Encouraging Students

The success of every Behrend student relies on the support of many, including generous alumni and friends whose gifts open the doors to a Penn State education and enrich the academic and co-curricular learning experiences of our students. Gifts to Penn State Behrend made during the campaign, A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence, have combined to make an impressive impact.

New scholarships

Since the start of the campaign, Penn State Behrend alumni and friends have established 54 new scholarships, generating an additional $1.4 million annually in new award monies to Behrend students. Many of the scholarships leveraged University matching funds to maximize the impact of donor support.

A Behrend Political Science graduate, Sam Epps IV ’95 and his wife, Zabrina, created an Educational Equity scholarship to benefit students whose gender, race, and ethnic, cultural, and/or national background contribute to the diversity of the Behrend student body. Epps serves on the executive board of the Penn State Alumni Association.

Dr. Bhagwati Prasad Gupta ’69, ’64, who taught engineering courses as an adjunct faculty member at Behrend for more than two decades while working for GE, established an endowed scholarship for high-achieving Behrend engineering students who have demonstrated financial need. The scholarship also honors the memory of Bhagwati’s late wife of 60 years, Krishna Gupta.

Earlier in the campaign, the Guptas’ daughter, Nishi Gupta ’82, established the Gupta Family Educational Equity Scholarship to support students who bring diversity to the Behrend student body. She also created an Open Doors scholarship for engineering students, with preference given to female students in engineering majors.

Brian ’90 and Pam ’89 Kupchella created a Trustee scholarship to provide financial assistance to undergraduate students majoring in nursing who have demonstrated need. Brian is chief executive officer of Clarience Technologies, a role he has held since 2016 with Truck- Lite. He is also a member of the board of directors of Penn State Behrend’s Council of Fellows.

Friends of the college Mark and Lisa McCain created two scholarships: an Open Doors scholarship to support students in Behrend’s Pathways to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS) program and a scholarship that honors Mark’s mother, Patricia McCain, with preference given to graduates of Erie’s Villa Maria Academy.

Retired banking executives Larry ’94, ’84 and Charlotte Neizmik created an endowment to benefit Behrend economics majors who have financial need. Larry, who earned his MBA from Behrend, is a lecturer in economics in the Black School of Business.

James ’68 and Sandra Schlaudecker established a scholarship for adult learners enrolled in Behrend’s mechanical engineering technology and electrical engineering technology programs. James is retired after a long career with Procter & Gamble. The couple also created the Schlaudecker Family Fund for Innovation Commons.

Ann ’99, ’82 and Thad ’83 Scott established an Open Doors scholarship to benefit underrepresented students from the Erie area participating in the college’s PaSSS program. Ann is the current chair of the board of directors of Penn State Behrend’s Council of Fellows.

To honor the memory of her parents, Arden Sonnenberg ’85 created a scholarship to support students who may benefit from academic or financial support to launch their academic careers. Sonnenberg previously established the Kenneth Sonnenberg Poetry Award at Behrend in memory of her deceased husband, a 1985 graduate of Behrend and a published poet.

The Excelerate Program

With a $1.5 million gift, matched by $2.5 million in University funds, Erie Insurance is collaborating with Penn State Behrend to provide scholarships for first-year students and funding for upper-level students to gain experience working with local businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The program, known as Excelerate, benefits as many as 50 students a year— with scholarships to those participating in Behrend’s Pathways to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS) program and with stipends to those engaged in research, internships, or co-op experiences. The program is intended to broaden the pathway to a college education for more Erie area young people and help build the talent that powers economic revitalization of the region.

The Excelerate program is a foremost example of Erie Insurance’s longtime support of Penn State Behrend and its students. The company’s philanthropy to Behrend also funds scholarships, youth outreach programs, financial literacy efforts, and research by Pennsylvania Sea Grant, among other activities of the college.

The Mirror Project

Earlier this year, Larson Texts Inc. made a $100,000 gift to jumpstart a funding effort to cover the full cost of tuition for Behrend students who major in elementary and early childhood education. The effort, known as The Mirror Project, is the brainchild of Dr. Eric Corty, retiring director of Behrend’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Corty’s vision is for Behrend to contribute to the diversity of teachers in Erie’s public schools by covering the four-year tuition of local students who agree to remain in their hometown to teach after getting their degree. He describes the challenge to be addressed with this project in this way: “Most urban schools have few teachers who look like many of their students. Teachers who look like their students serve as role models and mentors, help students learn and dream higher, and reduce dropout rates. Although it will take time, The Mirror Project can generate the financial resources to produce such teachers.”

The near-term goal of the project is a minimum of $500,000— two-thirds of that amount to come from gifts such as that from Larson Text and the other one-third from a match by Corty.

Boosting Athletics

The generosity of numerous alumni and friends of the college is contributing to the student-athlete experience at Penn State Behrend.

A group fundraising effort to honor Dr. Roger Sweeting ’63, former director of athletics and faculty emeritus of exercise science, resulted in the creation of the Roger Sweeting Endowment for Athletics. Sweeting himself gives regularly to numerous Behrend athletic endowments, including those for men’s basketball, men’s soccer, and baseball.

The men’s basketball program is benefitting from the support of a new endowment established in memory of Ethel Kochel by her son and daughter, Jeff Kochel ’72 and Patricia Kochel Young. Ethel was the wife of longtime Behrend administrator Irvin Kochel and a strong supporter of Behrend student-athletes. The endowment provides much-needed funds for uniforms, equipment, and team travel.

As a first-year student in 1965, Bob Yerkey ’70 began serving as student manager of Behrend’s baseball team, but he reports that his “personal favorite” sport has always been basketball. Reflecting this, in 2019, he established the Robert L. Yerkey Men’s Basketball Endowment with an initial gift of $50,000, and he continues to add to the fund.