University Park, Pa. -- Penn State has named Altoona residents Stephen G. and Nancy L. Sheetz its 2010 Philanthropists of the Year in recognition of their exceptional commitment to the University as donors and volunteers.
Penn State alumnus Steve Sheetz is chairman of the board of Altoona-based Sheetz Inc., one of the nation's largest family-owned-and-operated convenience store chains. He began his college studies at Penn State Altoona and graduated from the University in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in business management. He and Nancy both grew up in Altoona and have long-standing personal and professional ties to the city and the greater Blair County region, as well as the Altoona campus.
Penn State established the Philanthropist of the Year award in 2002 to recognize outstanding generosity and philanthropic leadership that benefits the University community.
"Nancy and Steve are dedicated to creating opportunities for students and helping them reach their full potential as leaders in their communities and professions," said Penn State President Graham B. Spanier. "We are truly grateful for their generosity and unwavering commitment to Penn State."
Over the years, Steve and Nancy Sheetz have supported numerous philanthropic initiatives at the University and served in many volunteer leadership roles.
In 2009, they made a $2.5 million commitment to Penn State Altoona -- the largest in the campus' 70-year history -- to expand the entrepreneurial studies program. In 2010 they increased their commitment to $3 million. The gift will fund the creation of an entrepreneurial center and endow the new Sheetz Fellows program, designed to enhance educational experiences through advanced instruction and participation in special projects relating to traditional areas of business: ethics, service, and leadership; excellence in communication and business acumen; and international and intercultural awareness. Mentoring will be a key component of the Sheetz Fellows program.
“I try to provide a positive influence. That’s what I’m trying to do with this gift to Penn State Altoona,” said Steve. “I really hope that students in the program will be better prepared for the world they’re about to enter, whether it’s business or another profession.”
Penn State Altoona Chancellor Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry described Steve and Nancy as “caring individuals who want to share in the nurturing and growth of our community. They are unassuming people who only want to see the best in others."
The couple said they have always been interested in finding new ways to strengthen their community, as well as to promote educational opportunities for young adults.
“We didn’t have a lot growing up, so we were never in a position where we could give much to others,” said Nancy. “When I have the opportunity to share with people now, I want to give what I can because I have an appreciation of what it’s like to be without. It makes me feel good to share with other people or to make their dreams come true in some way.”
With support from Sheetz Inc., the couple created the Sheetz Family Endowed Scholarship and Sheetz Visiting Lecture Program at the Altoona campus. Their gifts also have helped to fund construction of the Advanced Technology Center and Community Arts Center and benefited the intercollegiate athletics program, Penn State Altoona Future Fund, and William J. Rossman Renaissance Scholarship.
Steve Sheetz has served as a member of the University's Board of Trustees and has been a member of the Altoona campus’ advisory board since 1984. He also chaired a number of fundraising initiatives on behalf of Penn State Altoona. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 1994, the highest recognition Penn State bestows upon its graduates, and in 1999 he was named an Alumni Fellow, the most prestigious honor given by the Penn State Alumni Association.
A 1965 graduate of Altoona Area High School, Steve Sheetz, as a teenager, began working in his brother Bob’s first Sheetz convenience store in 1960. Upon graduation from college, he became supervisor and director of operations for the four Sheetz stores in operation. He became president in 1984 and in 1995 he transitioned to his current role as chairman of the board. Sheetz Inc. has more than 12,000 employees at over 350 locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia.