Penn State Altoona receives gift to advance rail transportation engineering

ALTOONA, Pa. — Charles N. “Charlie” Marshall, of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, has made a transformational gift to support the Rail Transportation Engineering degree program at Penn State Altoona. His $500,000 gift has established the Donnell Marshall Excellence Scholarship for Rail Transportation Engineering Students at Penn State Altoona and his gift of $100,000 has created the Penn State Altoona Rail Transportation Engineering Enhancement Endowment.

The Donnell Marshall Excellence Scholarship, named in honor of Marshall’s father, Donnell, who attended Penn State a century ago, will support Penn State Altoona students with high financial need who major or plan to major in Rail Transportation Engineering (RTE). This gift was matched 1:1 by the University as part of the recently concluded First-Time Endowed Scholarship Donor Matching Program, a featured giving opportunity of “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” the University’s current fundraising campaign — doubling the scholarship’s impact. The Rail Transportation Engineering Enhancement Endowment will provide vital funding for the program’s marketing, recruitment and retention purposes, including digital media advertising, outreach programs and summer camps.

“Charlie’s transformational gift will have a lasting impact on our RTE program and our college. I appreciate his unwavering support of our RTE program,” stated Penn State Altoona Chancellor and Dean Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry.

Penn State Altoona’s RTE degree program is the first and only bachelor of science degree in rail transportation engineering in the nation and is accredited by the ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Created in direct response to demographic shifts resulting in the loss of highly trained, senior railroad engineers in recent years, the program provides students with a unique multi-disciplinary experience that emphasizes the study, development and application of new and emerging technologies impacting the rail industry.

“From the program’s inception, Charlie’s leadership and vision have been integral to its success,” added Bechtel-Wherry. “Through his leadership on our RTE Board, his counsel and vision for the program have enabled our faculty, staff and students to reach new levels of success. We are grateful for Charlie’s generous investment in our RTE program and our students’ success.”

Since its inception, 32 students have been enrolled in the program. Twenty-four students have graduated, one will matriculate in December, and the remaining students will graduate in the coming years. Every student who completed the degree is employed in the field.

“Our RTE program is on the verge of making another leap in its growth. Charlie's gifts will tremendously help us realize our vision for RTE recruitment and retention,” said Jungwoo Ryoo, head of the Division of Business, Engineering, and Information Sciences and Technology and professor of information sciences and technology. “We are especially thrilled to use the scholarship and enhancement funds to recruit our next generation of railroad engineers. Through my interactions with industry representatives, I understand that having a significant infusion of new railroad engineers is a top priority, and Charlie's contributions to our RTE program will enable us to help meet this dire workforce need. We feel honored to steward these precious new resources provided by Charlie.”

Marshall is a founding member of Penn State Altoona’s RTE Industry Advisory Board and was crucial to the implementation of the RTE degree program. Last year, the RTE Industry Advisory Board established a scholarship in his honor to recognize his leadership and ongoing contributions to the creation and growth of the degree program. Marshall’s past philanthropic support helped to bolster the degree program and its marketing efforts.

Marshall stated, “Rail Transportation Engineering is a great opportunity for students who have math skills and enjoy working on outdoor projects. The railroads and their consulting firms offer remarkable and often overlooked opportunities that pay well and lead to rapid advancement. A career in railroading is usually just plain fun.”

Marshall retired as vice chairman of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. in 2006, where he previously served as president and chief operating officer. Throughout his career, he served in various high-level positions at Conrail, including senior vice president of development.

Marshall’s gifts will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship.

To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit