Alumna and spouse establish largest ever endowed scholarship in DUS

November 10, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State alumna Rhea Schwartz and her husband, Paul Martin Wolff, have leveraged the recently concluded Educational Equity Matching Program to endow a new, $300,000 scholarship in the Division of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) — the largest endowed scholarship in DUS.

“In supporting the Division of Undergraduate Studies so generously, Rhea and Paul are investing in the ability of students to explore the many academic pathways available to them at Penn State and to carefully consider what they wish to accomplish in higher education,” said David Smith, executive director for the Division of Undergraduate Studies and associate dean for advising. “Furthermore, by supporting students who advance diversity within our institution, this scholarship will go far toward making students feel welcome in DUS and at Penn State.”

With an outright gift of $100,000, Schwartz and Wolff unlocked a 2:1 University match to endow the scholarship at $300,000. Each year, proceeds from the scholarship, to be known as the Rhea S. Schwartz Educational Equity Achievement Scholarship in Undergraduate Education, will provide support to three students — a sophomore, a junior, and a senior — who spent time in DUS, whose gender, race, ethnic, cultural and/or national background contribute to the diversity of the Penn State community and who are high academic achievers.

“We hope that these scholarships will help address all aspects of diversity, including disabilities, and assist students in achieving their dream of a college education,” said Schwartz. “I hope, too, that the scholarships will be used to broaden the University's geographic diversity by attracting students from outside Pennsylvania. We have created this fund to benefit the achievements of hard-working students within the Division of Undergraduate Studies who will receive it in the years to come.”

DUS provides an academic home for students who are exploring majors as first- and second-year students at Penn State. With nearly 25% of incoming first-year students at the University Park campus beginning their studies in DUS, the division is one of the largest academic units at the University Park campus. With support from DUS advisers and programming, students ultimately select a major and transition into an academic college for their junior and senior years. The Rhea S. Schwartz Educational Equity Achievement Scholarship is intended to support students through their sophomore, junior and senior years, following them from DUS into the college from which they ultimately graduate.

Although DUS serves a significant proportion of Penn State graduates, the unit has not historically benefited from the same levels of alumni support as Penn State’s colleges and campuses, explained Smith, since students do not graduate from DUS. Smith hopes this gift will inaugurate a new tradition of private giving to the program.

“I am deeply grateful to Rhea and Paul for recognizing the value DUS brings to many students’ educational experiences,” said Smith. “I hope their example will inspire other donors to make similar investments in our program, which helps students chart the path toward meaningful majors and fulfilling lives.”

With degrees from the College of the Liberal Arts and the Georgetown University Law Center, Schwartz serves on the Student Affairs and Undergraduate Education Development Council during the University’s current campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.” She is retired from a distinguished career in law, which included positions as special assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Education, assistant general counsel at the Department of Education and counsel to the board of the FDIC. She also served as deputy director of the Center for Israeli Studies at American University. Schwartz has been active in the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, Washington Performing Arts Society, International Women’s Forum, Girl Scouts of the USA and the international figure skating community. She and Wolff live in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The gift from Schwartz and Wolff will support "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 for committed students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Information about making a gift to support diversity, equity and inclusion at Penn State is available at

Last Updated November 23, 2020