Penn State Altoona Philanthropic Council Chair endows Open Doors Scholarship

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Steve Richards, chair of the Penn State Altoona Philanthropic Council, and his wife, Michele J. De Leon, have made a $50,000 gift commitment to establish the Harold (Had) C. Richards Memorial Open Doors Scholarship at Penn State Altoona.

Named to honor the life of Richards’ father, the Harold (Had) C. Richards Memorial Open Doors Scholarship supports students enrolled at Penn State Altoona who are participating in the Pathway to Success Summer Start (PaSSS) program. Through the Open Doors Scholarship Program, the University matched the Richards gift 2:1, and the gift will become a $150,000 scholarship endowment.

Richards' father, Had Richards, grew up in Altoona, only a few miles from Penn State Altoona’s Ivyside campus. He went on to join the U.S. Navy UDT-SEAL program and marry Richards' mother, Elizabeth. Richards and his brother, Craig, are both Penn State graduates and attended Penn State Altoona.

“My father was always so proud that both of his sons went to Penn State, and especially that we both enjoyed our experiences at Penn State Altoona. In particular, the Ivyside campus held a special place in his heart since his parents' home was once situated on the same land,” Richards said. “The Open Doors Scholarship opportunity was the perfect way to honor my dad’s life and connection to Altoona, while maximizing the philanthropic impact to Penn State.”

In an effort to expand access and affordability, Penn State has created a number of programs, which include PaSSS, to help students overcome the obstacles that can hinder their path to graduation. Open Doors Scholarships support students in these programs. The summer PaSSS program at Penn State Altoona provides tools and resources to first-year students to increase their likelihood of graduating on time, potentially saving thousands of dollars in tuition and fees that would accrue from an additional semester or year. In addition to completing their coursework, students in the PaSSS program are paired with mentors and guaranteed a job opportunity.

“On behalf of our entire Penn State Altoona community, I extend my sincere thanks to Steve and Michele for their generous gift to support our students enrolled in the PaSSS program. Steve’s leadership as chair of our college’s Philanthropic Council is inspiring, and this gift is yet another example of his steadfast commitment to enhancing the opportunities available to our students,” stated Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry, chancellor and dean of Penn State Altoona.

The University's Open Doors Scholarship Program is a featured giving opportunity of the University-wide fundraising campaign, "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence." When donors make a minimum gift of $30,000 for a need-based undergraduate scholarship, the University will provide a permanent 2:1 match, tripling the endowment principal and the funds available for eligible students in perpetuity. This opportunity is available through June 30, or until all matching funds have been expended.

Richards is president and chief executive officer of Mood Media Corporation. Mood is the global in-store leader for experience design solutions, connecting brands with customers via interactive music, media, and mobile marketing campaigns. Richards earned his bachelor’s degree in business from Penn State in 1984. In 2015, he received the lifelong title of Alumni Fellow, the highest award given by the Penn State Alumni Association.

Gifts from Penn State's alumni and friends have been essential to the success of the University's historic land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has begun “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a public university: Private support will keep the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; create transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impact the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit