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Impact on Educational Equity in Science

9 March 2021

Amid a national call to action for racial equity and justice, Penn State offered $10 million from a pool of resources for student support to match new endowed scholarships created to enhance the University’s ability to recruit and retain students whose gender, race, ethnic, cultural, and/or national background contribute to the diversity of the student body.

The Educational Equity Matching Program represented not only a response to the crisis facing our country and a challenge issued at George Floyd’s memorial service but also a commitment to long-term systemic change: The lessons that Penn State students learn about diversity, equity, and inclusion at our institution will carry over into the rest of their lives—as professionals and leaders, as family members and citizens. 

During the match period, six educational equity scholarships were established by alumni and friends of the college to benefit students in the Eberly College of Science. Matched 1:1 by the University, these scholarships will support the financial needs of students whose gender, race, ethnic, cultural, and/or national background contribute to the diversity of the college’s undergraduate student community. The total impact of these gifts is $175,000. Additionally, Eberly College of Science alumni created four University-wide educational equity scholarships, totaling $280,000. 

When asked why this support is critical for the college, former Dean Douglas Cavener, himself an educational equity scholarship donor, said, “One of our college’s driving priorities is to increase the diversity of those pursuing advanced degrees and careers in the sciences. I am personally committed to this goal, and my wife, Lan, and I were really pleased to endow a scholarship to support underrepresented students as they pursue science degrees at Penn State.”

Kristin Finch, the college’s associate dean for diversity and inclusion, added, “We passionately believe that all students, no matter their background, should have equal access to cocurricular opportunities and initiatives that help them explore their identity as scientists.”  

Our alumni reflected on why they chose to support this important initiative:

John and Nora Kern

"Everyone, regardless of race, gender identification, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background, deserves the opportunity to experience the rich educational and personal growth environment that Penn State has to offer, without fear and discrimination. We look forward to expanding diversity and opportunity amongst not only the student body but also the entire faculty and staff, to better reflect the world in which we live.” 

John Kern ’84 and his wife, Nora
Benefactors of the Dr. John Kern and Dr. Nora Kern Millennium Scholars Scholarship

Ron Venzie with Nittany Lion mascot

“The education and experiences I received at Penn State, especially in the Eberly College of Science, were critical to my success as a health professional. Seeing how committed the University and the college are to expanding access to the Penn State experience for students from diverse backgrounds inspired my wife and me to want to help. Creating an endowed scholarship in the college represents one small-but-concrete step we can take to help make a difference.”

Ron Venezie ‘86
Benefactor of the Dr. Ronald and Michele Venezie Endowed Millennium Scholars Scholarship

Monica Morrow

“Educational opportunity is a key to success in life, and my time at Penn State instilled in me a lifelong love of learning which has been essential in my career. The scholarship is named in honor of my parents, who taught my sister (also a Penn Stater) and me to value people for who they are, not the color of their skin or their ethnic background. Penn State and the Eberly College of Science have been leaders in scientific achievement, and I am proud to participate in a program to help Penn State lead in educational opportunities for all Americans.” 

- Monica Morrow ‘74
Benefactor of the Maxine and J. Robert Morrow Scholarship for Educational Equity

Darryl and Heidi Brandon

"We always imagined that all students went to the college of their choice, as we did. However, not everyone gets that chance. Penn State provided me with the education and skills to pursue a career that I genuinely enjoyed. In each of the companies where my wife and I worked throughout our careers, we saw how diversity and inclusion accelerated the business success of those companies. With this gift, we want to ensure that the financial obstacles that prevent worthy students from either attending Penn State or completing a degree in the Eberly College of Science are removed.”

Darryl Brandon ’76 and his wife, Heidi
Benefactors of the Heidi and Darryl Brandon Educational Equity Scholarship

Steven Gilman

“I was a graduate student at Penn State from 1975–79 and received an M.S. and Ph.D. in microbiology. The science programs at Penn State were incredibly strong, and the teachers were both good educators and, as importantly, good mentors for me that strongly shaped my love for science as well as my development as a person. The science education I received at Penn State was critical to my ultimate success as a scientist and pharmaceutical executive. I am pleased to support this scholarship in order to help others, particularly those with diverse backgrounds, to get the outstanding science education that I did, by helping them attend Penn State.” 

Steven Gilman ’77g, ‘79g
Benefactor of the Dr. Steven Gilman Educational Equity Scholarship

Alex and Christina Winnicker

“Leadership is a learned—not innate—skill, and this scholarship encourages diverse students interested in the STEM fields to become leaders in those fields. Representation matters, and we want to foster the next generation of diverse leaders in STEM at Penn State.”

Christina Winnicker ’93 and her brother, Alex ‘02
Benefactors of the Winning Consultations Millennium Scholars Scholarship

The Eberly College of Science would like to thank the donors, alumni, and friends of the college who partnered with us to champion this initiative, which will provide transformational opportunities and a better future for our students. 

To inquire about philanthropic opportunities, including scholarships and equity initiatives, visit or contact Kim Neely, senior director of development and alumni relations, at 814-880-1578 or