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Alumni couple create endowment to enhance Science LionPride
5 November 2019
John and Amy Italia

In establishing the Science LionPride Endowment for students in the Eberly College of Science, John and Amy Italia wanted to create a sense of community among majors in the college through a student ambassador program. What they didn’t expect was to become part of a campus family.

From bringing pizza to student meetings to hosting mentorship dinners in their home, the Italias' volunteer service with and philanthropic support of Science LionPride has not only provided students with professional guidance, but it has also helped build lasting relationships with student ambassadors that they still cherish today.

“Living in such close proximity to the University, we are able to visit some of the students and engage them not only in conversation, but also see their accomplishments firsthand,” Amy Italia said.

Today, Science LionPride is a successful organization with approximately forty members in majors across the Eberly College of Science, committed to fostering a strong community of students who are passionate about science and Penn State. Student ambassadors represent the college at alumni events and engage with prospective students and alumni through campus tours. Organization members also participate in various community service projects and fundraise for various efforts, including Relay for Life and THON.

The Italias’ support for Science LionPride has deepened their connection with the University. John matriculated to the University Park campus from Penn State Beaver and graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in biology from the Eberly College of Science. He earned a doctorate of medicine in dentistry from the University of Pittsburgh. Amy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the College of Education in 1995. Both active members of the local community, John is a practicing dentist in the State College area and Amy is a retired teacher and parent volunteer for the State College Area School District.

As a former Lion Ambassador and alumnus of the Eberly College of Science, John Italia felt it was important for students in the college to have opportunities to connect in meaningful ways, including science-related mentoring. To advance the college and create a sense of collective identity for its undergraduates, he engaged his fellow Science Alumni Society Board to create a student ambassador program.

“During my tenure on the board, I was fortunate enough to be part of a dedicated alumni group that supported the creation of a student organization within the college comprised of students who chose to be members of the group,” said John Italia. “Our goal was to bring a ‘face’ to the College of Science with members who were enthusiastic to represent the college and provide outreach for current and potential parents and students.”

From the beginning, John and Amy were impressed with the drive of the students chosen for the first class of ambassadors. The undergraduates took initiative in naming the organization, creating its by-laws, and running meetings. They became a source of pride and passion for the Italias, and John and Amy didn’t hesitate to further support the organization. The couple endowed Science LionPride with a gift of $25,000, ensuring vital funding to expand the organization’s programming.

“Seeing how excited the earliest groups of Science LionPride members were about the program and how motivated they were to shape and to guide the direction of the organization, John and I were confident that they deserved to benefit from this financial gift to move the program into the future,” Amy Italia said.

For students in Science LionPride, the organization is a deeply meaningful part of their Penn State experience. The organization not only provides access to rewarding outreach and mentoring opportunities, but also helps students to form long-lasting friendships and connections they will carry forward after graduation.

“I want to extend our sincerest thanks to Dr. and Mrs. Italia for their support of Science LionPride,” said Madalyn Charnego, a senior biology major and current president of Science LionPride. “The Italias’ gift will create new resources and opportunities for Science LionPride members, adding to an amazing organization that has already given us so much. Generosity to student organizations is directly shaping the experience of students like me all across the Penn State community, and I am grateful to the Italias and to all of our alumni and donors who support student life at Penn State.”

As Science LionPride continues to grow, the Italias still enjoy watching its members guide their fellow students and become valued members of their college community. 

“My wife and I hope that the program continues to thrive and to create connections within the College of Science and also allows students to come together and bond on a social level as well,” said John Italia.

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’s current campaign "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," focuses on the three key imperatives of a 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, visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.