Ivy Leaf - Fall 2013

Sheetz endowments

to expand scholarship awards to historic levels

Thanks to the latest leadership gift commitment by Steve and Nancy Sheetz, considerably more Penn State Altoona students will be empowered to focus on their education rather than the costs associated with it.

In May, Steve and Nancy created a Trustee Scholarship and scholarship endowment in support of the Sheetz Fellows program. The commitment—the couple’s second to the campus during For the Future: The Campaign For Penn State Students—is the largest in support of student scholarships in Penn State Altoona’s history.

Each year, in perpetuity, nearly 120 recipients of the Steve and Nancy Sheetz Trustee Scholarship will be awarded a minimum of $1,250 based on financial need. The second endowment, in support of the Sheetz Fellows program established by the couple in 2010, will generate funds enabling Penn State Altoona to provide $5,000 to each Sheetz Fellow in his or her senior year. The Sheetz Fellows program accepts no more than twenty students each year.

To provide context, a total of seventy-one students received Trustee Scholarships at Penn State Altoona during this past academic year. With their gift, Steve and Nancy have nearly tripled the total number of Trustee Scholarship recipients at Penn State Altoona.

“I express heartfelt gratitude to Steve and Nancy for another unprecedented transformational gift that will help our students focus on their studies and develop as leaders,” said Chancellor and Dean Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry. “This gift will open windows of opportunity and broaden the educational horizons for our students, while alleviating the pressure imposed by college tuition costs. In the short term, scholarships allow students struggling with financial hardship to remain enrolled. In the long term, scholarships are enduring symbols of a better quality of life made possible through higher education.”

In recent years, over 80 percent of Penn State Altoona students have qualified for financial aid, but fewer than 9 percent of those students received University scholarships. For many students, loans become an option of necessity. The average educational debt for graduating Penn State Altoona students with loans is more than $39,000.

“Scholarships are so vitally important because they assist students who might not otherwise be able to earn a degree, giving them the power to change their own lives,” said N. Susan Woodring, director of Development and Alumni Relations. “Many of our undergraduates work multiple jobs while carrying a full course load, yet our students are graduating with more debt than ever before. The challenges of paying for their education can limit students’ experiences at the University and their options after graduation. Many, when faced with these financial obstacles, give up on their Penn State dreams. This kind of need-based aid allows students to graduate with less debt and more choices.”

Steve Sheetz is chairman of the board of Sheetz, Inc., an Altoona-based, convenience-store chain. He and Nancy have significant and long-standing personal and professional ties to Altoona and the greater Blair County region. Their dedication to family and service to numerous charitable and non-profit organizations is an inspiration to all throughout Blair County and beyond.

“We believe that education is the gateway to a life filled with learning, growth, and fulfilled dreams. We are blessed to be in a position where we can help others achieve those dreams.”
- Steve Sheetz

The Sheetz Fellows program’s specialized curriculum and requirements present challenges and opportunities for intellectual, social, and cultural growth. Students chosen for the program participate in advanced instruction and activities that promote an enhanced awareness and understanding of business theory and practice. The awards that are made possible through the Sheetz Fellows scholarship endowment will help to alleviate student debt.

Penn State launched the Trustee Matching Scholarship Program in 2002 to engage alumni and friends as partners in supporting students in need. Over the years, the program has raised more than $100 million in endowed scholarship support for undergraduates who might not otherwise be able to earn a Penn State degree. Each year, some 4,000 Penn State students benefit from the more than 800 Trustee Scholarship endowments that have been created throughout the University.

On March 1, 2013, the program began offering a 10 percent annual match for new endowed gifts, doubling the additional funds available for students. This increased match will be available through the end of For the Future on June 30, 2014, or until the pool of matching support has been awarded. The higher match level applies only to new endowments at the $50,000 level or higher.

A 1969 Penn State graduate and former Penn State Altoona student, Steve Sheetz maintains a strong relationship with the University through service and philanthropy. He has served as a Penn State Trustee and the chairperson of several capital campaigns at Penn State Altoona. Sheetz has been a member of the campus’s advisory board since 1984. In 1994, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus, the highest recognition Penn State bestows on its graduates. Five years later, he was named a Penn State Alumni Fellow, the most prestigious honor given by the Penn State Alumni Association.

Over the years, Steve and Nancy Sheetz have supported numerous philanthropic initiatives at Penn State Altoona. Their gift to the campus in 2009—the largest in the history of Penn State Altoona at the time—established the Sheetz Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, transformed the Entrepreneurial Studies program, created the Sheetz Fellows Program and an endowment to support the purchase of cutting-edge technology for the Trading Room in the center, and named Rossman Park, which is located adjacent to the center in downtown Altoona.

With Sheetz, Inc., Steve and Nancy Sheetz created the Sheetz Family Endowed Scholarship and Sheetz Visiting Lecture Program. To date, nearly $240,000 has been awarded from the scholarship endowment to ninety-one students. The couple’s gifts have helped to fund construction of the Advanced Technology Center and Community Arts Center and benefited the intercollegiate athletics program, Penn State Altoona Future Fund, and William J. Rossman Renaissance Scholarship.