Rosskams show commitment to philanthropy, food science with graduate fellowship

Susan Bedsworth
August 22, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A family commitment to philanthropy, a career-long dedication to the food industry, and a deeply rooted connection to Penn State serve as inspiration for a newly created graduate fellowship in the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

Following his retirement from teaching in Penn State’s Ice Cream Short Course after 32 years, Skip Rosskam and his wife, Marilyn, were looking for ways to continue to give back and stay connected to Penn State. With that desire in mind and a history of supporting graduate students in food science, the Skip and Marilyn Rosskam Graduate Fellowship in Food Science was born through a $500,000 commitment from the couple.

“Our family has been committed to education at the graduate level for a long time,” said Skip Rosskam. “It’s ingrained in our DNA. Graduate fellowships give a competitive advantage to the Food Science Department, allowing it to attract the best and the brightest. Food, the industry I’ve spent my life in, will be better off if the program at Penn State can attract top-notch students.”

Skip Rosskam’s connection to Penn State goes back to the 1940s when both of his parents attended as students. A graduate of Southern Illinois University, he pursued a career in the flavor sector of the food industry, including the family-owned company called David Michael and Company, which had a specialty in natural vanilla. Many of his customers, including the Penn State Berkey Creamery, were in dairy. Eventually this led to his recruitment to teach an Ice Cream Short Course module on vanilla, which he continued to teach for more than three decades.

Those connections made supporting the Food Science Department a natural part of Rosskam’s philanthropic life. Following the passing of his father in 1988, Skip Rosskam and his brother, Steve, set up a scholarship in honor of their parents, the Edith and William B. Rosskam II Memorial Scholarship in Food Science.

Through the years, the Rosskams’ involvement with the College of Agricultural Sciences continued to grow beyond the short course. Skip Rosskam especially enjoyed fundraising for the Erickson Food Science Building as the chair of the department’s food industry advisory group. In addition, he served on the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program board.

“I enjoyed being part of the board with the E&I program,” said Rosskam. “The program has some outstanding initiatives, such as the RAIN Grant program (Research Applications for INnovation). We also discussed strategies for improving communication between business and food science, as well as how to assist scientists in thinking more like a businessperson when it comes to commercializing their work.” The RAIN Grant program provides researchers with funding to commercialize technologies generated through research.

The Rosskams also recognize the importance of giving back to set an example for their family and to inspire other potential donors.

“It’s important to us to set an example for our kids,” Skip Rosskam said. “We’ve been more than fortunate in living a good life and know not everyone has been as fortunate. I hope many of the people I’ve interacted with through the years with connections to Penn State will also feel a sense of gratification for what we are able to do here and tighten their connections to the University as well.”

Marilyn Rosskam agreed, saying, “There are a lot of issues that we support, another being domestic violence initiatives and programs, and we feel gratified that we have the opportunity to do so. We have a strong interest in supporting underserved groups, and this fellowship is one way to help bright students who may be in need to get a quality education.”

“Since 1999, I have had the privilege of working with Skip Rosskam in the Ice Cream Short Course at Penn State,” said Bob Roberts, professor and head of food science. “Skip was incredibly generous with his time every year. We are very excited about the Skip and Marilyn Rosskam Graduate Fellowship in Food Science, which will enable us to proactively recruit highly talented graduate students into our program now and into the future.”

The College of Agricultural Sciences represents the foundation of Penn State and its land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University is pursuing "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: open doors, create transformative experiences, and impact the world. Through teaching, research and extension, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of Agricultural Sciences is able to offer scholarships to one in four students, create life-shaping opportunities, and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about supporting the college, visit Information about the campaign is available at


Last Updated August 22, 2019