ALTOONA, Pa. — Longtime philanthropic leaders Steve and Nancy Sheetz have made a new gift to Penn State Altoona totaling $2.7 million. The couple, who were named the University’s Philanthropists of the Year in 2010, have deepened their commitment to the Sheetz Fellows Program, which offers mentorship, special programming and financial support to Penn State Altoona students with the capacity to lead and serve in the local community and beyond. The Sheetz gift will also create the first fund at the campus for students facing financial emergencies, as well as an endowment targeted to Ivyside Eats, a program that addresses food insecurity among Penn State Altoona students.
“Through their businesses, their philanthropy, and their service, Steve and Nancy have modeled what it means to be true community leaders,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “Their example and their support are helping Penn State Altoona students to follow in their footsteps. These new commitments come at a moment when so many Penn Staters and others are facing profound personal and financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the gift from Steve and Nancy will be essential in helping the Penn State Altoona community to weather the present moment and look toward an even brighter future.”
Scholarships for each new class of Sheetz Fellows will be funded by a $1.7 million endowment created through the Sheetz gift. The program currently supports research, study abroad and internship opportunities for Sheetz Fellows that enhance their academic and professional experiences. Sheetz Fellows are also expected to engage in community service; seminars, workshops and professional development activities; and special mentoring and advising to help them achieve their full potential as leaders. The Sheetz Fellows program is a signature initiative of Penn State Altoona’s Sheetz Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, located in downtown Altoona and created through a 2010 gift from Steve and Nancy.
“The scholarships created through this new commitment will help the Sheetz Fellows to make the most of our program’s opportunities and communicate to these talented, ambitious students that Steve and Nancy believe in them and their future,” said Donna Bon, director of the program and assistant teaching professor in entrepreneurship. “That kind of encouragement is invaluable as Sheetz Fellows pursue challenging academic and professional paths and lay the foundation for successful careers in our region.”
The remaining $1 million of the Sheetz commitment will be split between two endowments for students facing critical and urgent needs. Penn State Altoona’s first emergency assistance fund will help undergraduates navigate financial crises that have the potential to delay or derail their progress toward a degree. The fund for Ivyside Eats will help the campus organization meet the growing food-insecurity crisis among students, especially those impacted by pandemic-related job losses and other concerns. Last academic year alone, more than 400 students received support from the Ivyside Eats food pantry.
“For many years, Steve and Nancy have been extraordinarily generous friends and powerful advocates for Penn State Altoona students,” said Chancellor and Dean Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry. “I appreciate their ongoing support of and commitment to our students, college and community. Their gift acknowledges the difficult challenges that many of our undergraduate students face. Steve and Nancy’s investment in our students’ success is a lifeline to many of our undergraduates. Their gift also affirms their belief in the potential of our students to lead and participate in economic revitalization as together, we promote the economic strength and growth in our region.
"Steve and Nancy’s support will have a profound impact for decades to come," continued Bechtel-Wherry. "I am deeply grateful for their continued investment in our students’ success and in our college.”
Steve and Nancy Sheetz grew up in Altoona, and they have built both a celebrated business and a family in the region. Steve began his Penn State journey at his hometown Penn State Altoona campus, then known as the Altoona Undergraduate Center. The company headquarters remains in Altoona, and Steve and Nancy Sheetz have taken on many roles in the community, at Penn State Altoona, and at the University. Steve has served as a member of the University's Board of Trustees and has been a member of the Altoona campus’ advisory board since 1984. He also chaired a number of fundraising initiatives on behalf of Penn State Altoona. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 1994, the highest recognition Penn State bestows upon its graduates, and in 1999 he was named an Alumni Fellow, the most prestigious honor given by the Penn State Alumni Association. In 2015, Steve and Nancy were named Penn State Altoona Renaissance Honorees, and they both have served as Presidential Counselors since 2010.
Their past philanthropy has included, in addition to the gift that created the Sheetz Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, several scholarships that have provided support to more than 1,000 students over the last 10 years, and funds for programming at the Sheetz Center and the Penn State Altoona campus. Their total philanthropy to the University now totals nearly $15 million. This spring, they will be inducted to the Elm Circle of the Mount Nittany Society, Penn State’s highest level of recognition for its donors.
“Nan and I are grateful for all that this region and Penn State have done to support our success, and we are glad to help today’s and tomorrow’s students achieve their own ambitions and build careers, businesses, and lives in the Altoona area,” said Steve Sheetz. “No Penn State Altoona student should go hungry or face financial hardship alone, and every Penn State Altoona student should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential for leadership. We all benefit when young people in our region earn their degrees and find their own ways to give back.”
The new commitment from Steve and Nancy Sheetz 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 hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.