UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For Tony and Jeanne Riley, longtime supporters of the College of Agricultural Sciences, it was through the connections the college made possible that they found the inspiration for their most recent $50,000 commitment supporting the work of Matthew Kaplan, professor of intergenerational programs and aging and director of the Penn State Intergenerational Program.
Through a two-pronged approach, the Rileys’ gift provides $25,000 to establish the Intergenerational Program Endowment, creating a mechanism for others to contribute gifts to aid Kaplan’s work, and another $25,000 for immediate use in funding current important initiatives.
“Having this endowment will help us expand our efforts to develop, study and disseminate intergenerational program models that contribute to the health and well-being of young and older participants, support families and improve community quality of life, while access to the immediate use funds will allow us to jumpstart that work,” said Kaplan.
“The endowment also is helping us to build an infrastructure for supporting and expanding intergenerational work throughout Pennsylvania, for instance, by planning a statewide conference, workshop series and a statewide intergenerational network to be launched in mid-2022,” he said. “I am grateful to the college’s development professionals for working closely with me and the Rileys to structure a gift that meets our program’s unique needs.”
The Rileys first connected with Kaplan through their involvement with the college’s Center for Private Forests, which advances research-based insights to inspire and cultivate stewardship of private forests. The couple saw the relevance of his research on intergenerational relationships to the challenges forest owners face in engaging younger generations in the care of their woodlands.
“It was thanks to the center that we got to know Matt and his work, which was extremely useful to us in planning for the future of our own family property,” said Jeanne Riley.
The Intergenerational Program under Kaplan’s leadership combines innovative academic scholarship with programs that apply this work in service to the community. Kaplan has published multiple books in the field and collaborated with many intergenerational scholars around the world. He runs the Intergenerational Leadership Institute, a certificate program for leaders aiming to bring applicable principles and practices into their work and to collaborate with other like-minded professionals.
Drawing on his research, Kaplan develops frameworks for effective intergenerational programs, policies, and places or built environments, and he conducts several programs as well. Program areas include environmental education, retirement communities, community planning, family business continuity planning, early childhood education and kinship care.
Kaplan, whose work focuses on bringing different generations together to learn, collaborate, grow and improve their quality of life, also serves on Penn State Extension’s Leadership and Community Vitality Team, which offers a “One Community, Many Generations” program to assist communities with citizen engagement in intergenerational planning and decision-making processes.
Among the many attributes of Kaplan’s work that appealed to the Rileys was the combination of outstanding academic scholarship and the real-world impact of the program. They hope the endowment will provide a structure for others to support this work.
“We see our two-pronged initial gift as a way to put a structure in place for others to contribute both to the future of the program and to the vital work that is currently ongoing,” said Tony Riley.
For Kaplan, it is important that this research and work extends beyond his tenure.
“My goal is to create something that can outlast any individual,” said Kaplan. “I’m driving this work presently, but we really want to make progress establishing an institutional framework and creating a legacy that will last well after those of us who started this movement are gone.”
The Rileys feel there is a great societal need for the work coming from Kaplan and the Penn State Intergenerational Program.
“For all of us who are concerned about passing on our wisdom and experience and learning from the next generations, as well as those of us who are grappling with caregiving responsibilities for parents or children or grandchildren, the work Matt is doing is exceptionally relevant,” said Jeanne Riley.
With the establishment of the endowment, Kaplan will be able to put the infrastructure in place for the future of the program. A major initiative now underway is the Pennsylvania Intergenerational Conference, currently scheduled for July 5–7, 2022, in State College.
“This conference will inform and educate professionals, educators and advocates about innovative and evidence-informed intergenerational program models taking root in Pennsylvania and beyond and will help form a network of professionals engaged in intergenerational work across the state,” said Kaplan.
In addition, with the endowment funds, the Penn State Extension Relatives as Parents Program team, of which Kaplan is a member, will be able to offer additional weekend retreats for kinship families facing increasing challenges during the continuing pandemic.
For more information on how to support the Intergenerational Program Endowment, contact Abby Hopkins, associate director of development in the College of Agricultural Sciences, or Kaplan. Additional information on the Penn State Intergenerational Program can be found at https://aese.psu.edu/outreach/intergenerational.
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 twenty-first-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.