Penn State has named Peter and Ann Tombros, longtime philanthropic and volunteer leaders whose giving places them among the top five donors in the University’s history, as its 2022 Philanthropists of the Year. The award recognizes individuals, couples or families who have demonstrated exceptional generosity in the promotion and support of the University.
The Tombroses were honored for their transformative support, including a commitment announced last year to benefit programs across Penn State and create a University-wide endowment to encourage other alumni and friends to support the institution.
“Throughout their many years of service and support to the University, Peter and Ann have truly embodied the Penn State spirit of giving,” said Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi. “The Tombroses’ gifts have been especially meaningful because they have created new resources that will help future leaders and Penn Staters to carry forward their values and their commitment to this community. All of us at Penn State are deeply honored by the trust that the Tombroses have placed in us, and we are thrilled now to honor them as our Philanthropists of the Year.”
The landmark 2021 commitment from the Tombroses established funds for top institutional leaders, including the first-of-its-kind Peter and Ann Cullen Tombros Endowment. The fund will provide the Penn State President, guided by an advisory board of University leaders, with support that can be used to supply seed grants for pilot initiatives, foster philanthropy and volunteering among the Penn State community, and encourage other donors to support the University by providing matching funds for their gifts.
“We have had deeply meaningful and rewarding experiences as members of the Penn State community, and we want to open the door for others to share in those experiences,” said Peter Tombros. “It’s a great honor to be named as the University’s Philanthropists of the Year, but we want every Penn Stater to feel that their support is valued. Together, we can create opportunities and fuel achievements that will impact both Penn State and the larger world for generations to come.”
The couple also committed funds to endow and early-activate the Peter and Ann Tombros Dean’s Chair in the College of Agricultural Sciences, from which Peter Tombros earned a bachelor’s degree in 1964 and a master’s degree in 1968, and the men’s basketball coach position, providing the Peter and Ann Tombros Head Coach with resources to enhance opportunities for student-athletes through scholarships, travel, equipment, and other needs. Two funds for the University’s medical enterprise — the Peter and Ann Cullen Tombros Endowment for the Penn State Center for Medical Innovation and the Cullen/Tombros Early Career Professorship in the College of Medicine — honor Ann’s father, late State College physician and surgeon Esker W. Cullen, and support new generations of healthcare researchers and leaders. Peter and Ann Tombros also built upon their longtime support of the Musical Theatre program in the College of Arts and Architecture.
“Peter and Ann understand that there is no limit to what Penn State and Penn Staters can achieve with the support of alumni and friends,” said O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for development and alumni relations. “They have been passionate advocates for the University, and they have set a new standard with their leadership and their giving. With great humility, the Tombroses have always wanted to keep the focus on those who have benefited from their support, rather than on themselves, but we are delighted that they have agreed to accept this recognition as our Philanthropists of the Year.”
The Tombroses’ relationship with Penn State dates back to their childhoods in the State College area. After earning his Penn State degrees, Peter went on to receive an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, and he built a career in the pharmaceutical industry, first at industry giant Pfizer and later as CEO of Enzon, one of the nation’s pioneer biotech companies. Ann Tombros taught in public and private elementary schools before creating her own property management and design consulting firm.
The couple, who split their time between homes in New Canaan and Rowayton, Connecticut, and State College, Pennsylvania, have also had long volunteer careers with the University. Peter served as the volunteer chair of “For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students,” which raised $2.16 billion for the University between 2007 and 2014, and he is now serving as vice chair of the University’s current comprehensive campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.” Among other roles and positions, he has also donated his time as a distinguished executive-in-residence with the Eberly College of Science, where he was instrumental in expanding its BS/MBA program. Ann is a longtime volunteer leader for the University Libraries and the Palmer Museum of Art. Together, the Tombroses have also led by example with their gifts to a wide range of University programs, including support for multiple scholarships, faculty endowments, athletic teams, facilities projects, THON, and, in partnership with John and Jeanette McWhirter, the creation of the Tombros McWhirter Knowledge Commons in the University Libraries.
“Penn State has given so much to us, and we are glad that we have been able to give back in return,” said Ann Tombros. “We are honored to be named as the University’s Philanthropists of the Year, but it means even more to us to know that our support is helping students and faculty to be ambitious for themselves and for Penn State. Their success is the legacy that matters most to us, and we hope that they will find their own ways to give back.”
Philanthropy from Peter and Ann Tombros 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 21-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 fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.