UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Gene and Roz Chaiken have seen firsthand the tremendous impact that scholarships can have on the lives of students. Since creating their first Trustee Scholarship in 2008, they have helped make the dreams of an affordable college education come true for 373 students in the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts — including 63 in the past academic year alone.
At the same time, the Chaikens realize the financial challenges that students and their families continue to face. Approximately 71 percent of the college’s undergraduates have received loans or scholarships in recent years, and Penn State Liberal Arts graduates from the Class of 2015 (most recent data available) graduated with an average debt burden of more than $38,500 — both higher than the national average.
Hoping to alleviate that burden, the Chaikens have pledged to more than double their existing Chaiken Family Trustee Scholarship in the College of the Liberal Arts. Their most recent commitment — as well as previous donations that created both the Chaiken Family Trustee Scholarship and the Gene and Roz Chaiken Trustee Scholarship in the College of the Liberal Arts — make them the largest contributors to the University’s Trustee Matching Scholarship Program since it was created in 2002. The University will provide a 10 percent annual match to their latest gift as part of the program, thereby further increasing the number of students who will benefit from the Chaikens’ generosity.
“We are so pleased to be able to help deserving students and their families achieve a great education at Penn State,” Gene Chaiken noted when announcing the couple’s latest gift.
The Chaikens’ most recent gift is one of the college’s lead gifts in Penn State’s upcoming fundraising initiative. “Gene and Roz epitomize what it means to lead by example,” noted Susan Welch, dean of the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts. “Their commitment to making a college education as affordable as possible has already transformed the lives of hundreds of our students and their families. Their latest gift promises to transform even hundreds more; their overwhelming generosity will make a difference now and for generations of future students.”
"I cannot even begin to express how much I appreciate the support that Gene and Roz have provided to our students through this gift and through all of their previous support to the college,” added Paul Taylor, the college’s associate dean of undergraduate studies. “As educators, our goal is always to maximize the impact that our students have on the world. Gifts such as these help make those goals a reality.”
Gene Chaiken is chairman and Roz Chaiken is executive vice president of Almo Corporation, the largest U.S. distributor of consumer/commercial electronics, professional audio/video electronics and major appliances. The company celebrated its 70th anniversary just last month.
Gene and Roz have been active volunteers and lead donors to the College of the Liberal Arts and Penn State for many years. Gene served on the Penn State Board of Trustees from 2005 to 2010, is currently a member of the Presidential Counselors, and is an emeritus member of the College of the Liberal Arts Development Council. He has been recognized by Penn State as an Alumni Fellow (2004) and Distinguished Alumnus (2013), and he has been awarded the college’s Sparks Centennial Medal for outstanding service (2009).
Both Gene and Roz are members of the Laurel Circle of the Mount Nittany Society and Liberal Arts Leaders. In 2013, the college created and presented Gene and Roz with the inaugural Chaiken Leadership Award, which annually recognizes an alumnus, friend or couple for outstanding generosity to, and philanthropic leadership in, the college.
Longtime supporters of the college’s Jewish Studies program, Gene and Roz previously established the Gene and Roz Chaiken Endowment for the Study of Holocaust. With Gene’s brother Sheldon and sister-in-law Gail, the couple endowed the Chaiken Family Chair in Jewish Studies. Gene and Roz also established the Chaiken Centennial Endowment in Honor of Dean Susan Welch to recruit and retain the best graduate students in the liberal arts. They also collaborated with others to create a director’s fund to support faculty and students in Jewish Studies in honor of Brian Hesse, the late program director.
Supporters like the Chaikens are invaluable partners in fulfilling the University's land-grant mission of education, research and service. Private gifts from alumni and friends enrich the experiences of students both in and out of the classroom, expand the research and teaching capacity of our faculty, enhance the University's ability to recruit and retain top students and faculty, and help to ensure that students from every economic background have access to a Penn State education. The University's colleges and campuses are now enlisting the support of alumni and friends to advance a range of unit-specific initiatives.