Development and Alumni Relations

Eric and Molly Barron make gift to establish student food security endowment

Penn State President Eric J. Barron and his wife, Molly, pose for a photo in the Arboretum at Penn State in 2015.  Credit: Michelle Bixby, Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State President Eric J. Barron and First Lady Molly Barron have given $525,000 to establish the Eric and Molly Barron Student Food Security Endowment. The fund will provide support to purchase University meal plans for undergraduate Penn State students who encounter food insecurity, a key priority of the Barron administration.   

“We must begin to think about access and affordability as more than tuition freezes,” said President Barron. “If we believe in Penn State as an institution for upward mobility, we have to confront all factors that threaten student success and well-being. Access to healthy food and stable housing are critical to a timely and affordable degree. Thanks to our parents, Molly and I had the great privilege of food security as students. It is our honor to pay that forward and, hopefully, encourage other Penn State supporters to join us.”

The Barrons made their gift in conjunction with their recognition as the 2021 Renaissance Fund honorees. The annual Renaissance Fund celebration raises support for Renaissance Scholarships, which are awarded to academically talented Penn State students who have great financial need. This year’s $3.6 million fundraising total — a record high — included the Barrons’ gift to establish the Eric and Molly Barron Student Food Security Endowment. When choosing the fund’s beneficiaries, first preference will be given to Renaissance Scholarship recipients. Supporters can make a gift to enhance the Eric and Molly Barron Student Food Security Endowment by visiting

“When it comes to student support, Eric and Molly Barron practice what they preach,” said O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for development and alumni relations at Penn State. “Their commitment to access and affordability runs deep and is just as important to them personally as it is institutionally. This gift will advance our mission to provide a timely and affordable degree and a full Penn State experience — and it will add critical momentum to the Open Doors imperative of our current fundraising campaign, 'A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,' as the effort approaches its conclusion in June 2022.”

In a 2019 survey of Penn State students, 35% of those surveyed reported some level of food insecurity. Last year, President Barron convened a University task force to help mitigate student food and housing insecurity across Penn State’s campuses. The task force released its initial findings in May. Among initial efforts to allay the issue of food insecurity are the new LiveOn Student Success Grant pilot program, which provides room-and-board aid for residential students across the commonwealth, and the Swipe Out Hunger event, which allowed students to donate dining dollars to raise more than $12,000 for the University’s Student Emergency Fund.

The Barrons have invested their philanthropy across the University, supporting the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, The Arboretum at Penn State, Four Diamonds, the Renaissance Fund, the Palmer Museum of Art, and the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, as well as other areas and priorities. They established two endowments through the Trustee Matching Scholarship Program, the Jim and “Mel” Barron Trustee Scholarship and the Walin and Dorothy Hatter Trustee Scholarship, named for the couple’s parents, in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. They also have created the Alice Battistini Open Doors Scholarship, named after their granddaughter, and the Staff Excellence Award to benefit high-achieving Penn State employees. The Barrons were welcomed into the Mount Nittany Society, a group that honors Penn State’s most generous donors, this past spring.

Giving to enhance the Eric and Molly Barron Student Food Security Endowment will advance "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 serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated November 22, 2021