Spaniers Named 2011 Renaissance Fund Honorees

UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State President Graham Spanier and Professor of English Sandra Spanier have been named Penn State’s 2011 Renaissance Fund honorees. They will be recognized in November at the 35th annual Renaissance Fund dinner, according to John Walizer, president of the fund’s board of directors.
Each year, the Renaissance Fund honors an individual or couple who, through a lifetime of service, has contributed greatly to the Penn State and State College communities. In its selection process, the fund’s board of directors seeks to recognize individuals who have deep roots in the Centre Region, close relationships with civic and University leaders, and a commitment to philanthropy.

“We are thrilled to recognize Graham and Sandra Spanier for their contributions and service to Penn State and the Centre County community,” said Walizer. “The fact that Penn State maintains such a strong focus on its students owes much to the energy and effort that Graham has brought to the presidency. Sandy brings her own enthusiasm and expertise to her outstanding teaching and research.”

This year’s recognition dinner will be held Wednesday, Nov. 9, at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on the University Park campus, with a 6 p.m. reception, followed by dinner and the program at 7 p.m.

The Renaissance Fund is a highly visible example of Penn State’s efforts to ensure student opportunity through scholarship support funded by private philanthropy — the chief objective of the current $2 billion University-wide fundraising initiative, For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. The annual dinner raises money in the honorees’ names. Those contributions are used to endow Renaissance Fund scholarships, which are awarded to academically talented Penn State students who have great financial need. Since the fund’s inception in 1969, nearly $9 million has been raised. During the 2010-11 academic year, 418 students received Renaissance scholarships totaling $611,000.

During their time at Penn State, Graham and Sandra Spanier have generously supported the Renaissance Fund each year. Through this kind of philanthropic support, and through their professional roles as scholars and leaders, they have repeatedly shown their commitment to Penn State’s mission of providing unparalleled access and public service to support the citizens of Pennsylvania.

As Penn State’s president for the past 16 years, Graham Spanier has been integral in developing the student-centered approach that has come to define the University and has spearheaded the successful integration of teaching, research and service. Under his leadership, many initiatives that improve educational quality, student access, and the health and wellness of Pennsylvania’s citizens have come into existence, including the Schreyer Honors College, the World Campus, and the College of Information Sciences and Technology. Spanier has worked to increase safety on and around Penn State’s campuses by instituting programs to combat problems such as excessive alcohol consumption. He also has helped foster a remarkably strong town/gown relationship between State College and Penn State. He is a strong promoter of business investment in the borough and he regularly participates in events that involve and impact the community, such as LION Walk and the Martin Luther King Jr. programs.

Sandra Spanier is a scholar of American literature and a faculty member in Penn State’s Department of English. She serves as general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project, a massive initiative by an international team of scholars to publish all of Ernest Hemingway’s surviving letters — more than 6,000 in total — in at least 16 volumes, with the first to appear from Cambridge University Press this fall. She is an outstanding teacher of undergraduate and graduate students, and she shares her literary expertise and engaging teaching style with the State College community through public talks for local cultural groups. Spanier also has published scholarship on the writers Kay Boyle and Martha Gellhorn, and is a consultant to Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers. She serves on the editorial board of The Hemingway Review, has been a consultant to several films about Hemingway and has been active in international efforts to conserve Hemingway’s papers and home in Cuba.

In their private philanthropy, Graham and Sandra Spanier have created endowments such as the Graham B. and Sandra K. Spanier Student Development Fund for the Musical Theatre Program, the Philip Young Special Collections Endowment for the Libraries, and the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh TIAA-CREF Trustee Scholarship. They have also given broadly to University initiatives that improve access to education and service to communities, including undergraduate scholarships, International Programs, Health and Human Development, and WPSU.

Graham Spanier earned his doctorate in sociology from Northwestern University and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Iowa State University. He previously served Penn State from 1973-1982 as a faculty member and in three administrative positions in the College of Health and Human Development. Sandra Spanier earned her master’s degree and doctorate in English from Penn State and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. While working on her graduate degrees she taught English in the State College Area School District from 1973-1981.

The Spaniers have two children, Brian, a finance graduate of Penn State, and Hadley, a marketing graduate of Penn State.

For Renaissance Fund dinner information or to make a contribution, contact Kathy Kurtz in the Office of Annual Giving at 814-863-2052 or

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