Campus Life

Endowment honors alumnus through suicide prevention and awareness funding

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new fund will honor the life and accomplishments of Joseph J. Ringhoffer, a Penn State alumnus who passed away in 2016.

The Joseph J. Ringhoffer Memorial Fund will support Counseling and Psychological Services, a unit of Penn State Student Affairs, by funding student programming, especially suicide prevention and awareness programs.

"Every loss of life, especially to suicide, is a heart-wrenching tragedy. These tragedies can shake our worlds and lead us to question many of our assumptions about the world and people we love,” said Ben Locke, senior director of Counseling and Psychological Services. “It is because of this that I am so grateful to Patrick Yerger and Denise Ringhoffer (Joseph's wife) for building meaning from Joe's death through the annual Ringer Run in his memory, along with an endowment to support the very services he might have benefited from. This fund will honor Joe's legacy and be used to help us further our efforts for suicide prevention and mental health awareness programming across Penn State University. I am deeply appreciative of this contribution to our efforts."

“Joe's death was so incredibly shocking that I was — and still am — completely dumbfounded to understand it,” said Patrick Yerger, a Penn State alumnus and Joseph’s college roommate and longtime friend. “In life, he always greeted you with a loud hello and huge smile, he was generous to a fault, and people were drawn to his personality. He brought people together through activities and family events. I will have lifelong friends because of him.”

After Joseph’s death, Yerger and Denise Ringhoffer, who also is a Penn State alumna, looked for a way to memorialize him while bringing more awareness to suicide prevention. They wanted to direct their efforts to the local community and had a strong connection to Penn State.

“After his death, our natural inclination was to figure out how to talk about suicide prevention. I learned about CAPS when looking for a charity related to suicide prevention and I felt it was the right way to memorialize Joe’s name and grow resources that will directly impact students,” said Denise Ringhoffer. “I do feel like if Joe and I would have learned there were resources available for mental health concerns, such as depression, during college, a critical phase in our life, we could have gotten more help. It is important for students to know about the incredible resources offered through CAPS.”

Yerger and Denise Ringhoffer, with the help of many family and friends organized the “Ringer Run,” in Oaks, Pennsylvania, a few months after Joseph’s death. The race, a celebration of Joseph’s life, drew support from over 200 people and provided the initial funding for the endowment.

“We plan to continue running the race annually to support the fund and help as many students as possible going through challenging times at a critical stage in their lives, and to raise awareness that they are not alone and there is help,” said Yerger.

Members of the University and community can contribute to this endowment in support of mental health education and outreach. To contribute visit

or contact Andrea Pagano-Reyes, director of development for University Programs, at

Gifts from Penn State’s alumni and friends have been essential to the success of the University’s historic land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has begun A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence, a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a public university. Private support will keep the door to higher education open and enable students to graduate on time and on track to success; create transformative experiences on Penn State campuses and around the globe that tap the full potential of Penn Staters to make a difference; and impact the world through discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship. To learn more, please visit

Last Updated September 23, 2020