Tom and Sara Songer named Renaissance Fund honorees

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As Penn State’s Renaissance Fund celebrates its 42nd year of honoring local leaders and helping students in need, its board of directors has selected Tom and Sara Songer as its 2018 honorees.

Tom, a civil engineer and entrepreneur whose many projects include residential and commercial developments primarily within the Centre Region, and Sara, a retired nurse and educator, are both graduates of the University. Longtime leaders in the State College community, the Songers will be honored at a dinner event on Thursday, Nov. 8. The Renaissance Fund has already begun accepting contributions to a scholarship endowment created in their name.

“From Tom’s successful business ventures, to Sara’s compassionate nursing career, to their shared commitment to volunteer service and philanthropy, the Songers have had an enduring impact on the quality of life in our region,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “They have used their Penn State educations, their professional leadership, and their standing in the community to create opportunities for others to thrive, and we can choose no better way to celebrate the Songers than to support the scholarship that has been created in their name.”

Each year, the Renaissance Fund honors an individual or couple who, through a lifetime of service, has contributed greatly to the Penn State and State College communities. In its selection process, the fund’s board of directors seeks to recognize individuals who have deep roots in the Centre Region, close relationships with civic and University leaders, and a commitment to philanthropy.

An endowed scholarship fund is created in the name of the honorees, and gifts to the fund can be made by any Penn State supporter or member of the public. Renaissance Scholarships are directed to high-achieving students with great financial need. In the academic year 2017-18, 692 undergraduates received more than $932,000 in support from Renaissance Fund scholarships created since the program began in 1969. More information about the Renaissance Fund is available at

Mimi Barash Coppersmith, Penn State class of 1954, chair of the Renaissance Fund selection committee and creator of the Renaissance Fund dinners, said, “Tom and Sara have never forgotten the ways in which they were helped along the road to success, and they have given back in so many ways throughout their lives in State College. They embody the values of hard work and personal commitment that Renaissance Scholarships encourage among Penn State students, and I’m so glad that the Renaissance Fund can honor them and support the undergraduates who are following in their footsteps.”

Thomas F. Songer II was born and raised in the country near Brookville, Pennsylvania. He began working at the age of 12 cutting grass, and at the age of 15, he went to work with his father, a lumberman, on his father’s sawmill. While in high school, Tom was the president of his senior class and a member of the National Honor Society. He was the first wrestler from his high school to win a District IX championship, and he wrestled for two years at Lycoming College before transferring to Penn State. He met his future wife, Sara Hine, while working in the Terrace Room at the Hetzel Union Building. Sara had come to Penn State from Bedford, Pennsylvania, where she helped her family operate a men’s clothing store. The couple married in 1968. Tom earned a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the University in 1970, and Sara completed her bachelor of science degree in nursing in 1972.

After a brief stint in the Pittsburgh area, the couple returned to State College, where Tom worked as a consulting engineer and Sara served as a nursing instructor at Penn State. She would go on to earn an master's degree in nursing in 1978, even as she and Tom raised the couple’s young sons, Tom III and Aaron, and as Tom launched a career as co-owner of Uni-Tec, a consulting engineering business specializing in land development and municipal projects and material testing.

Over the years, Tom has been a leader in creating different business ventures relating to engineering, construction and land development projects in the Centre Region. As a registered professional engineer, Tom has been involved in the design of many high-profile projects, including Cato Park, Stonebridge, Chestnut Ridge, The Landings, Saybrook, Chestnut Ridge Manor, Ferguson Square, Haymarket, Huntridge Manor, Aspen Heights, Kalman Corporate Centre, Torron Office Centre and the CATO Office Centre in Ferguson Township; Springfield Commons in Boalsburg; and Wiltree, Stearns Crossing, Thompson Woods and Buchanan Centre in College Township. He is the founder and president of the Torron Group, which develops and owns both residential and non-residential projects.

Tom has also served the community as a volunteer. He achieved the rank of Life Scout and has served as president of the Juniata Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America. In addition, he has served as board chair of the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County, board chair of the Centre Foundation, campaign chair of the Centre County United Way, co-chair of the Phase IV YMCA Campaign, board member of Centre Peace, board member of the Centre County Industrial Development Authority, chair of the OLV Facilities Committee, co-chair of the OLV Campaign committee, and chair of the CPI Foundation.  

Sara’s nursing career included many staff and administrative positions at Centre Community Hospital and continued through its growth into Mount Nittany Medical Center, from which she retired as a performance improvement nurse in 2011. She has taught at Penn State’s University Park and DuBois campuses, and she has assisted victims of sexual assault through her work as a forensic examiner for Mount Nittany Medical Center and the Centre County District Attorney’s Office. For nearly a decade, she operated a bed and breakfast at the Songer family home on Windswept Farm. She has long been a volunteer and supporter of the Women’s Resource Center and a member of Center Volunteers in Medicine. The couple likes spending time with their family (and fellow Penn State graduates): Tom III, class of 1993, married to the former Jean Hughes, class of 1988; and Aaron, class of 1993, married to the former Maggie Myers, class of 1994, and their five grandchildren.

Tom and Sara have been members of Penn State’s Mount Nittany Society since 2004, and they served as chairs of the “Grand Destiny” campaign in the College of Nursing. In the past, they have established scholarships in the College of Nursing as well as a wrestling scholarship in Intercollegiate Athletics. Recently, they made a major gift to the WPSU documentary “A Time to Heal.”  

“To be selected by the Renaissance Fund is very humbling, because we have known and celebrated many past recipients of this award, and it is an honor to be in their ranks,” said the couple. “We hope that the students who benefit from the scholarships in our names will find their own success at Penn State and in their communities in future years and receive the same rewards that we have received in giving back to Penn State so that other students can succeed as well.”

To learn more about making a gift to the Tom and Sara Songer Renaissance Scholarship, visit or contact Kathy Kurtz, associate director of annual giving, at or 814-863-2052.

Tom and Sara Songer have been named the 2018 Renaissance Fund Honorees. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated August 10, 2018