Kirsch named 2016 Renaissance Fund honoree

June 01, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As Penn State’s Renaissance Fund celebrates its 40th year of honoring local leaders and helping students in need, its board of directors has selected Rodney P. Kirsch, the University’s senior vice president for development and alumni relations, as its 2016 honoree.

Kirsch will be concluding his service to Penn State in August after 20 years in his role, and the award will recognize his achievements in creating a culture of giving back among Penn State’s graduates and in the State College community. Kirsch will be honored at a dinner event on Nov. 10, but the Renaissance Fund has already begun accepting contributions to a scholarship endowment created in his name.

“Over the course of two major campaigns and other fundraising efforts that have secured more than $4.4 billion for Penn State and its students, Rod has had an immeasurable impact on this institution, and he has helped the Penn State Alumni Association to become the largest organization of its kind in the world,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “But Rod has done so much more than we can measure with numbers alone. Through his dedication, integrity and generosity, he has shown all of us what it means to truly serve the students, families, alumni and community members who believe in Penn State. The Renaissance Fund could not have chosen a better leader to honor, and we can choose no better way to celebrate Rod than to support the scholarship that has been created in his name.”

Each year, the Renaissance Fund honors an individual or couple who, through a lifetime of service, has contributed greatly to the Penn State and State College communities. In its selection process, the fund’s board of directors seeks to recognize individuals who have deep roots in the Centre Region, close relationships with civic and University leaders, and a commitment to philanthropy. An endowed scholarship fund is created in the name of each honoree, and gifts to the fund can be made by any Penn State supporter or member of the public. Renaissance scholarships are directed to high-achieving students with great financial need. During the 2014-15 academic year, 475 undergraduates received more than $687,000 in support from Renaissance Fund scholarships created since the program began in 1969. More information about the Renaissance Fund is available at

Mimi Barash Coppersmith, a 1954 Penn State alumna, chair of the Renaissance Fund selection committee, and creator of the Renaissance Fund dinners, said, “Through his leadership, Rod has done so much to help every Penn Stater to see the role that he or she can play in the life of the University and the lives of students. I am among the thousands of graduates and community members who have been inspired by Rod to take an active part in shaping Penn State’s future. I’m so glad that the Renaissance Fund can celebrate his historic tenure and create a scholarship to help Penn State students and keep the University’s doors open — a cause to which he has dedicated his career and his own philanthropy.”

Kirsch, a North Dakota native, is a graduate of the University of North Dakota, and he holds a master’s degree in higher education administration from Indiana University in Bloomington, whose College of Education has named him a distinguished alumnus. He came to Penn State in 1996 from the post of senior vice president for development at the Indiana University Foundation, with earlier posts at Drake University and the University of California at Berkeley. During his first decade at Penn State, he helped the University to raise more money than it had raised over its previous 140 years in existence, and he led Penn State to the successful conclusions of the Grand Destiny campaign, which secured $1.37 billion between 1996 and 2003, and the For the Future campaign, which concluded in 2014 with almost $2.2 billion raised. Kirsch has engaged record numbers of donors — including 176,000 alumni supporters in For the Future, the largest number of alumni donors ever in a higher education campaign — through initiatives such as the Trustee Matching Scholarship Program, which pairs University funds with the income from private gifts. He has also been instrumental in securing gifts that have had an impact on communities and families through the region, including support for Penn State Children’s Hospital and The Arboretum at Penn State.

Kirsch and his wife, Michele (Mitch) Kirsch, associate dean of student affairs in the Schreyer Honors College, have also committed their own resources to Penn State. The Kirsches have endowed the Vice President for Development Staff Excellence Award; established the Kirsch/Stipanovich Trustee Scholarship; funded the Prairie Patch at the Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden in The Arboretum at Penn State; and, earlier this year, provided seed money to help create the first embedded counselor position for the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). The Kirsches made this most recent gift through the Parent Philanthropy Program. Their daughter Kelsey graduated from the University in 2014, and their daughter Mackenzie will be a senior this fall. Kirsch himself was named an Honorary Alumnus of Penn State in 2014.

“Mitch and I are profoundly grateful to Penn State and State College for the wonderful careers and lives we have had here and for everything that this institution and this community have meant to our family. We cannot imagine a better community in which to have spent the last 20 years,” said Kirsch. “Over the years, I have been inspired by the spirit and generosity of so many leaders I have met through my role at the University, including the past honorees of the Renaissance Fund, and I am both honored and humbled to be joining their ranks. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to serve an institution that does so much good in the world and in the lives of students, families and communities. I may be leaving my official post at the University, but I will never stop supporting Penn State and Penn Staters in any way I can.”

To learn more about making a gift to the Rodney P. Kirsch Renaissance Scholarship, visit or contact Kathy Kurtz, associate director of annual giving, at or 814-863-2052.

  • Rodney P. Kirsch, senior vice president for Development and Alumni Relations at Penn State.

    Rodney P. Kirsch, senior vice president for Development and Alumni Relations at Penn State.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 01, 2016