Returning Senior Fund supports 19 student-athletes

March 17, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Through the generosity of Penn State alumni, friends and fans, Intercollegiate Athletics received more than $630,000 in support of the Returning Senior Fund to cover scholarships for senior student-athletes from the spring of 2020 who returned to Penn State this year. Created in response to the cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fund provides scholarships for qualifying senior student-athletes who were granted an additional year of NCAA eligibility.

While this generosity provides critical support during an economically challenging time, Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics and the Nittany Lion Club will continue to work with donors who wish to provide COVID-relief support for student-athletes impacted during the 2020-21 academic year.

“Support from the Penn State community has always been at the heart of our student-athletes’ successes,” said Sandy Barbour, vice president for Intercollegiate Athletics. “I am grateful to the many donors who helped us welcome our spring 2020 seniors back for one more year to represent the Blue and White.”

Student-athletes on spring 2020 teams who benefit from the generosity of the Returning Senior Fund include those from baseball, men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and men’s and women’s tennis. Scholarships have been awarded to student-athletes who continued their academic pursuits and have been invited to return for a fifth season of eligibility, offering the same amount of financial aid for which they qualified during the canceled 2020 season.

“When I found out I could return for a fifth year of eligibility, it was one of the happiest days of my life,” said Maria Auth, a member of the women’s lacrosse team and now a graduate student studying clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling. “I’m so proud to be able to represent Penn State on the field for another year — and I would not have been able to do it without all of the support from the University community!”

Donor support for this fund will continue to empower fifth-season seniors in all sports for the 2020-21 academic year who were impacted by COVID-19. These affected student-athletes will receive the ability to realize their academic and athletic goals and ensure younger student-athletes have the opportunity to learn from experienced team leaders.

"Student-athletes give so much of their hard work and heart to compete for Penn State,” said Helen and Ed Hintz, longtime supporters of the University who made a $400,000 gift to the Returning Senior Fund. “It brings us great joy to know we can be a part of realizing the final season of competition to which these Penn Staters have looked forward across their careers at the University.”

In addition to the Returning Senior Fund, gifts made to the ONE TEAM initiative, which benefits the Levi Lamb Fund, continue to support operational setbacks caused by the ongoing global health crisis. An investment in Penn State’s 800-plus student-athletes, the ONE TEAM initiative is supporting scholarships at all levels, as well as programs and services provided to student-athletes, such as academic support, nutrition, sports medicine, mental health and wellness, and facility maintenance. Currently, this initiative has received more than $2 million in support of these impactful programs.

“I feel very grateful to have seen the support of the Penn State community impact so many of our student-athletes,” said John Gondak, head coach of the University’s track and field programs. “The generosity of Penn Staters is playing an essential role in preparing those who wear the Blue and White to make a lifetime of impact.”

Gifts to the Returning Senior Fund and to the ONE TEAM initiative 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 hard-working 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 To make a gift in support of the Returning Senior Fund or the ONE TEAM initiative, visit

Last Updated April 19, 2021