Alumnus and leading philanthropist makes $6.5 million campaign gift

Gift will endow dean's chair in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and support Lasch Football Building renovations

John Leone has been named Penn State's 2015 Philanthropist of the Year. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State alumnus and leading philanthropist John Leone has made a gift of $6.5 million to advance the University’s current fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.” Of the gift, $5 million will endow the John Leone Dean’s Chair in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) and provide the college’s dean with flexible resources to advance a range of priorities. The remaining $1.5 million will support renovations to the Lasch Football Building. 

“Extending his already extraordinary record of philanthropic leadership, John’s new gift to the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences will strengthen the foundation on which world-class research and educational experiences are built, helping to propel the college to even greater heights,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones. “In addition, his gift to Penn State Athletics will enable our football student-athletes to reach their full potential on and off the field. Penn State is fortunate to have an alumnus as committed to our success as John Leone is.”

Leone is president and chief executive officer of Bonney Forge, an industry leader in manufacturing flow control products and specially engineered products for the energy industries. He graduated in 1956 from Penn State's petroleum and natural gas engineering program and earned an M.B.A. from Northern Illinois University in 1976.

“Penn State made an investment in me when I was a student, and I view these gifts as the return on that investment,” said Leone. “As someone who is committed to the University, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and Penn State football, I am happy to make a gift that will advance each of these priorities. My gift, along with gifts from other Penn Staters, can support our alma mater and advance the causes that matter most to us.”  

The John Leone Dean’s Chair in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences will provide the dean of the college with discretionary funds to enhance student engagement opportunities outside the classroom; promote innovation and entrepreneurship; address the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the STEM disciplines of EMS; and sustain and grow leadership in energy, materials and environmental education, research and outreach; among other priorities.

“The John Leone’s Dean Chair will enable our college to pursue bold initiatives that mirror and anticipate emerging global trends in industry, education and society, and the gift will enhance our ability to bring the very best students and faculty to Penn State,” said Lee Kump, who will hold the John Leone Dean’s Chair in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, as approved by the Penn State Board of Trustees on Feb. 22. “Thanks to John, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences will have resources we need to match our remarkable potential.”

The portion of Leone’s gift directed to Penn State Athletics will advance renovations to the Louis and Mildred Lasch Football Building, where Penn State’s football team trains. By enhancing a facility that is central to the lives of Penn State’s football student-athletes, the ongoing renovation project aims to bolster the program’s ability to recruit and retain top coaches and student-athletes. 

The first phase of the project saw renovations to the locker room and equipment room, first-floor lobby and team auditorium and the addition of a nutrition station. The next phase of renovations will include upgrades to the players’ lounge and position meeting rooms. In recognition of Leone’s gift, the University will name the player’s recovery room in Leone’s honor. 

These recent gifts build on Leone’s nearly four decades of giving to areas across the University, especially the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Intercollegiate Athletics and the College of Arts and Architecture. In 2010, he and his late first wife, Willie, supported Penn State’s Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering — now named for the couple —  with the largest individual gift to the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, to create such opportunities as a faculty chair, undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships. Leone has also made major gifts to Intercollegiate Athletics to advance previous renovations to the Lasch Football Building and to the College of Arts and Architecture to support the Willie Leone Endowed Scholarship in Theatre and Dance.

Leone has received numerous awards and honors from the University, including the Philanthropist of the Year Award, Distinguished Alumni Award, Penn State Alumni Fellow Award, Earth and Mineral Sciences Centennial Fellow Award and Stahl Distinguished Achievement Award in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering. He is a member of the Elm Circle of the University’s Mount Nittany Society. 

Leone resides in New York City and is married to Dr. Annette Rickel, a psychotherapist in private practice and a clinical professor of psychology in pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College. 

These gifts from John Leone will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st century public university: 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

Last Updated February 27, 2019