Penn State Alumni Association named 2020 Renaissance Fund honoree

September 25, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As Penn State’s Renaissance Fund celebrates its 44th year of honoring outstanding community members and helping students in need, the fund’s board of directors has selected the Penn State Alumni Association, the nation’s largest dues-paying organization of its kind, as its 2020 honoree. A virtual event in the association’s honor will be held on Nov. 17 in conjunction with its 150-year anniversary celebration.

The Penn State Alumni Association connects alumni to the University and to each other; provides valuable benefits to members; and supports the University’s mission of teaching, research and service. The organization engages more than 174,500 active members and almost 300 affiliate groups. Through a broad range of programs, benefits, services and resources for alumni, students and friends of the University, the association has created avenues for a lifetime of engagement with Penn State.

“There are few organizations like the Penn State Alumni Association that so comprehensively represent the best of what the University has to offer,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “It has helped to extend our impact to local and global communities while offering avenues for Penn Staters to remain connected to our institution. The Alumni Association is an outstanding choice as this year’s Renaissance Fund honoree, and we are proud to recognize the organization as it celebrates 150 years of service in the name of Penn State.”

Each year, the Renaissance Fund honors an individual, couple or organization that has contributed greatly to the Penn State and State College communities. In its selection process, the fund’s board of directors seeks to recognize honorees with deep roots in the Centre Region, close relationships with civic and University leaders and a commitment to philanthropy. An endowed scholarship fund is created in the name of each honoree, and gifts to the fund can be made by any Penn State supporter or member of the public. Renaissance Scholarships are directed to high-achieving students with great financial need. During the 2019-2020 academic year, more than 729 undergraduates across the University received more than $1,049,600 in support from the Renaissance Fund scholarships.

The Renaissance Fund has already begun accepting contributions to the Penn State Alumni Association Renaissance Scholarship. The association has pledged to match all gifts made to any Renaissance Fund endowment with a contribution of equal size to its own Renaissance Scholarship, up to a total of $500,000. The matching program will provide a 1:1 match of all contributions to Renaissance Funds until November 15, 2020, or until the $500,000 pool of funds has been claimed. Although donors may direct their gift to any Renaissance Fund Scholarship of their choosing, the Alumni Association match will be allocated to the organization’s named fund, the Penn State Alumni Association Renaissance Scholarship.

"The Alumni Association’s pledge to match gifts to Renaissance Scholarships is a powerful testament to the depth of their commitment to the University,” said George Henning Jr., president of the Renaissance Fund and a 1963 graduate of Penn State. “Through the association’s programs, local chapters and affiliates, it has strengthened communities of Penn Staters in the Centre region and around the world. The association not only creates vital connections between the University, its alumni and friends, but also extends opportunities to continue the growth, discovery and commitment to excellence that students cultivate on campus. We are proud to recognize the organization as this year’s honoree.”

Founded in 1870, the Penn State Alumni Association is governed by the Alumni Council, which helps to shape and influence the organization’s policies and direction. Six foundational pillars guide the association’s programmatic and philanthropic objectives: spreading the good news of Penn State and its alumni; supporting and enhancing the student experience; building and sustaining lifelong relationships; harnessing the power of the Penn State network; celebrating academic achievement; and upholding tradition and sustaining spirit.

In 1995, the organization was recognized for the first time as the largest dues-paying alumni association in the world. It has continued growing ever since, and its offerings to alumni, current students, and friends of the University have become hallmarks of the Penn State experience. Among its most popular programming are networking and career development opportunities; Alumni Interest Groups (AIGs), which give alumni a creative way to connect with people they knew during their student years; and the opportunity to become involved with Alumni Association chapters geographically located across the U.S and world. The association produces regular publications for its members, like the award-winning Penn Stater, a bimonthly print magazine featuring stories about Penn State and Penn Staters. It also offers regular volunteer opportunities and educational programming, along with a myriad of other services to University alumni and friends.

For two decades, the Alumni Association has deepened its commitment to the University and its students through consistent giving from the Margin of Excellence Fund. Established in 2000, the endowment supports the association’s philanthropic gifts to Penn State initiatives across academic units and campuses. This year, in response to COVID-19, the Alumni Association pledged $10,000 from the fund toward the Penn State Student Care & Advocacy Emergency Fund, which has provided critical support to students who have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and its financial and health-related implications.

In 2016, proceeds from the Margin of Excellence endowment helped the Alumni Association to pledge $1.5 million in scholarship support to Penn State students as part of the University’s current fundraising campaign, "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence." A previous major gift of $2.1 million in 2008 supported scholarships during "For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students." That gift established 35 Penn State Alumni Association Trustee Scholarships, each endowed at $50,000 in 12 colleges, at 20 campuses, and three additional undergraduate units; and also supported graduate and professional education.

Through these and other gifts to units across the University, the Alumni Association has given more than $16 million in total support for Penn State.

"For 150 years, the association has connected Penn Staters to each other and the University,” said Randy Houston, president of the Penn State Alumni Association and a 1991 graduate of the University. “This honor is the ultimate recognition of the proud tradition of service by generations of volunteer leaders and the positive impact they have had on dear old State."

Paul Clifford, the Alumni Association’s chief executive, added, "The leaders who came before us built this Alumni Association into one of the best in the world, and we work each day to meet that standard because it's what Penn State alumni deserve. This honor is even more meaningful to us because of the numerous Penn Staters who will benefit from this scholarship."

To learn more about making a gift to the Penn State Alumni Association Renaissance Scholarship, visit or contact Kathy Kurtz, associate director of annual giving, at or 814-863-2052.

Gifts to the Penn State Alumni Association Renaissance Scholarship 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 October 13, 2020