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Joan Schreyer, second from left, looks on as members of the audience applaud the Schreyers' $30 million gift at President Graham B. Spanier's State of the University address.
Photo: Greg Grieco
By Lisa M. Rosellini
William A. Schreyer, former head of the nation's leading financial institution, lives by some pretty basic rules: Kiss your wife every night before you go to sleep; always work as a team; be honest and ethical; and share your good fortune.
For Schreyer, waiting to give away some of the wealth he accumulated during his 45-year career with Merrill Lynch and Co. Inc. "just wouldn't be any fun." That's why last week Schreyer and his wife, Joan, announced a $30 million gift to the University that would endow an honors college -- the largest personal gift in Penn State's history. The Schreyer Honors College will build on the success of the University Scholars Program, which annually enrolls about 1,500 academically gifted undergraduates.
"There's no point in going through life just to make a buck," Schreyer, former chairman of the Penn State Board of Trustees, said. "You've got to accomplish something, build something, grow something and have fun doing it. And you certainly shouldn't wait until you die because you don't get as much of a kick out of it. You want to see the results."
That's why when Schreyer first came across the idea a year ago for an honors college at Penn State, he knew instinctively that it was something he wanted to be a part of. The notion of giving money to an endeavor that could provide opportunities for students from all walks of life vastly appealed to Schreyer, a 1948 graduate who said Penn State has a way of changing your life.
As former chairman and chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, Schreyer is obviously a shrewd investor and one who takes only calculated risks. Even as early as 1950 when he was just an account executive with Merrill Lynch in its Buffalo office, Schreyer's actions were well-measured. When asked if he would like to go on a blind date with the woman who would eventually become his wife, Schreyer refused. Instead, he set up a meeting at Joan's office building where they could both decide if they liked what they saw. But Bill Schreyer, of course, had the edge. Joan was in her office and easy to identify. Bill could have been anyone entering off the street. They've been married for 44 years.
Although the honors college seemed like a well-advised move, Schreyer needed time to weigh his risks and mull the concept. At home, Schreyer kept looking over a proposal that outlined the college, which would provide scholarships for 300 students each year. When his wife came into the room and asked what he was reading, Schreyer quickly stuffed the papers into his briefcase. He wanted time to turn it over in his own mind, figure out the pitfalls, possibly talk himself out of the idea. But because Joan had always been his equal partner in all aspects of their lives, he removed the proposal and showed it to her.
"She said, 'Well, this is just you. It has you written all over it,'" he recalled. "So here we are and this is certainly one of the most exciting moments of our lives. We just wanted to give something back to the University for all it has done for us."
Growing up during the Great Depression in Williamsport, just a little over 60 miles north of the University Park campus, Schreyer says he was simply a typical kid from a small town -- a town he describes as "warm and friendly." His father, William L. Schreyer, ran Merrill Lynch's first local office in the town from 1936 until his death in 1952.
Likewise, Joan Schreyer was growing up in Buffalo, the only child of Gladys and William Legg, a banker.
"I didn't know people who had a lot of money," he said. "The brokerage business wasn't a particularly great business in those days. You didn't get rich. But my father knew his business."
It seems that from the beginning, Schreyer was destined to be on Wall Street. Recalling days as an eight-year-old boy sitting by the ticker tape in his father's office, Schreyer said he could feel the excitement just from the machine.
"I've been around the brokerage business all my life and I love it," Schreyer said. "By the time I graduated from Williamsport high school in 1945, I knew exactly what I wanted to do."
Hoping to stick with his boyhood pals, Schreyer wanted to attend Penn State, but his father -- who had attended Bucknell University for a brief period before he was stopped short by a lack of funds -- asked him to consider Bucknell. But the pull of Penn State was too strong.
William Douglas, a 1947 graduate of Penn State and a fraternity brother in Sigma Phi Epsilon with Schreyer, remembers a "very pink-cheeked, naive freshman from Williamsport."
"As we were all just coming back from World War II, we were older GIs, seasoned veterans, pilots and officers in the military," said Douglas, who eventually introduced Schreyer to his wife Joan. "Although we thought most of the freshmen were inferior to us, Bill transcended that. He was able to get along with everyone, which wasn't easy to do. I think he's been so successful because of that. He's a great bridger of gaps and his father was the same. They were more buddies than they were father and son."
"My father was the single most important factor in my life," Schreyer said. "I tell stories about him constantly because he was just such a motivator. He needled me pretty good and I thought I could match wits with most people, but if I tried to ever do it with him, he'd just dice me up like a carrot -- he was so sharp."
