UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State Distinguished Alumnus Donald P. Bellisario, writer, producer and director, has endowed a $1 million Trustee Matching Scholarship in the College of Communications.
The impact of the largest single endowed scholarship gift in the college’s history will be doubled. The Trustee Matching Scholarship Program, approved by Penn State’s Board of Trustees in 2002, matches 5 percent of the endowed gift annually with University funds. With the match, a fully endowed $1 million fund generates $100,000 a year for scholarships.
“A $1 million gift, with the University matching the annual 5-percent payout in perpetuity, is transformational for the college and for the scores of Bellisario Trustee Scholars who each year will walk the halls of Carnegie Building,” Dean Doug Anderson said. “Without
doubt, Don’s magnificent gift will lift the spirits of its recipients, will make life more manageable for them and will, in many instances, help propel them to a lifetime of successes.”
Bellisario said there were many reasons he decided to endow the scholarship. “Growing up in a hardscrabble western Pennsylvania coal mining town, I know first hand the sacrifices that are made to give a son or daughter a university education,” he said. “To make their burden a little lighter is what I can give back to the hard working people of Pennsylvania.
“And as a Marine veteran who returned to Penn State with two small children and little money, I remember all too well that struggle. It’s my hope that this scholarship will also ease the financial burden of other young men and women who have defended our country to attain their academic goals.”
Bellisario’s $1 million trustee scholarship is one of only six at that level at Penn State.
The Trustee Matching Scholarship Program is designed to ensure the affordability of a Penn State education for needy and deserving students.
President Graham Spanier said: “Don is not only one of Penn State’s most talented, accomplished and visible alums, he is also one of our most philanthropic. This gift is one of the largest donations for scholarships in the University’s history, and we are immensely grateful.”
Bellisario, a 1961 journalism graduate, has long been a supporter of the college. In 2001, he was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus. This award salutes the achievement of outstanding Penn State alumni whose “personal lives, professional achievements, and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater.” It is the highest honor bestowed on a graduate of the University and is sponsored and administered by the Penn State Board of Trustees.
Bellisario has been crafting words and stories for a variety of readers and audiences for more than 30 years, and did so long before he gained notoriety as a creator/producer of several television series. He began his writing career as a copywriter for a small advertising agency in Lancaster. He later moved to Dallas to take a copywriting position at the Bloom Agency. After eight years at Bloom, Bellisario had risen to the level of senior vice president, creative director and member of the board of directors.
But he gambled on a new career. Moving to Hollywood, he became a story editor on “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” the series with Robert Conrad that aired from 1976 to 1978. After five episodes, Bellisario was promoted to producer, a position he held for one year. He then became supervising producer of “Battlestar Galactica” and, subsequently, began to develop his own series. Bellisario is best known for his creations: “Magnum, P.I.,” “Quantum Leap,” “JAG” and “NCIS.”
Carnegie Building houses a collection of Bellisario’s works. He has provided more than 200 episodes of “JAG” and “NCIS” as an instructional resource for faculty members and students. Each donated episode includes a script for the show and a VHS tape or DVD of the final product.He frequently meets with students when he is on campus.