With new gifts, former dean creates new award, supports graduate students

Susan Burlingame
October 14, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. —  With a gift of outright funds plus an estate commitment, Susan Welch, former dean of the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts, has established a new award for professional master’s degree students and made pledges to bolster previously established graduate student endowments.


Susan Welch, professor of political science and former dean of the College of the Liberal Arts

IMAGE: Penn State

Welch, now professor of political science, stepped down as dean of the College of the Liberal Arts at the end of June 2019. Her leadership resulted in a legacy of new centers, new programs, top rankings for several departments, several philanthropic volunteer alumni groups, and more. One recent highlight of her tenure was an unprecedented African American Life and Culture cluster hire, which attracted 11 new scholars to the college, including Gabrielle Foreman, the award-winning co-founder of the Colored Conventions Project.

With her latest gift, Welch cements her philanthropic legacy with lifetime gifts to Penn State totaling nearly $1.3 million.

With an outright gift of $25,000, Welch will establish the Ronald L. Filippelli and Avis L. Kunz Award for Professional Masters Students in the College of the Liberal Arts, named to honor colleagues who pioneered professional masters programs in the college. Filippelli is the associate dean emeritus who led the development of the college’s undergraduate and professional masters’ online programs, and Kunz is the current senior assistant dean and director of the Filippelli Institute for online education. Welch intends this endowment to recognize outstanding students in one of the growing number of the college’s practice-focused, terminal degree programs such as the master of public policy or the master of professional studies.

Welch, who has long supported graduate student education, is targeting her new estate commitment of approximately $400,000 to other forms of graduate student support as well. She is adding to the Delbert F. and Marie S. Welch Graduate Award, which she established years ago in honor of her parents. When Welch’s estate is realized, the award will become the Delbert F. and Marie S. Welch Graduate Fellowship. A portion of the gift will also go to the Eleanor Roosevelt Graduate Fellowship in the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, which she established earlier in ‘A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,’ Penn State’s current campaign.

“For 28 years, I have emphasized the importance of graduate education and the value of having financial awards that allow us to recruit and support outstanding graduate students,” said Welch. “I also know that graduate programs are the hardest thing to raise money for, so I thought I would help.”

“During her tenure as dean, Susan Welch presided over the trajectory of the college, making it one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the nation,” said Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “Through her leadership, her scholarship, her vision and her philanthropy, she is leaving an indelible mark. I am deeply grateful for all she has done and of course for her new commitment, which will help us attract and support bright and ambitious new graduate students.” 

Welch returned to the political science faculty on July 1 and is finishing a book that tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of 23 Jews living in Europe at the time. She also is working on a project related to gender difference in the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. Welch is working with an undergraduate political science student on a third project related to documenting Americans’ knowledge of the Holocaust.

“I am happy doing research and working with students,” she said.

When asked what motivated her latest giving, Welch said she recently re-examined her estate.

“I noticed that what I had committed in the past is less than what is in my estate now, so I realized I could afford a bigger commitment,” she said, adding that she hopes her gift spurs other people to review their portfolios.

“Philanthropy is a great use of your money,” she concluded. “I hope people who have the same passion for the college that I do will find new ways to support one of its many wonderful programs.”

Welch’s gift advances "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With support from people like Susan Welch, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

Last Updated November 20, 2019