Posted: May 5, 2021

The Penn State Millennium Scholars Program in the College of Agricultural Sciences has received a generous increase in support thanks to philanthropic gifts from two of the college’s alumni.

The Penn State Millennium Scholars Program in the College of Agricultural Sciences has received a generous increase in support thanks to philanthropic gifts from two of the college’s alumni.

Paul Heffner pledged an estimated $1 million estate gift to benefit the Paul Heffner Scholarship in the College of Agricultural Sciences, which he created in 2010. First preference for the scholarship has been denoted for Millennium Scholars students. Dr. Duane Norman and his wife, Roslyn W. Norman, endowed the H. Duane and Roslyn W. Norman Millennium Scholars Scholarship through a $100,000 gift through the University’s now concluded Educational Equity Matching Program, securing a 1:1 match through the program.

“Offering the Millennium Scholars Program is a significant financial commitment for our college,” said Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “It is thanks to donors like Duane and Roslyn Norman and Paul Heffner, as well as the support of faculty and staff, that we are able to offer this outstanding program. We are very grateful for this generous philanthropic support for the Millennium Scholars Program that recruits and mentors scholars from diverse backgrounds who are committed to earning doctoral degrees and joining the next generation of leaders in STEM fields.”

Heffner and the Normans have dedicated their lives to science and agriculture. Heffner, a 1968 Animal Industry graduate, worked in a variety of agricultural positions during his career, building on the foundation of the activities in which he participated in the College of Agricultural Sciences and his time working in the Penn State beef barns. After starting as a herdsman with SUNY Alfred, he moved to Gettysburg where he was in charge of six farms and 500 beef cattle for a privately owned operation.

After starting his own cattle farm nearby, Heffner eventually sold it and moved to Tennessee where he owned and operated his own cattle ranch. He retired in 2010 but keeps a small herd of beef cattle and other farm animals.

Norman, a 1964 Agricultural Sciences and Industries graduate, grew up on a dairy farm in Liberty, Pennsylvania. He spent 42 years as a research geneticist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. After retiring, he was hired as interim administrator for the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding, where he continues to work.

Norman comes from a Penn State family, with 34 members having attended the University, including one of his and Roslyn’s three daughters. Roslyn, a Wake Forest University graduate, also worked for the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, and both served as organizational and activity leaders for the Fulton 4-H Community Club.

Heffner and the Normans all recognize the importance of developing the next generation of leaders in agricultural and STEM fields. They also understand the financial burden a college education can be today.

“Times have changed since I was in college, and students today face a difficult challenge in paying the cost of higher education,” said Heffner. “It’s important that students have the option of going to college, especially with the help of financial aid and scholarships.”

The Normans echoed Heffner’s sentiments, saying, “It’s important to help alleviate the stress of the financial burden that college can be for students. We believe those who want to go to college should be able to do so.”

Heffner hopes that students who benefit from the scholarships will have the opportunity to achieve their dreams like he did when he was a student and made the decision to pursue an agricultural degree.

“Education opens up the world in different ways,” said Heffner. “I know it’s very difficult to cover the cost of higher education, but it’s important that students have the opportunity to attend and participate in activities that add to their experience. I hope while there, they have a game-changing moment, like I did, and that they can realize their dreams.”

As with one of their previous scholarships, the Normans were able to leverage University matching funds — in this case, from the Educational Equity Matching Program — to maximize the value and impact of their gift.

“Matches help make scholarships worth so much more than they otherwise would be,” said Norman. “They allow individual students to be awarded more money or for more students to receive aid from a particular scholarship. As people who benefited from scholarships that helped cover our college expenses, we want to return the favor and help out current and future students.”

The Millennium Scholars Program fosters a diverse, tight-knit and supportive learning community for high-achieving students who are not only committed to pursuing advanced degrees, but also to increasing the diversity of professionals in STEM-related disciplines and becoming leaders in those fields. Currently, five colleges at the University Park campus offer the program and support student cohorts, including the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Each Millennium Scholar receives a substantial financial aid package, which includes tuition, room and board for in-state students and tuition only for out-of-state students. The aid is renewable for all four years, provided the students maintain good academic standing. Funding may come from a variety of Penn State and external scholarship sources, as well as federal and state financial aid. Students may also pursue admission to the Schreyer Honors College.

“We are proud to be a part of the Millennium Scholars Program at Penn State,” said Roush. “The students who graduate from this program and obtain doctoral degrees go on to be leaders across a wide range of STEM fields, providing not only a positive example, but also mentoring the next generation of diverse young scholars in STEM.”

The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences represents the foundation of Penn State and its land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University is pursuing "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a twenty-first-century public university: Open Doors, Create Transformative Experiences, and Impact the World. Through teaching, research, and Extension, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of Agricultural Sciences is able to offer scholarships to one in four students, create life-shaping opportunities, and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship. To learn more about supporting the college, visit http://agsci.psu.edu/giving. Information about the campaign is available at greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

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