Emergency assistance fund to help students faced with abrupt setbacks

Tom Joudrey
August 18, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Janice Strickler has always been iron-willed in pursuing her ambitions. When her father decided in the early 1950s to send her and her two sisters to secretarial school, she held fast to her passion for sartorial design. Every outfit she wore to high school was her own creation, sewn together by her own hand. Her zeal was enough to persuade her parents to let her apply to Penn State to study home economics, but even then, the high school counselor unduly held up the application. Undaunted, Strickler strode into the counselor’s office and demanded it be sent -- immediately. Her admission followed not long thereafter, and four years and some months later, she earned her degree from Penn State in 1957.

For all her moxie, Strickler is quick to credit those around her -- especially her parents -- for the encouragement and financial sacrifices they made to make her education possible.

“My father earned a modest salary, and I knew that an accident or economic downturn at the wrong time could have meant I couldn’t cover tuition to finish my degree,” said Strickler. “That feeling has stuck with me, and I wanted to find a way to eliminate some of that financial uncertainty for undergraduates who aren’t as fortunate as I was.”

Now, Strickler has stepped forward with a gift of $25,000 to help students who are faced with sudden, life-altering setbacks. The Janice L. Strickler Student Emergency Fund will become a permanent endowment in the College of Health and Human Development that will channel resources to undergraduates facing a crisis -- such as the death of a parent, abrupt loss of income, serious illness, or an inability to afford housing, and -- in order to prevent emergencies from disrupting their enrollment. The fund is designed to build a short-term bridge of support that enables students to emerge credentialed, financially solvent and positioned on a career path that aligns with their passion and interests.

The impact of Stickler’s gift will be amplified by a $10,000 matching gift from Johnson & Johnson, where until her retirement at age 55 Strickler served in an executive role as director of market research.

“Over the years, Janice has shown truly remarkable philanthropic leadership by zeroing in on the college’s most urgent priorities,” said Craig J. Newschaffer, Raymond E. and Erin Stuart Schultz Dean of the College of Health and Human Development. “Her most recent gift will establish a permanent reserve of resources that will help students when they need it most and when they’re at their most vulnerable. It’s a great feeling to know that future generations of Penn Staters will benefit from the positive impact of her forethought and generosity.”

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in home economics with an emphasis on retail merchandizing, Strickler transitioned into market research job for Procter & Gamble. There, she traveled the world and went door to door soliciting feedback on the next generation of consumer products. Later, she joined a tobacco company before finishing out her career by climbing the corporate ranks at Johnson & Johnson.

Now three decades into her retirement, Strickler has stayed physically strong and mentally sharp through a mix of water aerobics, bowling outings and competitive bridge. She also discovered a passion for stage acting later in life and continued to explore the world with overseas travel to Europe.

After a lifetime spent as an itinerant global sales researcher, Stickler has never lost track of her roots in the Penn State community. Her nephew and his three children opted to follow in her footsteps to become Penn Staters themselves. In 2014, she made the first of her gifts to the college with the Janice L. Strickler Award, followed by the Janice L. Strickler Open Doors Scholarship, which serve complementary purposes by empowering the college to recognize academic excellence and to support students with financial need.

Strickler’s most recent gift 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 greaterpennstate.psu.edu

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 24, 2021