Bill Jaffe Leadership Initiative encourages giving to art museum project

November 20, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Penn State philanthropists Thomas Sharbaugh and Kristin Hayes learned of their friend Bill Jaffe’s leadership gift to the proposed University Art Museum, they were inspired to make their own gift in honor of Jaffe, a longtime supporter of the arts at Penn State. The couple has committed $250,000 to create the Bill Jaffe Leadership Initiative in hopes of encouraging others to make a gift recognizing their friend and fellow philanthropist, whose generosity has touched numerous areas across the University.

“In all of our years of involvement with Penn State, we have never seen anyone who better typifies the best of philanthropy across numerous important segments of the University,” said Sharbaugh, professor of practice and director of the Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic at Penn State Law. “He has been a role model to us for a number of years, and when we saw the article early on Friday morning, Nov. 15, regarding his leading gift, we agreed by the time breakfast was over that we had to make a significant gift in his honor.”

The University Art Museum, which would be located in The Arboretum at Penn State, would replace the existing Palmer Museum of Art, providing greater access to its collection of nearly 10,000 objects, as well as additional spaces for student activities and educational and community events. In May, the Penn State Board of Trustees approved the selection of Allied Works Architecture to design the facility. Pending Board of Trustees approval, the University is prepared to provide a project budget of $71.1 million, funded by Penn State’s five-year capital plan that runs through 2023, which could increase to as much as $85 million with philanthropic support.

Sharbaugh, a Penn State business alumnus, said he and Hayes made their gift not just to honor Jaffe, but to encourage others to support a beneficial project for the University and the region.

“We were motivated to make our gift not just to recognize Bill, but to motivate others to follow his lead by contributing any amount — whether $10 or $10 million — to this important effort to bring a significant museum to Penn State and central Pennsylvania,” said Sharbaugh.

This is not the first time Sharbaugh and Hayes have been inspired to establish funds or scholarships to encourage giving to Penn State. In 2018, they established the Anna M. Griswold Open Doors Scholarship in the College of Agricultural Sciences in honor of Griswold, who helped hundreds of students in her role as assistant vice president for undergraduate education and executive director for student aid in the college.

In 2011, they established the Microfinance Match Loan Fund, for which they provided a 2:1 match, up to a total of $100,000 in matching support, for any gifts to the fund. The fund is used to make small, low-interest loans to undergraduates facing extraordinary and unexpected challenges in earning their degrees.

Longtime volunteers and supporters of Penn State, Sharbaugh and Hayes, an adjunct Penn State Law faculty member, have focused much of their philanthropy on helping students through job programs, internships, scholarships and other avenues.

“We like doing traditional as well as nontraditional gifts,” said Sharbaugh.

According to Erin Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art, the Bill Jaffe Leadership Initiative is a fitting way to honor a philanthropist such as Jaffe while encouraging contributions to a project that is very meaningful to him.

“We are deeply grateful to Tom Sharbaugh and Kristin Hayes for their most generous contribution to the new art museum, and that they embraced this opportunity to encourage other donors to follow Bill’s lead and give to the museum project,” said Coe. “Tom, Kristin and Bill are generous donors who set a high example of philanthropy through their leadership and vision.”

Hayes and Jaffe have taken many trips together to visit museums, including several not located in major metropolitan areas. 

“We believe that having a major museum in State College would jump-start economic activity here in the same way that it has done in other non-urban areas like Bentonville, Arkansas, and Corning, New York,” said Hayes.

Construction of the new museum — pending board approval — is anticipated to begin in late 2020 for a planned opening in winter 2023, coinciding with the 50th anniversary year of an art museum at Penn State. 

The museum would serve as the first phase of a planned cultural destination intended to bring together many of Penn State’s collections and assets in the arts, humanities and sciences from across campus. The cultural destination has been identified as a priority by Penn State President Eric Barron to advance the arts and humanities at the University, and to elevate Penn State and central Pennsylvania as a hub for the arts. 

To make a one-time gift to the new museum in support of the Bill Jaffe Leadership Initiative, visit To pledge a commitment over a period of up to five years, contact Robin Seymour, director of major gifts in the College of Arts and Architecture, at 814-863-7751 or

About the Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art on the Penn State University Park campus is a free-admission arts resource for the University and surrounding communities in central Pennsylvania. With a collection of 9,600 objects representing a variety of cultures and spanning centuries of art, the Palmer is the largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Areas of strength include the museum’s collection of American art from the late 18th century to the present, Old Master paintings, prints and photography, ceramics and studio glass, and a growing collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum presents nine exhibitions each year and, with 11 galleries, a print-study room, a 150-seat auditorium, and an outdoor sculpture garden, the Palmer Museum of Art is the leading cultural resource for the region.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays.

The Palmer receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and from the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For more information on the Palmer Museum of Art or for the calendar of upcoming events, visit

About the new University Art Museum at Penn State

Penn State and the Palmer Museum of Art are planning to construct a brand-new University Art Museum located in The Arboretum at Penn State. With nearly twice the exhibition space of the Palmer, new classroom spaces and a teaching gallery, flexible event spaces, and on-site parking, this building would dramatically enhance the museum’s capacity to offer educational and enrichment opportunities for visitors of all ages. It would be integrated with the Arboretum, inspiring collaboration and creating a unique nexus of art, architecture and natural beauty. And like the Palmer Museum of Art before it, it will depend upon visionary philanthropy from the Penn State community. Learn more at

Gifts to the new University Art Museum 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 impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated November 20, 2019