Turfgrass support fund to help ensure student success in, out of the classroom

Susan Bedsworth
February 20, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Some of the most memorable parts of the college experience for students are found in the cocurricular activities that enhance what is being learned in classrooms and laboratories. Whether these are competitions, study abroad opportunities, club activities, conferences and workshops, or any number of other possibilities, these activities play a critical role in ensuring students have the tools they need to be successful after graduation.

Such activities sometimes come with out-of-pocket expenses that may make it difficult for students to participate, however. To help relieve some of the potential burden for turfgrass students in the College of Agricultural Sciences, William F. Randolph and Diane Randolph of Powell, Ohio, have created the William F. Randolph Turfgrass Support Fund through a $50,000 commitment, with $10,000 to be directed to students each year for five years.

Bill Randolph, a 1970 graduate of the College of the Liberal Arts and a member of the College of Agricultural Sciences Volunteer Development Council, had known for a while that he and Diane wanted to make another commitment to the college, but were not sure what that should be. After Randolph sat down with a few turfgrass faculty members, the option to create a support fund came to light.

“As we talked, I asked what someone could do besides a scholarship,” said Randolph. “Students are always dealing with out-of-pocket expenses to attend meetings, job interviews, competitions and other events. They don’t always have the money. This fund will help with those types of expenses.”

Randolph, a retired banker, forged a connection to turfgrass because of his father, M. Forest Randolph, who was in the seed business. M. Forest Randolph owned six feed stores with his father in West Virginia before taking a job with an Ohio-based company that sold grass and field seeds to farms and golf courses across Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. His father learned a great deal during his career from Penn State’s Department of Plant Science (formerly Agronomy) regarding turfgrass and seed varieties and always passed that information on to his customers.

Randolph has chosen to honor his father’s respect for Penn State’s plant and turfgrass science programs by establishing scholarships for students who will be the next pioneers in the field. In addition to this new support fund, the Randolphs previously created the M. Forest Randolph Memorial Scholarship in Plant Science, as well as the M. Forest Randolph and William F. Randolph Trustee Scholarship, which supports turfgrass science majors. The couple said they are excited to build on the impact of those gifts with support that will enhance the Penn State experience for recipients.

“You can’t get out of the ag college without getting your hands dirty in one way or another,” said Randolph. “There really weren’t internships when I went to school, but there are tremendous opportunities for students now. I’m glad to know this fund will help defray the cost of plane tickets, job interviews, opportunities to study abroad, and more. These are all things that are significant when they’re coming out of a college student’s pocket.”

In addition to the positive impact the fund will provide for turfgrass students, the mode of giving used by Randolph also provides some additional benefits. By making the gift through a qualified charitable distribution from an IRA, the money can be transferred directly to Penn State without being taxed, maximizing the impact of the gift.

“We have to make mandatory withdrawals from our savings that we don’t need to use day-to-day, and this gives us the opportunity to do something really worthwhile to benefit the students in a really positive way,” said Randolph.

Randolph recognizes that going to school today is financially very different from when he was an undergraduate. He said it means a great deal to him and Diane that they can make a difference in the lives of the students in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

“One of the challenges we have in our world today is there just doesn’t seem to be enough resources to accomplish what you need to do,” Randolph said. “Philanthropy is critical to ensuring there are resources. I want to make sure these students have the best chance at success.”

“Funding like this will increase our ability to expose the students to undergraduate research, international immersion opportunities and other experiential learning trips,” said Erin Connolly, professor and plant science department head. “The support of Bill and Diane Randolph is invaluable to our undergraduate students in turfgrass science.”

The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences represents the foundation of Penn State and its land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University is pursuing "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: Open Doors, Create Transformative Experiences, and Impact the World. Through teaching, research and extension, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of Agricultural Sciences is able to offer scholarships to one in four students, create life-shaping opportunities, and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship. To learn more about supporting the college, visit http://agsci.psu.edu/giving. Information about the campaign is available at greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

Last Updated February 20, 2020