Penn State alumnus commits $2 million to establish liberal arts scholarship

October 14, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “Having a college degree, given today’s economy and culture, has become almost a necessity,” said James Osick, a 1977 Penn State history alumnus. “When you consider the earnings differential for noncollege graduates versus college grads, and when you see how expensive college can be, the ability to set up scholarships to allow students to get a great education is really important.”

With his wife, Karen Kuenster, Osick recently committed $2 million from the couple’s estate to establish the James P. Osick Scholarship in the College of the Liberal Arts. When realized, the scholarship will help students from the Department of History or the School of Labor and Employment Relations who have demonstrated “outstanding performance or who bring special qualities and abilities to Penn State, with consideration being given to academic achievement, character, leadership qualities and financial need.”

“The winner of the game would be taken out to dinner by the loser of the game at a restaurant of their choice. I lost.”

-- Karen Kuenster, a Notre Dame alumna, referring to a bet on a Penn State/Notre Dame football game she and her husband Jim Osick made during their initial meeting at a bar in Chicago 

Osick said he is grateful for Penn State, where he made lifelong friends through his fraternity and where his studies in history provided a sound foundation for an aspiring law student.

“The entirety of my Penn State experience prepared me for my future success,” he said. After Penn State, Osick earned a juris doctorate at Washington and Lee University School of Law. Before retiring, he enjoyed a long career in labor and employment law. He spent the majority of his career with Chicago-based Seyfarth Shaw, which was recognized by Financial Times as one of the world’s most innovative law firms for seven consecutive years. Kuenster recently retired from Deloitte, where she was a partner. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Notre Dame and her juris doctorate at DePaul Law School.

The couple’s alma maters figure importantly in both their philanthropic priorities as well as their first date. They met at a bar in Chicago and bet on the Penn State-Notre Dame football game.

“The winner of the game would be taken out to dinner by the loser of the game at a restaurant of their choice,” said Kuenster. “I lost.”

“On behalf of the College of the Liberal Arts, I would like to thank Jim Osick and Karen Kuenster for their generosity in creating an undergraduate scholarship endowment for liberal arts students,” said B. Richard Page, associate dean for undergraduate studies. “Providing access to education is central to our mission as a land-grant university, a mission Jim and Karen clearly understand. Their scholarship endowment will make it possible for more students to afford a Penn State education and prepare for future success.”

Osick and Kuenster’s gift qualifies them for membership in Penn State’s Atherton Society, which recognizes alumni and friends who have made a planned gift to the University—whether to help students with financial need, to advance groundbreaking research, or to support the program that matters most to them.

“Education has always been very important to us,” said Osick, adding he hopes students who receive the scholarship one day will appreciate the value of education.

“Define your passion and who you are and really follow it throughout life,” said Kuenster, when asked to offer advice to future scholarship recipients. “We are trying to help students achieve their goals.”

The James P. Osick Scholarship 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 alumni and friends, “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


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Last Updated October 29, 2019