Alumnus’ $1 million gift endows internships, study in Washington Program

October 27, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A Penn State alumnus who made his mark in Washington, D.C., building a career that spanned more than five decades and set a standard for generations of successors to emulate, has provided support for Penn State students for years to come to complete internships and study in the nation’s capital.

A $1 million gift from alumnus Stanley Degler will support a semester-in-residence program conducted by the College of Communications in Washington, D.C. Now called the Stanley E. Degler Washington Program, the semester involves classroom instruction and an internship for students each fall.

Established by the College of Communications 21 years ago, it has served more than 1,200 students.

Robert Richards, the John and Ann Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies who created the program, said Degler’s gift and support are transformational for a program that already had a large alumni base and strong reputation.

“Many of the students who have participated in the Washington Program through the years have returned to D.C. after graduation to start their careers. Now, thanks to Stan’s generosity, generations of students will have the same opportunity,” Richards said.

For Degler, who lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife Ann, the support just made sense -- a logical combination of his appreciation for his alma mater and an acknowledgement of his career.

“I’m grateful for the background I got at Penn State. With that, and a little bit of experience, I was able to be very successful,” Degler said. “I appreciate it and I’m hoping my gift will induce other alumni who have benefited from their education to make contributions to scholarships, to the Washington Program or to any of the other wonderful opportunities in the College of Communications.”

Degler, who earned his journalism degree in 1951, enjoyed a whirlwind year after graduation from the University that included getting married (July) and getting drafted into the Marines (December). The following year he moved to Washington, D.C., and started a one-man news bureau serving newspapers in three Pennsylvania towns (Allentown, York and Sunbury). Unbowed by the presence of journalists and news organizations from all over the world, Degler found his niche. Editors appreciated the quality of his work and readers got their news coverage from someone focused exclusively on their interests. He earned his master’s degree from George Washington University in 1957.

Degler later worked for the magazine of the National Automobile Dealers Association, and then moved into the position that would define his career. He spent 33 years with the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA). Functioning as part of a news bureau for select audiences, Degler covered the Department of Defense, environmental issues, transportation agencies, the space program and a variety of other issues.

He eventually rose to executive editor, in charge of all BNA publications in the 1980s and, later, senior vice president of the Bureau of National Affairs. When the organization was purchased and became BloombergBNA, Degler served as member of the organization’s board for 11 years. 

Additionally, the move to BloombergBNA helped prove his business acumen. 

He had collected stock in the employee-owned corporation for years. “I bought a lot of it, and held onto it even into my retirement,” he said. “That’s what enabled me to make a gift.”

Degler’s presence remains an ongoing gift for former colleagues at BloombergBNA who have named an annual award for excellence in his honor.

In many ways, Degler’s career path provides valuable examples for current students. That includes an entrepreneurial spirit, a dedication to hard work and a willingness to embrace challenges. While those who benefit from his support of the Washington Program might do so in different manners and with different communications tools than Degler did 60 years ago, the need for a burning passion, an opportunity and a grounding in a Penn State education remain valuable.

Degler is an active volunteer with Arlington Public Schools and the Washington Conservancy of Music. He and his late wife Sandra previously established the Stanley E. Degler Scholarship in Journalism in the College of Communications.

Penn State’s alumni and friends are invaluable partners in fulfilling the University’s land-grant mission of education, research and service. Private gifts from alumni and friends enrich the experiences of students both in and out of the classroom, expand the research and teaching capacity of our faculty, enhance the University’s ability to recruit and retain top students and faculty, and help to ensure that students from every economic background have access to a Penn State education. The University’s colleges and campuses are now enlisting the support of alumni and friends to advance a range of unit-specific initiatives. 

  • Stanley Degler and wife Ann

    Stanely Degler, with his wife Ann, said his gift was a logical combination of his appreciation for his alma mater and his career.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated October 27, 2016