Longtime friends of the college fund new scholarship, honor assistant dean

Maria Schmidt, assistant dean for multicultural programs, takes time to get to know all of the students that spend time in the Multicultural Office in Chambers Building. Credit: Annemarie Mountz / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Longtime friends of the Penn State College of Education, John and Maryann Gilmartin, have committed $600,000 to the college.

The gift will endow a $500,000 Open Doors Scholarship and establish the $100,000 María J. Schmidt Endowed Program Fund, named for the current assistant dean for multicultural programs in the College of Education.

The Open Doors Scholarship Program is a University-wide effort that aims to address the financial, academic and personal challenges undergraduates face earning their degrees. Donors create scholarships for students with financial need who are enrolled in one of five programs Penn State has created to help undergraduates succeed academically. Beneficiaries of the programs include students from low-income areas, those who are transferring to the University Park campus from another Penn State campus, those who are at risk of not graduating due to unexpected hardships, and others who may benefit from extra support.

The endowment is intended to support multicultural programs in the college, including the Summer College Opportunity Program in Education (S.C.O.P.E.) and the D.C. Social Justice Fellowship course, as well as other initiatives that further the college’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Funds will be used to cover the expenses associated with travel, conference attendance and registration fees, supplies and materials, and other general operating expenses of the programs.

“I’m honored beyond words,” said Schmidt. “This gift from John and Maryann Gilmartin is one of the most meaningful forms of validation and recognition, personal and professional, I have ever received. It recognizes not only my work, but the work and passion of the multicultural programs team.”

Schmidt said proceeds from the endowment will help in sustaining programmatic efforts in the Office of Multicultural Programs.

“We will be able to provide further academic support and increase access and opportunities for professional development to underserved students in the college. It also will assist in providing professional learning opportunities to the College of Education community at large,” Schmidt said.

The endowment from the Gilmartins may be used to support professional learning opportunities in the College, including programs such as the Teaching Tolerance Workshop held this past spring through the Office of Multicultural Programs. Credit: Annemarie Mountz / Penn StateCreative Commons

“This is fantastic news,” said Divine Lipscomb, an undergraduate student in rehabilitation and human services and special projects coordinator for the Restorative Justice Initiative in the college. The initiative is a University-wide coalition of faculty members, graduate students, staff and community groups dedicated to restoring and empowering individuals who are incarcerated, through education and meaningful engagement in civic life.

“I think this endowment is a testament to the commitment Dean Schmidt has made to students in the College of Education, and particularly students of color,” Lipscomb said.

Lipscomb has overcome a number of challenges in the pursuit of his education. “In the midst of my most difficult financial situation here at Penn State, Dean Schmidt utilized all the resources at her disposal to ensure that I was able to continue my education,” he said.

Those resources include the John Gilmartin Trustee Scholarship; the Joan and David Cotterill Open Doors Scholarship; and the Floyd B. Fischer Scholarship in the College of Education.

“The fact that it is the Gilmartins who have bestowed this honor on Dean Schmidt infuses me with a deeper appreciation for their unwavering pledge to make education accessible to individuals that can relate to some of my most salient identities," said Lipscomb.

Schmidt and Dean Kimberly Lawless agree that the endowment not only recognizes the work of the office, but also highlights its educational equity and social justice efforts as a priority that needs continuous and permanent resources to truly create long-term change.

“The Gilmartins have been very significant supporters of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in the College of Education for a long time, and we are tremendously grateful for their support of this extremely critical work,” said Lawless.

“This most recent gift will help to ensure that our students will have the support they need while they are here, and also that they will leave Penn State with a much greater understanding of the diverse world they need to navigate upon graduation.”

Schmidt said, “For many students, having scholarship support has been the difference between going or not going to college, graduating or not graduating from college. Period.”

The Gilmartins’ gifts 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 hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated December 18, 2019