Renaissance Fund honors Alumni Association, raises $1.5 million for scholarships

November 20, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s 44th annual Renaissance Fund celebration on Nov. 17 honored the Penn State Alumni Association, the world’s largest dues-paying organization of its kind, and celebrated the group’s 150-year anniversary.

The virtual event hosted more than 500 attendees from around the world and raised more than $1.5 million, a new Renaissance Fund record, for endowed scholarships to benefit students with financial need. Nearly 300 donors have supported the fund to date, and the Alumni Association itself committed an outright gift of $500,000, plus up to $500,000 more in matching funds for gifts from other donors.

A recording of the 2020 Renaissance Fund Celebration is available online. The virtual event included remarks from University leaders, Alumni Association representatives, Renaissance Fund Board members, as well as current and former Renaissance scholarship recipients. The program highlighted both the Renaissance Fund’s and the Association’s contributions to Penn State communities.

“We are proud and humbled to be this year’s Renaissance Fund honoree, joining a long list of inspiring Penn State philanthropists and also becoming the first organization to be recognized with this prestigious award,” said Paul J. Clifford, chief executive officer of the Penn State Alumni Association, who earned a master of education degree in higher education in 2020. “Serving the Penn State community is at the core of the Alumni Association’s mission, and we’re grateful to be recognized by the Renaissance Fund for our efforts.”

Randy Houston, president of the Penn State Alumni Association and a 1991 graduate of the University, added, “This recognition and the ability to build upon our philanthropic efforts with the Renaissance Fund scholarship are incredibly meaningful for us, as the scholarship will enhance our ability to attract bright students who will continue to swell Penn State’s fame.”

The annual Renaissance Fund celebration raises support for Renaissance Scholarships, which are awarded to academically talented Penn State students who have great financial need. Each year the Renaissance Fund honors community leaders, and contributions are used to endow scholarships in their names. Since the Renaissance Fund's inception in 1969, the total endowment has grown to more than $17 million. Last year, 729 Renaissance Fund scholarships were awarded to Penn State students, offering more than $1 million in financial support.

In addition to their own gift of $500,000, the Penn State Alumni Association pledged to match all gifts made to any Renaissance Fund endowment with a contribution of equal size to its named Renaissance fund, the Penn State Alumni Association Renaissance Scholarship. The matching program was originally slated to run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15, and had already helped the Renaissance Fund to announce a record-high fundraising total during the virtual celebration. At the event’s conclusion, Penn State President Eric J. Barron announced that the matching opportunity will now run through Nov 30. Anyone interested in making a gift to receive matching funds can visit

George Henning Jr., president of the Renaissance Fund and a 1963 graduate of Penn State, lauded the Association’s qualifications as the fund’s 2020 honoree: “[The Alumni Association] has touched the lives of our University’s alumni and friends in almost every way you can imagine. Its local chapters, alumni interest groups, and networking opportunities join passionate alumni and friends around the globe. And its philanthropic support has helped to offer scholarships and exciting new opportunities for students at campuses across Pennsylvania. On behalf of the Renaissance Fund Board of Directors, I am proud to recognize the Penn State Alumni Association for their contributions.”

While celebrating the Renaissance Fund, the event also commemorated the Alumni Association’s 150-year anniversary. Founded in 1870, the organization serves the Penn State community through six pillars: 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.

Among the Alumni Association’s most popular offerings are Alumni Interest Groups (AIGs), which connect alumni with people they knew during their student years or with those who share connections to specific Penn State programs, as well as the opportunity to become involved with Alumni Association chapters geographically dispersed across the U.S. and the world. The association also produces regular publications for its members, like the award-winning Penn Stater, a bimonthly print magazine featuring stories about the University and its graduates. The organization also offers regular volunteer opportunities and educational programming, along with a myriad of other services to University alumni and friends.

Through giving from its Margin of Excellence Fund, established in 2000, the Alumni Association has deepened its commitment to the University and its students. The Margin of Excellence Fund has facilitated more than $16 million in total gifts from the Alumni Association to Penn State. 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. Other gifts throughout the fund’s history have supported undergraduate and graduate scholarships as well as programmatic support for academic units across the University.

Commenting on the timeliness of the Association’s honor, Rich Bundy, vice president for development and alumni relations at Penn State, who earned bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees in history in 1993 and 1996, respectively, said, “During this year of social distance, we can all recognize the need for an organization that actively seeks to bring people together. And for one hundred and fifty years, the Alumni Association has done exactly that and so much more. Through its programming and philanthropic support, the Association joins Penn Staters for unforgettable experiences and helps the University to provide new opportunities for alumni and friends year after year.”

Penn State President Eric Barron talked about the impact of the association’s new scholarship and offered further recognition of the group’s efforts, adding, “The Penn State Alumni Association Renaissance Scholarship will allow us to continue our heritage of providing access to education for academically strong students who demonstrate the highest need. To Paul Clifford, his wonderful staff and volunteers, and everyone who is part of the Alumni Association, on behalf of Penn State, congratulations on this honor.”

Gifts to the Penn State Alumni Association Renaissance Fund 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 serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated November 23, 2020