Schreyer's father, who died at age 53 after suffering his fourth heart attack, instilled in his only son his sense of humor, his ability to get along with others and the strong work ethic that helped him climb the corporate ladder from the lower rungs to his position as CEO of Merrill Lynch in 1984 and chairman in 1985. Schreyer is credited with Merrill Lynch's ascension to its position as the world's largest and most profitable securities underwriter and a leading strategic financial adviser to corporations, governments, institutions and individuals worldwide.
"None of this would have been possible without my father or Merrill Lynch," Schreyer said. "I spent my entire business career with Merrill Lynch and have done well because of them. Everyone who knows me knows that I have two big romances in my life outside of Joan and my family: Penn State and Merrill Lynch.
"This recent gift reflects not only my feelings for the importance of higher education, but that of Merrill Lynch as well," Schreyer said. "Our company's founder, Charles E. Merrill, had a strong commitment to education. He saw it as a sound investment in the future of our society and that philosophy has made a lasting impression on me."
Schreyer said the $30 million gift (nearly unimaginable to the average person) is a reality because he was able to acquire stock in Merrill Lynch before the firm went public. From this investment, the Schreyers have also been able to establish a Family Foundation, which through successful investing will continue to grow. The Schreyers will use the funds for charitable purposes.
Before this most recent gift, the Schreyers had given several million dollars to various Penn State programs. Merrill Lynch provided matching gifts for many of those contributions. In 1987, the Schreyers committed $1 million to endow the William A. Schreyer Chair in Global Management Policies and Planning in The Smeal College of Business Administration. In 1993, the couple pledged $1 million to help build the new Paterno Library if Penn State faculty and staff collectively gave at least $2 million that year to University programs of their choice. Ultimately, faculty and staff committed $2.4 million.
In 1995, the Schreyers gave $1 million to renovate "Lisnaward," a historic State College home, to make it the residence of the University president. The sale of the former president's house netted $700,000, which was used to support the Schreyer Institute for Innovation in Learning.
"Every time the University has needed Bill and Joan, they have been there for us," said University President Graham B. Spanier. "He and Joan have made an impact on this institution that will be felt by countless future generations of students."
Schreyer's dedication to Penn State is acutely real. Like most Penn State alumni, he says it's in his blood and "he always knew it would be at the top of his giving list." Joan was named an honorary alumna of the University in 1991.
A passionate man, Schreyer's loyalty to the company his father introduced to him also runs deep. Schreyer's career with Merrill Lynch, which spanned more than four decades, would be unheard of on today's Wall Street. If you believe the movies out of Hollywood, his demeanor is also not common in corporate America.
"He is the essence of calm," said Ruth Rempe, a vice president at Merrill Lynch who has worked with Schreyer for more than 25 years. "It sounds so simplistic, but he truly is a leader. I don't think he is capable of losing his composure."
Rempe said Schreyer has a talent for bringing together individuals with "firm, but divergent views." Douglas, his pal from college, concurred.
"He is nonconfrontational and works to bring people together," Douglas said. "He was not a boss that intimidated. He's the nicest guy you ever want to meet."
During a 1990 speech to thank both Joan and Bill Schreyer for leading Penn State's first comprehensive fund-raising campaign, The Campaign for Penn State, Dave Gearhart, former senior vice president for Development and University Relations, said Bill Schreyer has a leadership style "that makes people want to work themselves to the bone for him." As proof, the campaign which began with a $200 million goal, netted more than $350 million at the end of its six-year run.
"I found working with Bill Schreyer a little bit like dancing with a bear," Gearhart said. "You don't stop when you get tired, you stop when the bear gets tired."
Schreyer said chairing the campaign was really a crowning moment for someone as competitive as he is. Scrunching up his face and jabbing his fist forward, he said it felt "so good" to exceed the goal by so much.
"I've always had goals and always been ambitious, but not viciously ambitious," Schreyer said. "I can't stand overly ambitious people who are motivated for the wrong reasons. I want people to know that I have a real zest for life. This honors college is something Joan and I are so firmly behind and so strongly believe in.
"One thing this gift, as well as our Family Foundation, allows is for us to share our good fortune," he said. "When you give money away, people remember you and it's a way to keep your name alive. It has been an exciting life, to say the least."
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Bill Schreyer acknowledges applause at the Board of Trustees
meeting after the announcement of the $30 million gift he and his wife,
Joan, gave to the University.
Photo: Greg Grieco
The new honors college, endowed by a $30 million gift from William A. Schreyer and his wife Joan, the largest gift ever received by the University from an individual or couple, will enlarge and transform a highly successful, nationally renowned scholars program into a multidisciplinary center of undergraduate academic excellence.
