Harts helping honors students pursue their passions with Open Doors Scholarship

Lisa and Mike Hart, pictured with children Caitlin and Conor and Penn State football coach James Franklin, have created an Open Doors Honors Scholarship that will support the Complete Penn State program. Credit: Photo providedAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State alumna Lisa Hart enjoyed being around motivated peers and working on various projects with students and staff from a variety of backgrounds during her years as an engineering student and Schreyer Honors Scholar.

“Not only are you at a world-class and highly ranked research institution, but you also have the ability to interact with other students who share your passion for education,” she said. “On the flip side, you’re meeting people who have had completely different experiences than you and learning from them.”

Hart and her husband, Mike, of Sewickley, wanted to help future Penn State students and Schreyer Scholars receive similar opportunities. Their pledge of $50,000 established the Hart Family Open Doors Honors Scholarship, which will be matched 2:1 by the University and will support in perpetuity students who meet requirements for need. 

The Open Doors Scholarship Program supports 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 may face while earning their degrees. The University is currently offering a 1:1 match for gifts of $50,000 or more to create new Open Doors Scholarships.

The Harts wanted to support the Complete Penn State program, which provides financial assistance to students whose families have experienced unexpected hardships such as a parent’s job loss or family illness. They previously established the Rita Ebner Caste Memorial Honors Scholarship, which honors Lisa’s late aunt and supports female Schreyer Scholars.

Lisa’s initial involvement with the Honors College as an alumna came in 2005, after she saw an ad in a Schreyer Honors College newsletter seeking alumni volunteers to join the Schreyer Scholar Alumni Society Board. 

“It was a way for me to get involved with Penn State more than a decade ago, and it just kind of expanded into all these different things we’ve been able to do,” she said. “It was an honor and a privilege to serve as president of the Scholar Alumni Society Board.”

Her time on the SASB led Lisa to serve two terms on the Penn State Alumni Council and, later, the Schreyer Honors College’s External Advisory Board. Additionally, she serves on the advisory board for the Penn State Beaver campus and the advisory council for the Penn State Center Pittsburgh. 

Mike, a John Carroll University alumnus, said he felt welcomed “into the Penn State family” and was impressed by the Schreyer students he met at various events. He also was impressed with the University’s offer to match gifts 2:1 for Open Doors Scholarships.

“I don’t know anywhere you can invest that type of money, get this type of return, and then also have this type of impact,” Mike said. “To me, it was the best possible thing we could do with our gift-giving dollars.”

Lisa graduated from Penn State in December 1997, shortly after William and Joan Schreyer endowed the Honors College. She remembers meeting and thanking the Schreyers in person at the ceremony and again during a dinner honoring them several years later, and Lisa said that their philanthropy has been one of the inspirations for her own. The Harts also are inspired by their two children, Caitlin and Conor, and want to instill in them the importance of giving back.

“We believe in the education the University has to offer and the students and their future impact on the world,” Lisa said. “They’re the next generation of leaders. … We want to continue to give back and help all students be able to achieve their academic and career goals, regardless of their financial situation.”

Open Doors Scholarships are part of “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 hard-working 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 August 29, 2018