It’s hard to measure up to the gift the Class of 1940 gave to Penn State — the prowling Nittany Lion statue that is a campus icon.
Seventy-five years later, the Class of 2015’s gift is very different, but takes powerful steps in a new direction.
On Wednesday, the results of voting were in and the winner announced. The present is all about the future: a solar panel array.
“I think that this gift is functional, which makes it unique in comparison to many of the other past class gifts,” said Tara Bendler, executive director of the class gift campaign.
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“The first step of many to come, the solar array will serve as a renewable-energy source and a valuable educational resource,” she said. “The solar array will also build awareness of our energy-reduction efforts and proclaim Penn State’s strong commitment to sustainability and a greener future.”
Students voted on the gift from a slate of three options. Also on deck were a stone engraving with the first stanza of the university’s alma mater and a “student success” scholarship to aid graduating seniors in financial need.
Assistant Director of Annual Giving Geoff Hallett said figures are not released on how many votes each project received, but that the solar array was a “clear winner.”
“It’s a very forward-thinking gift,” he said. “It’s part of a larger trend in the student body to think of larger problems we are all going to face. It’s very much speaking toward larger issues of environmental problems and sustainability.”
The project is being turned over to the Office of Physical Plant to evaluate exactly which building would best benefit from solar power and how to accomplish it.
Each year, the graduating class makes its mark on Penn State with a gift that will make an ongoing impact. Sometimes it is visible, like the lion statue.
The Class of 1912 gave a radio station; the Class of 1978 gave the antique brass bell at Beaver Stadium; and many other classes have contributed to the ongoing educational goals of their school through scholarships, book collections and other endowments.
“I think it’s important to have a class gift because it allows students to give back to the university and ensure success for future Penn Staters. It also promotes a philanthropic spirit and greater loyalty to the university,” Bendler said.