Posted: July 7, 2022

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences alumnus Tom Donaldson committed $400,000 from his future estate to create the T.D. Graduate Fellowship in Agricultural Sciences.

Fueled by a desire to help those who otherwise may not be able to afford to pursue their education, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences alumnus Tom Donaldson committed $400,000 from his future estate to create the T.D. Graduate Fellowship in Agricultural Sciences. The fellowship is the first general fellowship within the college and is not tied to a specific graduate department.


Consideration for this fellowship will be given to full-time graduate students who exhibit academic excellence and are candidates for a graduate degree offered by the College of Agricultural Sciences. The fellowship will be awarded once per academic year with the possibility of renewal.


“Graduate student support is a high priority for the College of Agricultural Sciences,” said Blair Siegfried, associate dean for research and graduate education and director of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Experiment Station.


“We are deeply grateful for the support and foresight of people like Tom Donaldson who recognize the importance of graduate support and have chosen to make it their philanthropic focus,” he said. “Our graduate program benefits significantly from these types of gifts because our graduate students contribute immensely to our college’s research enterprise and outcomes. The fact that Tom’s fellowship provides the flexibility to support students regardless of their chosen discipline is incredibly valuable and unique. I hope it will be a model for other similar gifts in the future.”


Donaldson, who graduated in 1972 with a degree in forest science, was inspired to pursue a degree and career in forestry by the Allegheny National Forest near his childhood home in Warren, Pennsylvania. He also credits his guidance counselor for challenging him to focus on his studies his senior year of high school, which ultimately got him accepted to Penn State.


“I learned a lot during my time at Penn State,” said Donaldson. “How to get along with people, how to judge and read people, as well as the basics of how to live and be successful.”


Following graduation, Donaldson got a job with a utility inspection company called Osmose where he worked for more than 30 years. He then started his own utility pole inspection co-op in North Carolina in 2004. He sold the company in 2019.


Donaldson’s parents, both social workers, gave to causes throughout their lives and set an example for him and his siblings. As a result, Donaldson has been a longtime supporter of several organizations and causes that are important to him, including research into pancreatic cancer, a disease that took his brother’s life several years ago, and education.


“Giving to Penn State gives me the knowledge that I’m helping society as a whole along with the individuals who will receive the fellowship,” said Donaldson. “There are people who can’t afford to pursue an education. I wondered what I could do to help and creating a fellowship was a good option. I hope the recipients will use their education for good. Maybe, in turn, they will be inspired to make a gift themselves one day.”


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 21st 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 Information about the campaign is available at

Office of Development and Alumni Relations


240 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802