ALTOONA – Altoona residents Stephen G. and Nancy L. Sheetz have made a leadership gift commitment to Penn State Altoona to create a Trustee Scholarship and scholarship endowment in support of the Sheetz Fellows program. The commitment is the couple’s second to the campus during For the Future: The Campaign For Penn State Students.
Each year, in perpetuity, nearly 120 recipients of the Steve and Nancy Sheetz Trustee Scholarship will be awarded a minimum of $1,250 based on financial need. The second endowment, in support of the Sheetz Fellows program established by the couple in 2010, will generate funds enabling Penn State Altoona to provide $5,000 to each Sheetz Fellow in his or her senior year.
“On behalf of our entire Penn State Altoona community, I express heartfelt gratitude to Steve and Nancy Sheetz for an unprecedented gift commitment that will impact our ongoing efforts to recruit and retain exceptional students,” said Chancellor and Dean Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry. “The philanthropic support that Steve and Nancy have offered to Penn State Altoona over the years symbolizes uncommon devotion to our college, students, and community. This gift will open windows of opportunity and broaden the educational horizons for our students, while alleviating the pressure imposed by college tuition costs. In the short term, scholarships allow students struggling with financial hardship to remain enrolled. In the long term, scholarships are enduring symbols of a better quality of life made possible through higher education.”
Steve Sheetz is chairman of the board of Sheetz Inc., an Altoona-based, convenience-store chain. He and Nancy have significant and long-standing personal and professional ties to Altoona and the greater BlairCounty region.
“We believe that education is the gateway to a life filled with learning, growth, and fulfilled dreams,” said Steve Sheetz. “We are blessed to be in a position where we can help others achieve those dreams.”
The Sheetz Fellows program’s specialized curriculum and requirements present challenges and opportunities for intellectual, social, and cultural growth. Students chosen for the program participate in advanced instruction and activities that promote an enhanced awareness and understanding of business theory and practice. The awards that are made possible through the Sheetz Fellows scholarship endowment will help to alleviate student debt. The average educational debt for graduating Penn State Altoona students with loans is more than $39,000. Because scholarships do not have to be repaid, students graduate with less debt and more choices.
PennState launched the Trustee Matching Scholarship Program in 2002 to engage alumni and friends as partners in supporting students in need. Over the years, the program has raised more than $100 million in endowed scholarship support for undergraduates who might not otherwise be able to earn a PennState degree. Each year, some 4,000 PennState students benefit from the more than 800 Trustee Scholarship endowments that have been created throughout the University. During the 2012-13 academic year, Trustee Scholarships have helped 71 Penn State Altoona students to focus on their studies, develop as leaders, and prioritize their education over paying for it.
On March 1, the program began offering a 10 percent annual match for new endowed gifts, doubling the additional funds available for students. This increased match will be available through the end of For the Future on June 30, 2014, or until the pool of matching support has been awarded. The higher match level applies only to new endowments at the $50,000 level or higher.
A 1969 PennState graduate and former Penn State Altoona student, Steve Sheetz maintains a strong relationship with the University through service and philanthropy. He has served as a Penn State Trustee and the chairperson of several capital campaigns at Penn State Altoona. Sheetz has been a member of the campus’s advisory board since 1984. In 1994, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus, the highest recognition PennState bestows on its graduates. Five years later, he was named a Penn State Alumni Fellow, the most prestigious honor given by the Penn State Alumni Association.
Steve and Nancy’s dedication to family and service to numerous charitable and non-profit organizations is an inspiration to all throughout BlairCounty and beyond.
Over the years, Steve and Nancy Sheetz have supported numerous philanthropic initiatives at Penn State Altoona. Their gift to the campus in 2009—the largest in the history of Penn State Altoona at the time—established the Sheetz Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, transformed the Entrepreneurial Studies program, created the Sheetz Fellows Program and an endowment to support the purchase of cutting-edge technology for the Trading Room in the center, and named Rossman Park, which is located adjacent to the center in downtown Altoona.
With Sheetz Inc., Steve and Nancy Sheetz created the Sheetz Family Endowed Scholarship and Sheetz Visiting Lecture Program. To date, nearly $240,000 has been awarded from the scholarship endowment to ninety-one students. The couple’s gifts have helped to fund construction of the AdvancedTechnologyCenter and CommunityArtsCenter and benefited the intercollegiate athletics program, Penn State Altoona Future Fund, and William J. Rossman Renaissance Scholarship.
“Once again, Steve and Nancy have presented a gift to Penn State Altoona that is the product of heartfelt generosity, thoughtful planning, and careful study,” said Bechtel-Wherry. “In keeping with the spirit of their philanthropy, these two endowments will provide financial support to our students in perpetuity, allowing those who benefit from the scholarships to make the same impact in their communities that Steve and Nancy have made in ours.”
The gift from Steve and Nancy Sheetz will help Penn State Altoona to reach the goals of For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. This University-wide effort is directed toward a shared vision of PennState as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The University is engaging PennState’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 PennState degree affordable for students and families. The For the Future campaign is the most ambitious effort of its kind in PennState’s history, with the goal of securing $2 billion by 2014. Penn State Altoona’s goal is $20 million.