Mortar Board Society celebrates milestone anniversary and endowment

June 01, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As the Mortar Board Honor Society’s Archousai Chapter prepares to celebrate 80 years at Penn State, two alumnae have co-founded an endowment to support the group’s service and programming on the University Park campus.

With a lead gift of $40,000, Mimi Barash Coppersmith and Helen Dickerson Wise have created the Mortar Board Program Endowment for the Archousai Chapter at Penn State, launching an effort they hope many more alumni and friends will join. The society will celebrate this fundraising initiative along with its 80th anniversary at a luncheon on Friday, June 3, at The Nittany Lion Inn.

“Archousai enriched our time at Penn State in so many ways, and it has continued to enrich our lives as alumnae,” Coppersmith said. “We hope that others who have benefited from their time in Mortar Board will consider a gift to help the chapter promote scholarship, leadership and service within the Penn State community,” Wise said. 

Archousai is part of the national Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society, which recognizes college seniors for distinguished ability and achievement in scholarship, leadership and service. The chapter began in 1927 as a local honor society for Penn State women who displayed the virtues of leadership in campus activities, worthy character, personality, sportsmanship and a willingness to cooperate with others. In 1935, Archousai became the Archousai Chapter of Mortar Board, becoming affiliated with a national organization that shared its commitment to excellence among college women. While the society opened its membership to men in 1975, the organization has maintained a commitment to the advancement of women.

Today, Archousai is one of more than 200 Mortar Board chapters across the nation. With 24 rising seniors having recently been welcomed into its 2016-17 class, the group’s alumni base is 1,800 members strong.

As the chapter’s first and only dedicated endowment, the new fund will support a range of programming, allowing the chapter to expand its service to the University community and gain greater visibility on campus.

“The endowment means so much for the chapter,” said Abby Diehl, Mortar Board national president and the assistant dean for alumni relations and special projects in the College of Health and Human Development. “At the national level, we find that the most successful chapters are those that have endowment support. The generosity of Mimi, Helen and others will enhance Archousai’s work and benefit the entire Penn State community.”

David Gaddy, a Penn State senior and the 2015-16 president of the Archousai Chapter, said that he was thrilled at the possibilities the endowment will create. “When I learned of the endowment, I literally fell out of my seat,” he said. “It’s a great honor to benefit from such meaningful support from leading local alumni. With this extraordinary support — and the support we hope other alumni and friends will provide — Archousai will be prepared to have a profound impact on our campus and community.”

Mimi Barash Coppersmith is a 1953 graduate of the College of Communications and a resident of State College. She was chairperson and co-founder, along with her late husband, Sy, of the State College-based advertising and publishing firm, The Barash Group. She served seven terms as a Penn State alumna trustee, from 1976 to 1997, including two years as the first woman board chair. She is a past president and current Renaissance Fund board member. She has been recognized as Renaissance Person of the Year, Distinguished Alumna, and Alumni Fellow, among other University and area honors.

A resident of Spring Mills, Helen Dickerson Wise graduated from Penn State in 1949 with a bachelor of arts degree in education before continuing on to receive master’s and doctoral degrees in the same field, all from Penn State. She taught in State College schools for 20 years and served as president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association and national and executive director of the Delaware State Education Association. She served as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, deputy chief of staff to the governor of Pennsylvania, and a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees from 1969 to 1990. She has been recognized as Distinguished Alumna and Alumni Fellow, among other honors.

To make a gift of your own to the Mortar Board Program Endowment for the Archousai Chapter at Penn State, contact Andrea Pagano-Reyes at or 814-865-7698.

  • The Society's logo, a mortar board, is pictured in gold and black.
    IMAGE: Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society

(Media Contacts)

Andrea Pagano-Reyes, Director of Development for University Programs

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Last Updated June 22, 2016