New scholarship will help adult learners at Penn State Behrend

A selfie of James and Sandra Schlaudecker on a beach

James and Sandra Schlaudecker have created a scholarship for adult learners in Penn State Behrend's mechanical engineering technology and electrical engineering technology programs.

Credit: Contributed photo

ERIE, Pa. — In the early 1960s, James Schlaudecker was a young husband and father of two working as a garage mechanic for $1 an hour. It wasn’t easy for him to support his family.

So, in 1963, Schlaudecker decided to use the money his late father had left him to do something his dad had urged him to do before passing: enroll in college.

It took five years for Schlaudecker to complete his associate degree at Penn State Behrend, juggling employment, family responsibilities, spotty transportation and financial challenges. But he did it.

“It was a struggle,” he said, “but one that was extremely important for me to achieve.”

Now, Schlaudecker is helping students in similar situations. He and his wife, Sandra, have created a scholarship designated for adult learners in Penn State Behrend’s mechanical engineering technology and electrical engineering technology programs. The couple’s gift of $50,000 was matched by the University, bringing the total scholarship amount to $100,000.

“I was an unenthusiastic student in high school, with the grades to match,” Schlaudecker said, “but at Behrend, I entered an exciting environment of learning and discovery. It was one of the most fulfilling, although most challenging, periods in my life. I was hungry to learn and succeed. Remembering this, I decided to create a scholarship for others who might be experiencing the same challenges I faced.”

“Scholarships for adult learners are not as common as those for undergraduate students, so the Schlaudecker scholarship is especially meaningful in that regard,” said Biddy Brooks, director of the Office of Adult Learning Services at Penn State Behrend. “Adult students are typically navigating a multitude of life experiences, including those of a financial nature, and every bit of support can make the difference in their success.”

After his graduation from Behrend, Schlaudecker launched a career with Procter & Gamble that ultimately took the couple and their son all over the world. He has now retired and settled in Blacksburg, Virginia.

“Penn State Behrend represents a crucial chapter in my life,” he said, “and Sandy understands the warm spot in my heart for the college, which is why she also supports this donation enthusiastically. I hope this scholarship helps others who have dreams of going to college but are facing financial challenges that might otherwise keep them from getting that degree.”

The couple’s gift advances “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 fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit