’s special status as the first Penn State architecture students to study abroad. To make your gift by mail, please send your check made out to Penn State to the A&A Development office, 107 Borland Building, University Park, PA 16802 (please write SCCEA on the memo line). To make your gift online, visit

Last Updated May 26, 2016