Dietrichs’ $250,000 gift enhances Smeal’s business sustainability efforts

October 18, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Susan (Cepicka) Dietrich, a 1993 Penn State graduate in finance, can remember the moment her passion for the environment transformed into a desire to help her alma mater, the Penn State Smeal College of Business, address what she considers to be the most critical human issue of her lifetime — climate change.

After a January 2017 morning on the slopes at Seven Springs Mountain Resort, where the 1993 finance grad and her husband, William, own a home, Dietrich stood outside and surveyed the mountain.

“The snow had been melting all morning,” she said. “It was (nearly) 70 degrees outside, and I thought, ‘What is going on?’ I decided right then and there that I was going to stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution.”

She quickly realized that small, personal changes, like solar panels on her home or an electric car in her driveway, wouldn’t produce the kind of impact she was hoping to make.

So, the Dietrichs made a $250,000 commitment to create the Susan Cepicka Dietrich and William E. Dietrich III Fund for Leadership in the Business of Sustainability.

“Universities can have the greatest influence on the next generation of leaders,” she said. “And it’s us, my generation and the next, that have the greatest call to action. When I learned about how Smeal decided to approach this issue, it ignited multiple passions in me: my school, sustainability, climate change. I wanted to be a part of that.”

Charles H. Whiteman, John and Becky Surma Dean, has made the business case for sustainability a strategic priority at Smeal.

“It’s vital that we enhance the understanding of sustainable business practices and demonstrate how these practices can contribute to organizational success,” Whiteman said. “I’m grateful for Susie’s partnership in this mission.”

Erik Foley, Smeal’s director of sustainability, shares Dietrich’s passion and belief that businesses need to be a part of the solution.

“In one of our first meetings, Susie told me that caring for the climate is not a political issue but a human issue,” Foley said. “She quickly saw Smeal’s mission to transform business practice and education as a key part of the solution.”

A portion of the Dietrich’s gift will be available immediately to help launch Smeal’s Center for the Business of Sustainability. The center’s mission will be to accelerate the integration of sustainability into business through groundbreaking research and education; by bringing business executives and students together at events; and holding case competitions that support market-based solutions that address the sustainability challenges facing businesses both domestically and abroad.

The remainder of their gift will be placed in an endowment to support sustainability research and education at Smeal.

Dietrich dismissed the notion that she is creating a legacy with this gift. “I am just trying to do what’s right,” she said.

This gift will advance “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 the support of 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 hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and affecting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

  • Susan Dietrich in her work office.

    Susan Dietrich and her husband, William, have made a $250,000 commitment to create the Susan Cepicka Dietrich and William E. Dietrich III Fund for Leadership in the Business of Sustainability in the Smeal College of Business.

    IMAGE: Provided

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 30, 2019