Three hundred freshmen will enter the program each year and will be supported by scholarships. With its own dean and selected faculty from the university at large, the college will provide study abroad opportunities; professional internships; mentoring by alumni; thesis research; special classes taught by top teachers and scholars; and a national forum for new learning methods. One of the unique features of the new college is its linkage with the Schreyer Institute for Innovation in Learning, a think tank to develop and test new approaches to learning and to implement these throughout the University. In essence, the honors college will become the test laboratory for the innovative approaches to teaching and learning that emerge from the Schreyer Institute.
The Board of Trustees voted on Sept. 12 to name the new college The Schreyer Honors College, making it the first such college at a major public university in America to be named for its benefactors. The college builds on the success of the University Scholars Program, which annually enrolls about 1,500 academically gifted undergraduates. In the most recent survey of its kind, the program was ranked among the eight best at America's public universities. Students entering the program in recent years consistently post average SAT scores well above 1,400, placing them in the upper 1 percent to 2 percent of all American university students.
The Schreyers' gift will:
* Establish in perpetuity the honors college;
* Help provide academic excellence scholarships to 300 students each year;
* Provide up to 100 international study awards annually to students who will be known as Schreyer Ambassadors;
* Provide interaction with national figures who will inspire responsible citizenship;
* Establish fellowships for Penn State faculty and distinguished visitors; and
* Provide funds for national conferences on teaching and learning.
The college also will conduct special outreach to first-generation college students, in keeping with the land-grant tradition upon which Penn State was founded. A residential component of the Schreyer Honors College includes special seminars with outstanding faculty and distinguished visitors, tours, trips and social events.
A professional advisory board consisting of distinguished members of the business, education and public service communities will be formed to link the academic program of The Schreyer Honors College to the world outside the University.
"This extraordinary gift to Penn State will establish the nation's premiere honors college," President Graham B. Spanier said. "It will help us achieve new heights in scholarship and in the longer run, will redesign undergraduate education at Penn State. The existence of this college will stimulate teaching and learning across the University."
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By Lisa M. Rosellini
Calling the immense changes Penn State has undergone in the past year merely a foundation for the future, University President Graham B. Spanier on Sept. 12 outlined new priorities for Penn State that could help solve societal problems by drawing upon Penn State's strengths, during his annual State of the University address.
Spanier's address to the University community included a public announcement of a $30 million gift to Penn State -- the largest personal gift in the University's history. In his talk, the president spoke of not only the honors college that will be created by the gift, but also of the immense changes Penn State has undergone in the past year, saying they provide the University with a "unique opportunity to advance in the ranks of American public research universities."
From the merger of its medical center and the acquisition of a law school, to the reorganization of its 24-campus system and the announcement of an ambitious distance education initiative, the past year was a monumental one for Penn State. The coming years, according to the president, will be equally dynamic, but only if the University continues to move rapidly to meet societal needs.
"That we have moved quickly in these and other initiatives underscores Penn State's capacity to be a rapid deployment force for progress in higher education," Spanier said. "I reaffirm my goal for Penn State to be the leading university in America in the integration of teaching, research and service."
In his third State of the University address since being named president in 1995, Spanier said that academic excellence would continue to be built through "selective investment in the University's strongest programs and areas of greatest potential and need."
The president identified four disciplinary areas for expansion, which he said have "compelling societal interest." They include: children, youth and families; materials science; environmental studies; and information science. All are areas where Spanier envisions greater cooperation among various disciplines.
Under children, youth and families, Spanier visualizes Penn State experts uniting resources and knowledge to improve the quality of life. Providing solutions and preventions for such pressing problems as violence, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, malnutrition and illiteracy are at the heart of the land-grant tradition, according to Spanier. The president has in the past said colleges and universities must play a larger role in addressing the issues that threaten to tear the country apart. The president specifically cited the colleges of Health and Human Development, Education, Medicine, Agricultural Sciences, Law and the Liberal Arts -- as well as Cooperative Extension and the Penn State Geisinger Health System -- as being well-positioned for this role.
In the area of materials science -- a field that has applications in every aspect of life from health to the materials that make it possible to talk on the telephone -- the president said the potential for Penn State to excel looms large, considering that it is already home to one of the largest and most successful materials research efforts in the country. In a 1995 ranking of doctoral programs, the materials science program in the Department of Material Science and Engineering was ranked in the top 10 in the nation by the National Research Council, part of the National Academy of Sciences. At Penn State materials research accounts for about $50 million a year of the University's total research activity.
Another key area in which Penn State should make a special investment is environmental studies, according to Spanier. The president said Penn State's leadership in a variety of aspects relating to environmental concerns -- from policy making to research aimed at finding solutions -- is an asset the University should build upon to help tackle the complex environmental problems that plague the state, nation and the world.
He cited research efforts under way in the colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Engineering, Business Administration, Law, the Liberal Arts and the Intercollege Research Program that are already addressing issues ranging from helping endangered species regain a toehold to disputes over environmental law and corporate practices. Many of the projects, like those undertaken by the Penn State Cooperative Wetlands Center, not only help repair environmental damage but also provide needed information and guidelines for national agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.
