“Kathi and I have always believed that education is the single most powerful tool for enabling young people to reach their full potential, and we’re well aware of the fact that educational opportunities are not uniform,” said Steve. “We see this gift to the Millennium Scholars Program as an investment in students who may come from communities historically under-represented in the STEM fields, but who possess extraordinary potential to move these fields forward and to ultimately change the world for the better.”
Since 2013, the Millennium Scholars Program has helped high-achieving Penn State students from diverse backgrounds to succeed in the University’s STEM majors and build the foundation they will need for graduate school. The program assembles a concentration of high-achieving undergraduates in a tight-knit learning community in which students support, inspire and encourage one another to achieve these goals. Millennium Scholars benefit further from comprehensive academic programming, hands-on mentoring and advising, and robust financial support. The program began in the College of Engineering and the Eberly College of Science but today spans the colleges of Engineering, Science, Agricultural Sciences, Earth and Mineral Sciences, and Information Sciences and Technology.
Penn State has invested significant resources to launch the Millennium Scholars Program, but gifts from alumni and friends like the Mahles are needed to sustain and enhance the program into the future.
“The Millennium Scholars Program is positioning Penn State as a national leader in the effort to educate the next generation of STEM professionals, but achieving this vision will be possible only with philanthropic support,” said Nick Jones, Penn State’s executive vice president and provost. “With their generous gift, Steve and Kathi are helping to ensure that the Millennium Scholars Program can continue to support talented and ambitious students for many years to come.”
Steve holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Beloit College (1967) and a master’s degree in physics from the Penn State Eberly College of Science (1969). He retired in 2009 after 37 years with medical equipment company Medtronic, a tenure that included posts as president of the firm’s cardiac rhythm disease management business and executive vice president in charge of governmental affairs. Kathi holds a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Beloit College (1967) and a master of divinity from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (1978). She is a retired minister in the United Methodist Church.
The couple, who call Minneapolis home, support a range of higher education institutions through their philanthropy. They previously established the Stephen H. and Katherine Austin Mahle Trustee Scholarship in the Eberly College of Science, which supports students in the college with financial need. Beyond Penn State, the couple has established scholarships at Beloit College, Hamline University, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and Africa University in Zimbabwe.
As the Mahles considered a gift to the Millennium Scholars Program last fall, they visited with Millennium Scholars Program staff and students, and those meetings solidified their decision.
“We were thoroughly impressed with the students’ enthusiasm, intelligence, curiosity, forceful personalities and willingness to help one another be successful,” said Kathi. “It was clear that there’s a lot of really great things going on in the Millennium Scholars Program.”