Development and Alumni Relations

Penn State mourns philanthropist and friend Joan Schreyer

Joan Schreyer Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State is mourning the loss of honorary alumna Joan Legg Schreyer, whose philanthropy with late husband alumnus William “Bill” Allen Schreyer, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Merrill Lynch, set a new standard for giving to the University and transformed the Schreyer Honors College into a model of its kind in higher education. Joan Schreyer passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 16, and she is being remembered at Penn State and in State College, where she lived since 2014, as an extraordinary supporter of many organizations and as a devoted friend of the University and the more than 11,400 Schreyer Scholars who have graduated from the honors college since it was endowed in 1997.

“The Schreyer legacy at Penn State cannot be overestimated,” said President Eric J. Barron. “Through their investment and inspiration, through their leadership and love for this institution, Bill and Joan helped Penn State and Penn Staters to be ambitious for our future. The Schreyers were a true partnership, and they shared a belief in service that found expression in their vision for the Schreyer Honors College, and they encouraged every Schreyer Scholar to succeed not just as a student, but also as an ethical leader and global citizen. From her presence at the medal ceremonies for graduating Schreyer Scholars, to her ongoing interest in their achievements, Joan has inspired and will continue to inspire our students with her belief in their ability to make a difference in the larger world.”

Board of Trustees Chair Matthew W. Schuyler said, “All of us who take pride in Penn State have reason to be profoundly grateful to Joan Schreyer, and her loss is a loss to our entire community. With Bill, she offered wholehearted support for the people and programs of this University, and the Schreyer Honors College has elevated and affirmed our entire institution’s reputation for excellence, drawing top students whose achievements go far beyond the academic and serve to challenge and inspire our whole community. Joan was a gracious and generous presence whose belief in the importance of higher education will continue to guide us for many years to come.”

The Schreyers made national headlines in 1997 with their $30 million commitment to endow the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State, one of the largest gifts in the University’s history and the single biggest commitment to the “Grand Destiny” campaign underway at the time. Their support created an integrated program of opportunities for top academic achievers, from a living-learning environment located in the University Park campus’ Atherton and Simmons halls to merit-based scholarships and special seminars for students enrolled as Schreyer Scholars. Bill Schreyer often remarked that after spending a lifetime on Wall Street, the Schreyer Honors College was still the best investment he ever made in life.

The program became a model for other higher education institutions, and the Schreyers renewed their support to the college in 2006 with an additional commitment of $25 million toward scholarships, study abroad and international opportunities, and programs emphasizing civic engagement and leadership.

“The vision and generosity of the Schreyer family are timeless, and we are grateful for everything they have given to create this remarkable experience for Scholars at Penn State,” said Patrick Mather, who joined the Schreyer Honors College as dean in August of this year. “Before my arrival this summer, I had the honor and great pleasure to meet with the Schreyer family, and that visit left an enormous impression on me. Mrs. Schreyer; her daughter, DrueAnne; and their family welcomed me with warmth, grace and humor, and I am most appreciative for the time we spent together. I also greatly value the trust they placed in me as the new dean of the college that bears their name.”                                                                                         

Joan Legg Schreyer was born in Buffalo, New York, on April 22, 1929, to the late William Bardgett and Gladys (McDonald) Legg, and she grew up in the Buffalo area. She attended Sullins Academy in Bristol, Virginia, and Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She met her husband in 1951, and they were married on Oct. 17, 1953. Shortly after they were married, Joan and Bill moved to Wiesbaden, Germany, while he was serving his ROTC commitment with the Air Force. After returning to the states, they moved back to Buffalo for Bill to return to work at Merrill Lynch. In 1968, they settled in Princeton, New Jersey, where they lived for 45 years as Bill Schreyer rose to the company’s top posts.

Throughout his career, Joan Schreyer partnered with her husband to form the human connections that helped to drive his success, and the couple often expressed and embodied their desire to share that success with others through their volunteer leadership and their philanthropy, particularly at Bill’s alma mater. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus, the highest honor offered by the University to its graduates, in 1979, and Joan was named an honorary alumna in 1991. Bill Schreyer served in many volunteer leadership roles at the University, including as Board of Trustees chair from 1993 to 1995. In 1984, he became chair of the “Campaign for Penn State,” the University’s first comprehensive fundraising initiative. Under his leadership, the campaign exceeded its original goal of $200 million and raised a total of $352 million. In the ensuing years, the Schreyers continued to lead the University’s fundraising efforts by example, supporting areas across Penn State, including the Smeal College of Business, the University Libraries, the Palmer Museum of Art, Intercollegiate Athletics, Penn State Health, and the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. Schreyer House, the Penn State presidential residence, also bears the Schreyers’ name, in honor of the couple’s philanthropic support of the home’s renovation and addition.

“Bill and Joan Schreyer were pioneers in philanthropy at Penn State,” said O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations. “They understood that through their gifts, alumni and friends of the University could shape our future as an institution. They showed the way forward through their own transformational support for the Schreyer Honors College, which represented their belief in the limitless potential of Penn State and Penn Staters. Joan Schreyer embraced Bill’s alma mater, and we are profoundly grateful that she continued to be a presence and an inspiration in our community after Bill’s death in 2011, attending Schreyer Honors College events and furthering their shared legacy.”  

Before settling in State College to be near her family, Joan Schreyer was a celebrated hostess and volunteer leader in Princeton, New Jersey, known for the brandied cranberries she made for friends and family over the holidays and for her famous sour cream coffee cakes for the annual Princeton Hospital Auxiliary Christmas Bazaar. She chaired both the Car Raffle and the Dinner Dance for the annual Hospital Fete. She was an active member of the Junior League, was on the board at Nero Psychiatric Institute, was a patron at Morven, and was a longtime member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Princeton.  

Joan was a member of many distinguished clubs, including The River Club in New York, New York; The Metropolitan Club and The Georgetown Club in Washington, D.C.; Skibo Castle in Dornoch, Scotland; Annabel’s, The Mark’s Club, Harry’s Bar, and Les Ambassadors in London, England; The Saturn Club and The Buffalo Country Club in Buffalo, New York; The Nassau Club, Springdale Golf Club, The Present Day Club, and Bedens Brook Club in Princeton, New Jersey; Eldorado Country Club in Indian Wells, California; Old Baldy Club in Saratoga, Wyoming; The Bay Head Yacht Club and The Manasquan River Golf Club near Mantoloking, New Jersey; and Centre Hills Country Club in State College, Pennsylvania.

She was predeceased by her fraternal grandparents, T. Arthur and Maud (Bardgett) Legg; her maternal grandparents, William Frederick and Ida (Schwable) McDonald; her parents; her husband in 2011; and her son-in-law, Rodney Frazier, in 2015. She is survived by her daughter, DrueAnne Bardgett Schreyer, of State College, Pennsylvania; grandchildren Kelly Frazier and her fiancé, Michael Zalewski, of State College; and Charles Frazier and his wife, Ariana Ramos, of San Diego, California.

Celebrations of Joan’s life will be held in Princeton and State College in the new year. Joan will be interred with her husband in a private service. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Schreyer Honors College at

Last Updated November 24, 2021