Barrons make new commitment to 'Greater Penn State' campaign

December 05, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As Penn State begins the next phase of its current fundraising campaign, President Eric J. Barron and his wife, Molly, are leading the way with their own support for programs and priorities that have deep personal meaning for the couple as well as for the University. The Barrons recently committed an additional $185,000 to “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” and their gifts highlight initiatives that will drive the campaign’s push toward a goal that was recently raised to $2.1 billion.

“We believe in the objectives of this campaign: opening doors for students, creating transformative experiences, and impacting the larger world,” said President Barron. “We also believe that when administrators, faculty, and staff give their support, it’s a sign that they are committed to a shared vision for their institution. Molly and I hope that our gifts can inspire other members of the Penn State community to reflect on what matters most to them and how they can be a part of creating ‘A Greater Penn State,’ not only through their daily work, but also through their philanthropy.”

The Barrons’ recent commitment includes a $100,000 gift to the planned University Art Museum, the single largest priority within the campaign’s Create Transformative Experiences imperative. With nearly twice the exhibition space of the current Palmer Museum of Art, new classroom spaces and teaching galleries, flexible event spaces, and on-site parking, the facility will be designed by Allied Works Architecture to connect and integrate with The Arboretum at Penn State. The University Art Museum is expected to be a cultural destination for both students and visitors from across the nation and a driver of economic development for Centre County. A final design and budget will be submitted to the Board of Trustees for approval, with a goal of raising $13.9 million by this coming February so that the full vision for the project can be achieved.

“The Barrons have long been champions for a new University Art Museum that will be a resource for the entire Penn State community and that will honor the remarkable collections, particularly in American art, which have been entrusted to our care,” said Erin M. Coe, director of the Palmer Museum. “Their gift is a powerful endorsement of the University’s commitment to creating transformative experiences in the arts for students, families, and visitors.”

The Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center has also benefited from the Barrons’ generosity. Their family visited the center often during Eric Barron’s 20 years as a faculty member and administrator in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and the couple hopes that their $30,000 gift will help other families to deepen their connection with the natural world. The Barrons’ gift will name the owl enclosure within the newly updated raptor area at the center. “We always took our children to Shaver’s Creek, and they enjoyed everything from ice-skating to summer camp at the center,” said Molly Barron. “It’s a wonderful way to bring generations together and share a love for nature.”

Mary Ellen and Tom Litzinger, Penn State President Eric Barron and his wife, Molly, at Shaver's Creek Environmental Center

Mary Ellen and Tom Litzinger and Penn State President Eric Barron with his wife, Molly, at the rededication for Shaver's Creek Environmental Center on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.

IMAGE: Trish Hummer

The Barrons have also honored their family’s history through a $30,000 gift to the new Student Veteran Center, which was officially opened at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 15, in conjunction with the University’s Veterans Day celebrations. The new 6,300-square-foot center in Ritenour Building consolidates and expands services, support and activities for student-veterans in a central location on campus. It will serve as the home of the Office of Veterans Programs, which provides assistance with GI Bill benefits, transition-to-college programs, peer-to-peer mentoring and support, and counseling resources.

ribbon cutting

Penn State President Eric Barron led a group of university and community leaders in the official ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Penn State Student Veteran Center. The facility officially opened on the afternoon of Nov. 15.

IMAGE: Patrick Mansell

“It’s important to recognize those who have served our country through military service and to offer support for the unique challenges they face in transitioning to Penn State,” said Eric Barron. “They’ve had very different life experiences than traditional first-year students, and we must offer a place where they can gather and find all the support and services they need in one place.” The couple made their gift in honor of family members who served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War: James, Frank, Robert and Thomas Barron and (from Molly Barron’s family) Walin, Wesley, Keith, Jason and James Hatter.

They have celebrated another personal connection through a $25,000 gift to create the Michael Adewumi Global Programs Scholarship. Adewumi spent more than three decades at Penn State, first as a colleague of Eric Barron on the faculty the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. He went on to become the University’s first vice provost for Global Programs, a position he held from 2007 until he left Penn State in January to join the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES Abroad) as its executive vice president for academic affairs. The scholarship created by the Barrons will help students with financial need who are pursuing study abroad or other international opportunities.

“Whenever you travel, you come back enriched by encountering a different culture, but at the same time, you are reminded of the good aspects of where you live every day,” said Molly Barron. “We are glad to be able to honor Michael, who has been a wonderful family friend for many years, at the same time that we can help Penn State students to have a global experience that may transform their lives.”

The Barrons’ gifts 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 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

Last Updated September 03, 2020