Penn State alumnus and philanthropist George Richards passes away

March 18, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State alumnus and longtime supporter George Richards, formerly of Simsbury, Connecticut, died on Jan. 7. He was 87.

Richards George February 2011

Longtime benefactor and 1954 Penn State alumnus George Richards passed away in January at 87.

IMAGE: Courtesy of the Richards Center

Born in New Castle, Pennsylvania on Oct. 3, 1932, to the late Barton and Elizabeth Richards, he graduated from the College of the Liberal Arts in 1954. He served honorably in the United States Army with the 7th Infantry Division in Korea from 1954 to 1956 and then transferred to the inactive reserve until 1962. After his service in Korea, he went on to study business and marketing at Harvard Business School and earned his MBA in June 1958. He owned and ran Vitex Packaging, which became a world leader in packaging for tea and other goods.

Richards was an ardent supporter of Penn State, especially the College of the Liberal Arts, where in 2009 he earned the distinction of being named as one of twenty Centennial Fellows during the 100th anniversary of the founding of the college. In 2011, he received the Penn State Board of Trustees Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor bestowed by the University upon an outstanding alumna or alumnus. He also was generous to Penn State's Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

In 2002, Richards and his wife, Ann, made a $3 million gift to name the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center in the College of the Liberal Arts. Richards also served as a member of the Richards Center board of visitors.

In reflecting on Richards’ passing, Penn State political science alumnus Howell “Hal” Rosenberg, chair of the Richards Center board of visitors, said, “George was a smart and kind man whose love of Penn State, history, learning and charitable giving turned a dream of creating a world-class center for the study of the Civil War and 19th-century American history into a reality. I will really miss him.”

“George Richards stepped up during a critical moment in the life of the Civil War Era Center,” said William Blair, Ferree Professor Emeritus and director emeritus of the Richards Center. “His philanthropy provided us with the financial footing that allowed us take our initiative to the next level. More than providing financial support, George’s participation on the board of visitors applied his wisdom as a businessman — as well as his unflagging optimism — to reinforce how to create an environment for success. With his support, the center has become a national resource for teaching and researching a transformational moment for American freedom. I look for the center to continue to do justice to his memory as our hearts reach out to his family during this sad time.”

Rachel Shelden, director of the Richards Center, said, "George Richards and his wife, Ann, were pioneers in supporting the Richards Center, and we could not have operated the same way for so many years without the incredible commitment of his family. Our community will miss him dearly."

“I am sorry that I never had the pleasure of meeting George, who by all accounts was even more warm and personable than he was generous,” said Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “He and his wife, Ann, were instrumental in helping the Richards Center become a prominent center for advanced scholarship as well as a national treasure for Civil War Era historians and students. The College of the Liberal Arts feels his loss deeply, and on behalf of all of us, I extend my sincerest condolences to George’s family.”

Richards is survived by four children and their spouses, 14 grandchildren, and a sister. He was predeceased by his parents and by his wife of 54 years, Ann (Stiegler) Richards.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 28, 2020