Young liberal arts alumna creates 'Pass-It-On' scholarship to help and inspire

Susan Burlingame
July 14, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Hannah Bracale is only 29 years old — much younger than the typical scholarship donor. But the 2013 Penn State grad, who holds degrees in English and comparative literature, recently did just that: she created what she called the Pass-It-On Fund in the College of the Liberal Arts.

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked her action. A spiritual commitment inspired it.

Bracale grew up in a single parent household and witnessed the struggles her mother endured to make ends meet for her and her younger sister.

“When I was applying for colleges, I knew that sending me and later my sister to college was going to be a significant burden for my mom,” said Bracale. “I spent my time in high school writing applications for grants and scholarships.”

As a result, Bracale received enough financial assistance to afford her education, including tuition-based funding and enrichment support from Penn State. She vowed to give back “some way, some day.”

As an undergraduate, Bracale gave back by taking a leadership position in her sorority and by serving as a member of the University Park Undergraduate Association and the THON communications committee. After graduating and launching her career (she is a business development executive for the Arlington, Virginia-based Gartner, a global research and advisory firm), Bracale gave back by becoming a liberal arts alumni mentor and presenting in a Penn State English class devoted to helping undergraduates learn about career options for English majors.

“You can do anything with an English degree because it teaches you to take complex information, break it down, and present it back in a way that makes sense,” she said. “An English degree is conducive to being in the business world, and I want undergraduates to know that.”

When the pandemic hit, Bracale – wanting to “ground herself” – decided to take a 21-day meditation challenge, where she began to study the concept of “dharma.”

“Dharma is about oneness with the world,” she explained. “One way to help the world is to use your unique gifts and skills to help others. In doing so, you create abundance in the lives of others as well as in your own life.”

With the philosophy of dharma to inspire her and with the COVID-19 pandemic to help her evaluate her purpose in life, she decided it was time to do more.

“During COVID, I realized that I still have a job, and my income isn’t being affected. I also realized many people would have a hard time paying for college, so I contacted the [College of the Liberal Arts] to see what I could do.”

Bracale said she was surprised to find that she could set up a scholarship for only $2,500 per year for five years. She named it the Pass-It-On Fund to honor the concept of dharma and designated it for undergraduate English majors with financial need.

“I could not be more impressed by Hannah Bracale as an English and comparative literature alumna and as a thoughtful and generous human being,” said Mark Morrisson, head of the Department of English. “Her innovative Pass-It-On Fund speaks so well to her philosophical and spiritual commitments to action in a world ordered and given meaning by connection. I am certain that the fund and her example will support future students during their time at Penn State and encourage them to pass that support on as well. I am grateful to her.”

“I know what it’s like to look at a price tag on a book and think, ‘I don’t have that much money in my whole bank account,’” Bracale said. “My hope is that the scholarship will help someone buy their books, pay their rent, or make life easier for them and their family.

“I hope the recipient draws motivation and inspiration from this fund, knowing that their Penn State liberal arts degree will provide the tools and skills to thrive in a post-collegiate world,” she concluded. “The recipient should use this assistance to support a rich and abundant college career and to pause and visualize future goals in their lives to one day give back to those who need it the most.”

The Pass-It-On Fund helps to 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 support from devoted alumni like Hannah Bracale, who believe in Penn State and its mission, “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 greaterpennstate.psu.edu

“We Are” stories

The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment.

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Last Updated July 16, 2020