Board of Trustees

Penn State trustee chairman commits $5 million to scholarships, football, hunger

Mark Dambly and Ira Lubert talk before the public comment period at the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, Jan. 16, 2015.
Mark Dambly and Ira Lubert talk before the public comment period at the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, Jan. 16, 2015. CDT photo

At the May meeting of the Penn State board of trustees, there was a lot of talk about the new fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.” There was discussion of its ambitious $1.6 billion goal, and the $315.3 million it has taken in since July 2016.

The chairman tweaked that number.

In an announcement Monday, the university revealed that Ira Lubert put a $5 million commitment in the campaign’s pocket.

Lubert, a 1973 graduate who wrestled for Penn State before taking his food service and housing administration degree and putting it to work in real estate and private equity, has laid out a plan that supports not only education and athletics, but student well-being.

According to the university, $3 million will be divided between four scholarships. In addition to $2.4 million for the Millennium Scholar program and $500,000 for an Abington Campus Open Doors Scholarship, there will also be funds that augment the Rod Kirsch Renaissance Scholarship. The Renaissance Fund has given out scholarships for more than 40 years. In the 2014-2015 school year alone, 475 scholarships topping $687,000 were given to students in need.

Lubert will also be establishing a new scholarship in the College of Health and Human Development.

But what about athletics? Another $1.75 million is being designated for renovations to the Mildred and Louis Lasch Football Building.

The last chunk of the gift is $100,000 to go to the Lion’s Pantry, the food bank that serves students facing hunger issues. Lubert’s gift follows the designation of the Lion Pantry as the recipient of the Class of 2017’s gift.

“Having served on the board of trustees for many years and now as chair, I am aware of the vast potential of Penn State’s students, faculty and programs, and I know how philanthropy can fuel their achievements,” said Lubert in a release. “I’m fortunate that, in part because of my Penn State education, I can give back and help support the future of my alma mater and its graduates.”

Lubert was first named a trustee in 1997. He served until 2000, and then served again from 2007 to 2013. He rejoined the board in 2015 to fill out the term of then-vice chair Kathleen Casey, who went from being a business and industry nominee to filling a newly created at-large seat. He was subsequently elected vice chairman in 2015 and then unanimously elected chairman in 2016.

A wrestling scholarship recipient himself, Lubert has supported a number of scholarship and educational programs in the past, including the Renaissance Fund, the Football Excellence Fund, the College of Health and Human Development, the All-Sports Museum and wrestling, as well as the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and more. He has helped grow philanthropy in others, including being on the steering committee for the Grand Destiny campaign, which ran from 1996 to 2003 and raised $1.37 billion.

He is a recipient of both the Distinguished Alumni Award and the Alumni Fellow Award.

“Leading by example, Ira has long served the university through his many volunteer efforts as well as his philanthropic giving,” said President Eric Barron in a statement. “With his vantage point, he is able to identify where giving will have the most impact and has stepped up to fill critical needs. We are very thankful for his commitment to Penn State and for his generosity that will broadly benefit Penn State students and programs.”

Barron has been a proponent of both the Millennium Scholars and Open Doors programs, which are part of his vision to see Penn State as a leader in innovation while keeping a degree accessible and affordable for Pennsylvania students.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce