UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State alumna Laura Loder Watts, a 1979 graduate in animal production, and her husband, Randy, are no strangers to philanthropy, having given their time and money generously through the years to causes and groups meaningful to them. Thanks to their desire to help others and belief in the importance of education, the Wattses have pledged a $250,000 estate gift to establish the Laura Loder Watts Scholarship in Animal Science in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
The Laura Loder Watts Scholarship in Animal Science will benefit students from Pennsylvania who are in good academic standing and have a demonstrated financial need.
“Randy and I both believe strongly in the importance of education,” said Watts. “It’s the way to get ahead in life, whether it’s going to college or through technical pursuits. I was the recipient of two scholarships at Penn State, and they helped. If I can help someone attain an education they wouldn’t otherwise be able to because they didn’t have the money, then I’m blessed to be able to do that.”
Like 80% of the college’s students today, Watts did not come from a farm background, but she was a member of 4-H growing up in Berks County. She worked for a few years after high school before beginning her college education at Penn State Berks with plans to become a veterinarian. She moved to University Park, and upon seeing how many other opportunities there were in the college, she found a home in animal production. Watts pursued a career in Penn State Extension after graduating and retired in 2005 after 25 years.
Looking back on her experiences, Watts is as passionate as ever about the agricultural sciences and hopes this scholarship will help students to have access to both the learning and vocational options that she did.
“We [as a society] are getting farther and farther away from our agricultural roots,” said Watts. “I’m hoping there are students who understand the importance of our agricultural system and can pursue a dream because they have an opportunity through the help of a scholarship.”
The Wattses said they have made philanthropy an important part of their lives and know it has an impact both in their local community and farther afield. Though now retired, they were both heavily involved in their local, all-volunteer fire department, where Randy was an active firefighter and statewide instructor for 30 years.
Laura currently is active with an organization called Quilts of Valor, which makes quilts for veterans, and she was also a founding member of the Cumberland County Animal Response Team, one of the first in the state. She supports the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Educational Foundation. In addition, the Wattses created a scholarship through the Cumberland County Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation.
The couple also is making annual gifts now, in the spirit of the scholarship to start seeing the benefits immediately. The Wattses did not want to delay the opportunity to make a difference for a student.
Said Randy, “We wanted to do something to honor Laura and her efforts. She worked hard to get through school, and we hope this scholarship will help someone else do the same.”
“The generosity of Laura and Randy is a wonderful gesture that will benefit students and help them pursue their educational goals and future career,” said Terry Etherton, department head and distinguished professor of animal nutrition.
The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences represents the foundation of Penn State and its land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University is pursuing "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: Open Doors, Create Transformative Experiences, and Impact the World. Through teaching, research, and Extension, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of Agricultural Sciences is able to offer scholarships to one in four students, create life-shaping opportunities, and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship. To learn more about supporting the college, visit http://agsci.psu.edu/giving. Information about the campaign is available at greaterpennstate.psu.edu.