Golden Lions have fond memories of their college days

December 03, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — There are countless reasons why people stay loyal to and give to Penn State, but perhaps one of the most prevalent is that graduates give back because, at one time, someone had given to them.

One of many cases in point is Danielle Koch, a 2012 College of Education graduate who is an elementary teacher in the Downingtown Area School District near Philadelphia.

“During the summer of my junior year, I received a letter in the mail that changed my life,” Koch said.

“An alumni couple, Estelle and William Turney, had named me the recipient of their generous scholarship. I felt blown away to be recognized at a university as large as Penn State. Their scholarship was a tremendous support to me as I completed my senior year and prepared to enter the work force.”

That was enough to prompt Koch to become a donor soon after graduation. And because she has made gifts to the University for seven consecutive years, she is a member of the Golden Lion Society.

“To be a Golden Lion means you are loyal in your support for Penn State,” said Jenn Moore, assistant director of stewardship, alumni and development in the College of Education, adding that the Golden Lion Society represents alumni who have given to Penn State for at least four years in a row or every year since graduation. Currently, Penn State has 29,675 Golden Lion Society members University-wide.

“The Golden Lion Society is all about loyalty, making that annual commitment. Ideally Golden Lions would start giving as soon as they graduate,” Moore said. “Often times that first gift is their gift to the Senior Class Gift. From there they continue each year. It’s one of the ways our alumni can stay engaged with the University.”

Which is exactly what Koch has done. “In the spirit of Mr. and Mrs. Turney’s generosity, I asked that my contribution be provided to other students in need of financial support through the College of Education’s Future Fund,” Koch said.

“My mother, an educator herself, worked diligently to send both my twin sister and me to Penn State. I know what a financial burden higher education can be to many families like mine, and I hope that someday I can help a student at Penn State the way that Mr. and Mrs. Turney supported me.”

She chose to contribute to Penn State because of fond memories of the education program. “At a large school like Penn State, I was shocked when my adviser, Myrna Covington, recognized me by name at various college events,” Koch said.

“My freshman seminar instructor, Catherine Augustine, sometimes brought in homemade treats for us, and once took our entire class to the Creamery for ice cream. Time and time again, professors and advisers made efforts to ensure that students felt at home within the department and exemplified just how Penn State came to be affectionately known as Happy Valley,” she said.

Moore said philanthropy at any level keeps a person connected to and engaged with the college.

“As they get into their jobs and their careers, those that start giving loyally and annually at graduation are our best lifetime donors,” Moore said. “They just continue to be loyal; they continue to increase their giving as they can.

“They are showing their true Penn State pride and their faith in the work that the University is doing and what the college is doing. It’s their gratitude for the opportunities the college has afforded them, thanks to the alumni before them who have made those annual gifts,” she said.

For Koch, Penn State feels like home. “To this day, driving into State College and looking at the silhouette of University Park still gives me the chills,” she said.

“Memories of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my friends in Beaver Stadium, my first scoop of Creamery ice cream, and the gorgeous views of campus still make me smile.

“I can attribute four of the best years of my life to my time in Happy Valley, and many of my closest friends, too. At first, formulating plans for after graduation made me uneasy because it was hard to imagine a time when I’d have to leave Penn State. Not only did Penn State help me land my dream job, I met my husband there, too. He proposed to me at the volleyball court where we met our sophomore year, knowing just how special Penn State was to me,” Koch said.

“I have Penn State to thank for the strong network that I’ve established, the lifelong friendships that I’ve made, and the love that I’ve found. For these gifts, I am extremely grateful.”

Christine O’Hare, now the assistant director of donor relations at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, is another member of the Golden Lion Society because she loved her experience in the College of Education.

“I learned so much in and out of the classroom, and without Penn State I certainly would not be the person I am today,” she said. “I give back to the College of Education specifically because of the resources provided to me as a student. I knew that I did not want to teach, but I have always loved school and knew I wanted to continue to be involved with education in some way after graduation.”

She said she found the college’s Education and Public Policy (EPP) program and knew early on that was the program for her.

“I had the opportunity to take the typical large elective courses but also be in small seminar structured classes. When I proclaimed my major as EPP, I had no clue what my career would look like, but the resources and support of the faculty and staff of the program gave me the confidence to not fret too much about my future,” O’Hare said.

“Another reason I feel it is so important to support Penn State and the College of Education is because I work in higher education advancement now. In my role I have the opportunity to witness what higher education philanthropy can accomplish," she added.

“I get to witness every day how a gift, of any size, can directly impact the student experience from unique academic opportunities or student support resources. I know that I would not have had the experience I had in my time at Penn State if it were not for donors that believe in Penn State."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 03, 2019