Dinner honors Kirsch, raises more than $650,000 for Renaissance Scholarships

November 16, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State's 40th annual Renaissance Fund dinner, attended by 340 guests on Nov. 10 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on the University Park campus, raised more than $650,000 from 396 gifts, the second largest amount ever raised, for endowed scholarships. The dinner honored Rodney P. Kirsch, who concluded his service to Penn State after 20 years as senior vice president for development and alumni relations at the University this past September.

"I am exceedingly grateful to the many donors who made gifts to this fund. While being humbled and honored myself by this tribute, the real winner is not me but the scores of students who, in part, will become Penn Staters through the generosity of these donors,” said Kirsch. 

The annual event raises funds for Renaissance Scholarships, which are awarded to academically talented Penn State students who have great financial need. The dinners honor community leaders, and contributions are used to endow scholarships in their names. Since the Renaissance Fund's inception in 1969, the total endowment has grown to more than $12.6 million. To date, 557 scholarships have been awarded for the 2016-17 academic year.

"Rod's excellent leadership and ability to oversee some of our most critical needs and significant interactions with alumni and friends is unequaled in his field," said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. "His diligence in fundraising and in conveying the deepest needs of this institution and our students has been stellar and he has laid a solid foundation for anyone who follows. This is why we are proud to honor him at this year’s Renaissance Fund."

Through 34 years of educational fundraising, including 20 years at Penn State, the former senior vice president for development and alumni relations has made the University’s fundraising organization and alumni association among the best of its kind and helped Centre County to become a destination for students, leaders, families and visitors from around the world.

Since joining Penn State in 1996, at the start of the historic "Grand Destiny" campaign, Kirsch has helped the institution to secure more than $4.4 billion in private support, and today the Penn State Alumni Association is the largest dues-paying organization of its kind. That success reflects a larger spirit of giving that Kirsch has worked to cultivate. More than 176,000 Penn Staters — the largest number of alumni donors to any higher education campaign in history — made gifts during "For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students." Through the generosity of the institution’s graduates, as well as citizens, businesses, and communities touched by University programs, Kirsch has helped to inspire new pride and new ambition at Penn State and in Centre County.

Born and raised on a cattle ranch in North Dakota by parents who placed great value on education, Kirsch was among the first generation in his family to go to college, majoring in English at the University of North Dakota and earning a master’s degree in what is now the higher education administration program at Indiana University. Kirsch's career included advancement posts at Drake University, the University of California Berkeley, and his graduate alma mater, Indiana University, before he moved to State College in 1996 with his wife, Michele (known as “Mitch”), now associate dean of student affairs in the Schreyer Honors College. The Kirsch's daughters, Mackenzie and Kelsey, have attended Penn State, and over the years, the family has supported both community organizations and the University through their own philanthropy, including gifts to the United Way, The Arboretum at Penn State, and Counseling and Psychological Services on campus.

Supporters of the Renaissance Fund 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.

To learn more about the Renaissance Fund program, contact Kathy Kurtz in the Office of Annual Giving at 814-863-2052.

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

    Rodney P. Kirsch was recognized as the 2016 Renaissance Fund honoree.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 12, 2016