The final discipline pinpointed by Spanier as one that requires increased attention is information science, a rapidly changing field. Spanier said that with its strongholds in computer science and engineering, communications, management information systems and the social and behavioral sciences, Penn State is a natural leader in the array of fields that make up this broad area.
"All of these areas speak persuasively to our potential contributions to society," Spanier said. "Our vision is for Penn State to be an active participant in economic, cultural and human development."
The president emphasized that educational outreach is central to achieving these high goals. While the World Campus and the enhanced investment in these four key areas will go a long way toward helping solve societal ills, Penn State must expand its outreach efforts by integrating outreach into all disciplines and continuing to create international linkages with other institutions.
"Our efforts to internationalize Penn State improve the quality of education for all students," he told his audience of about 800 at University Park. Hundreds of others gathered at other sites across the state to watch the address live via satellite.
On many points, Spanier's talk dovetailed with the directions outlined in the University's long-range plan. At the Board of Trustees meeting earlier in the day, a special strategic plan expected to guide Penn State into the year 2002 was unveiled. In it, six basic overarching goals are spelled out. They include enriching the educational experience; building a more considerate and civil community; serving the people of Pennsylvania; developing new sources of income; and reducing costs through improved efficiencies.
"These goals define what we seek for Penn State: leadership in learning, first and foremost, but also an exemplary University climate, a strong commitment to the people we serve, and the ability to sustain our academic community," he said.
Spanier promised to continue his push for more state funding and said he would again join with other institutions across Pennsylvania to propose a four-year plan that would provide an annual "stay-even" inflationary increase in each institution's allocation, plus an additional increase to make Pennsylvania colleges and universities more competitive.
The president touched on the University's five-year, $500 million facilities plan to renovate outdated classrooms and construct new buildings to support academic programs. But in addition to these tangible goals, Spanier also pledged he would not forget to "foster that which cannot be measured in dollars and cents." He said the University will expand its commitment to the humanities and the arts. He also reiterated one of his highest priorities: humanizing Penn State, not only for students but for employees as well.
"I know how hard it is for faculty and staff to work in an environment where one of the continuing messages is of necessity 'do more with less.' I wish to temper that message," he said. "Let me say that our goal is 100 percent employee productivity and 100 percent employee satisfaction. If something's not working, tell us what it is and we'll fix it or explain why we can't."
In his closing remarks, the president encouraged his audience to rise to meet the challenges that faced them.
"I am not saying that we must teach everything, be the best in everything, or do everything that others do," he said. "What I am saying is that within our means, but with maximum efficiency and all the energy we can muster, within the boundaries of our long-range plan and our articulated mission, let us be all that we can be."
For the full text of President Spanier's address, visit the Web. Go to
click on the link to the address, or access the address directly at http://www.psu.edu/ur/state/stateofuniv97.html.
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* Will launch the Schreyer Honors College.
* Increase investment in four key areas: children, youth and families; materials science; environmental studies; and information science.
* Increase interdisciplinary efforts.
* Continue to internationalize the University.
* Expand commitment to humanities and arts.
* Continue to realign resources and academic aspirations and reduce costs.
* Continue to seek new funding from the state.
* Build on the progress to humanize Penn State.
* Make Penn State a welcoming place for all.
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* Merger of The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center with the Geisinger Health System to create the Penn State Geisinger Health System. The move provides a secure base of support for the College of Medicine.
* The reorganization of the Commonwealth Educational System, including a 12-campus Commonwealth College offering a wider range of degree options. Also merged the Harrisburg and Schuylkill campuses to form the Capital College; merged Berks and Allentown campuses to form the Berks-Lehigh Valley College, and created Altoona College and Abington College.
* Joined ranks with the 163-year-old Dickinson School of Law.
* Reorganized Continuing and Distance Education to take greater advantage of Cooperative Extension's existing program and service delivery system, and elevated extension to serve a broader university-wide mission.
* Moved forward with plans to launch the World Campus -- an ambitious distance education initiative.
* Began construction on the $26.5-million Paterno Library at University Park, which will double the size of Pattee Library.
* Broke ground for the new HUB/Robeson Complex, a two-year project at University Park that will add 91,000 square feet to the Hetzel Union Building.
* Embarked on a nearly $500 million, five-year capital construction plan.
* Reached a record-high enrollment figure (77,318) in fall 1996, including a record 7,376 minority students.
* Despite limited state appropriations, moved ahead with plans to hire 100 additional faculty.
* Extended plan for differential tuition.
* Received a record $94.9 million in gifts, a 14
percent increase over the previous year.
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