UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When their daughter, Meghan, decided to attend the Schreyer Honors College, Rick and Tracy Riegel attended a program for accepted students and their families in Philadelphia — even though Meghan had to stay behind due to another commitment.
The members of the Schreyer staff left a distinct impression.
"What sold me on Schreyer was the passion they had," Rick said. "Anytime I meet somebody with a passion, I just latch on to that, and admire that so much."
Seeing that passion in students and staff was one of the reasons Rick and Tracy, both Penn State alumni, established the Riegel Family Open Doors Scholarship. Their pledge of $30,000 will support in perpetuity Schreyer Scholars who meet requirements for need.
The Open Doors Scholarship Program offers a permanent 2:1 match for gifts made to help students with financial need. The program will be available in its current form through June 30. After this date, the University will provide a 1:1 match to gifts of at least $50,000. Open Doors Scholarships support students who are enrolled in one of five programs the University has created to address the financial, academic and personal challenges that Penn State undergraduates face in earning their degrees.
Penn State is a family affair for the Riegels, who count more than 20 relatives on both sides of the family as Penn State graduates. Rick and Tracy met at Penn State through mutual friends during their first year on campus and began dating their senior year. Their oldest daughter, Lauren, is a 2014 graduate. Meghan, a 2017 graduate, was a Schreyer Scholar, as is Carolyn, a rising Penn State senior.
The Riegels, of West Chester, Pennsylvania, previously established the Riegel Family Honors Scholarship for Women in Engineering and the Riegel Family Trustee Scholarship in the Schreyer Honors College.
"We've been fortunate that we've been able to afford sending our kids to college without having debt," Rick said. "We felt we wanted to give that back. It's been neat to get to know some of the students that have been beneficiaries and understanding some of their stories. You feel a kind of responsibility to pay it forward."
Tracy Riegel, who was the chair of the inaugural Penn State Parents Council and later, along with Rick, the inaugural co-chair of the Schreyer Parents Council, would hear stories of students who could not return to school because family emergencies left them unable to pay their tuition.
"Hopefully, we can help alleviate that as much as we can," she said.
The Riegels credit Meghan's Schreyer Honors College experience with helping to develop her leadership abilities. She is a computer engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and has recently joined the Honors College's Admissions Alumni Interview Program. The Riegels are pleased with the resources and networking opportunities the program has provided for Carolyn, who has held internships with GE Aviation and The Connors Group, and currently is with PricewaterhouseCoopers.
They also admire the Scholars they have met at various Schreyer events.
"It's not all about academics. It's the whole person," Tracy said. "I feel that Schreyer does a really good job of selecting the incoming class of students who are not only academically talented but also have a lot of other things going on."
Rick, the CEO of Phlexglobal, Inc., was recently honored with a Penn State Distinguished Alumni Award. He said the well-rounded students the Honors College produces have made him redefine his own definitions of success.
"Schreyer is elevating a Penn State education to a different level that can stand very proudly against any Ivy League or other institution around the world," he said. "The education you can get here is just as good as anywhere."
Open Doors Scholarships are part of "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to fulfill three key imperatives: 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.