By Dave Lieb, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State has received the largest commitment in the 10-year history of the Trustee Matching Scholarship Program from Jeff and Kellie Hepper, who are establishing a $5 million endowment for students with financial need. In recognition of their gift, the Fitness Center at Rec Hall will be named in honor of Jeff’s parents, Clifford and Jean Hepper, who were Penn State graduates and longtime supporters.
“Jeff and Kellie’s gift will change the lives of so many students, beginning immediately and for generations to come,” said Penn State President Rodney A. Erickson. “Scholarship support is the University’s top fundraising priority, and thanks to the Heppers, many students who might have otherwise been hindered by financial constraints will have the opportunity to earn a Penn State degree.”
Jeff, who is a former director of the Vitol Group of Companies in Houston and the father of two current Penn State students, said that supporting financially needy students was a major motivation for the gift. “Kellie and I have a deep affinity for the University and an appreciation for the important role it plays in educating future leaders,” Jeff said. “We know this gift will go far in helping students of all backgrounds have access to the educational resources my parents enjoyed while they were at Penn State and the opportunities our sons are now experiencing.”
Clif, ’47 English, who died in 2010, and Jean, ’47 education, met as students at the University Park campus in the 1940s. Not only did their time at Penn State mark the beginning of their life together, it also began a lifelong connection with the University. “Jeff’s parents have always been Penn State proud,” Kellie said. “For more than 60 years, they traveled to State College regularly to visit the campus and attend football games. Their love of Penn State has been inspirational for our family.” Clif and Jean also committed themselves to active, healthy lifestyles, and Jeff explained that the Clifford R. and Jean Kincaid Hepper Fitness Center will symbolize his parents’ pride in the University and the value they placed on higher education and physical fitness.
The Heppers’ gift will bring Penn State to the threshold of its Trustee Matching Scholarship Program goal, set when the program was established in 2002. “Thanks to Jeff and Kellie, we are now very close to achieving our $100 million goal for the Trustee Matching Scholarship Program,” Erickson said. “It is an exciting accomplishment for the University and for the thousands of students who benefit from need-based scholarship support.”
The Trustee Matching Scholarship Program maximizes the impact of private giving while directing funds to students as quickly as possible, meeting the urgent need for scholarship support. In this groundbreaking philanthropic model, Penn State matches 5 percent of the total pledge or gift at the time a Trustee Scholarship is created, making funds available immediately for student awards. This University match, which is approximately equal to the endowment’s annual spendable income, continues in perpetuity, doubling the support available for students with financial need.
“The Heppers’ generosity is truly remarkable,” Erickson said. “Naming the fitness center after Jeff’s parents will serve as a fitting tribute to their legacy at Penn State and the family’s commitment to our students’ physical and educational well-being. These scholarships will help students take full advantage of all that Penn State offers.”
The Heppers’ gift will help Penn State to achieve the goals of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The University is engaging Penn State’s alumni and friends as partners in achieving six key objectives: ensuring student access and opportunity, enhancing honors education, enriching the student experience, building faculty strength and capacity, fostering discovery and creativity, and sustaining the University’s tradition of quality. The campaign’s top priority is keeping a Penn State degree affordable for students and families. The For the Future campaign is the most ambitious effort of its kind in Penn State’s history, with the goal of securing $2 billion by 2014.