Fords lead creation of $100,000 scholarship at Penn State Behrend

ERIE, Pa. — As former first-generation college students, Penn State Behrend Chancellor Ralph Ford and his wife, Melanie Ford, have a personal understanding of the importance of supporting students in achieving their goals of a college education.

That's why, in considering a gift to Penn State Behrend, the Fords decided to pledge $50,000 to create an endowment that would directly aid students most in need of scholarship funds.

In a show of support, a group of alumni, faculty and friends matched the Fords’ gift as a way to recognize the couple and their contributions to Penn State Behrend.

In all, the Fords and eight additional donors contributed a total of $100,000 to fully fund the Dr. Ralph M. and Melanie R. Ford Trustee Scholarship, which Penn State will match at an established percentage every year in perpetuity. Since the University’s matching funds began immediately with the Fords’ gift, several students have already benefited from scholarships beginning in the fall of 2017.

“We feel strongly about the importance of providing access to higher education because we represent the first generation in our own families to have that opportunity,” Ralph Ford said. “We wanted to create a way to help future generations of students learn, explore and succeed at Behrend and in the world after graduation.”

Ford was named chancellor of Penn State Behrend in 2016. His connection to the college, however, stretches back decades. He joined the college in 1994 as a faculty member in electrical and computer engineering. In 2005, he assumed leadership of the School of Engineering, now recognized as one of the top 30 undergraduate engineering schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report. In 2013, while still director of the School of Engineering, Ford assumed additional duties as associate dean for industry and external relations for the college. As chancellor, Ford serves as Penn State Behrend’s chief academic and administrative officer, with responsibility for all teaching, research and outreach activities of the college, as well as overall campus operations.

Melanie Ford, a lecturer in computer science and software engineering at Penn State Behrend, has been a faculty member in the department since 2000. She also serves as director of Youth Education Outreach, which develops and delivers programs and activities that engage more than 20,000 area youth and educators each year. Ford has received several awards for her work at Penn State Behrend, including the 2010 Penn State Women in the Sciences and Engineering Institute Faculty Recognition Award for her role in helping women and girls excel in engineering and the sciences.

“Ralph and I believe firmly in the value of a Penn State Behrend education and in the tremendous opportunities students have here to succeed,” Melanie Ford said, “and it’s a great feeling to have friends and colleagues who share our commitment to Behrend and its students join us in creating this endowment.”

The establishment of endowed scholarships, through singular and group efforts, is one of a number of ways Penn State alumni, friends, faculty and staff can support the University. Supporters may make direct gifts; make multi-year giving commitments; include the University in their retirement and estate planning; and even donate real estate and stocks and bonds.

While the Trustee Scholarship Program that the Fords used to establish their scholarship is no longer offered by the University, two new programs provide matches of 1:1 or 2:1, said Kevin Moore, director of Development and Alumni Relations at Penn State Behrend. Both programs have minimum gift amounts, and one will continue only through the end of June 2018, Moore said.

“With these new programs, donors can double or triple the impact of their gifts and, in turn, their support for our students,” Moore said. “Both programs offer outstanding opportunities to make a difference in students’ lives by combining a donor’s philanthropy with an attractive University match.”

For more information about these programs, Penn State Behrend supporters can contact Moore at 814-898-6159 or [email protected].

Penn State’s alumni and friends have been essential to the success of the University’s land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has launched “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a public university: Private support will keep the doors to higher education open to hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; create transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impact the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. Visit to learn more.