Schreyer Honors College

Schreyer Honors College saddened by loss of its founder

The Schreyer Honors College is mourning the loss of William A. Schreyer whose family's extraordinary contributions to Penn State established the college that bears his name.

Schreyer, 83, a 1948 graduate of Penn State, died Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, in Princeton, N.J. The University was notified of his death and made the announcement of his passing to the entire Penn State community.

"The Schreyer Honors College has lost not only one of its founders and most faithful benefactors but we have lost a most gifted leader whose success, generosity, service, integrity, and zest for a life well lived should be an example for all Schreyer Scholars," said Schreyer Honors College Dean Christian M. M. Brady.

In 1997, Schreyer and his wife, Joan, announced they were making a $30 million gift to Penn State to establish an honors college at the University. Gift money from the Schreyers also was used to establish the Schreyer Institute for Innovation in Learning within the college. In 2006, the Schreyers made a $25 million commitment to continue their support of the college.

Robert E. Poole, the chair of the honors college's External Advisory Board, on which Mr. Schreyer along with his wife, Joan, and daughter, DrueAnne, have served since the college's founding, said that Schreyer was a visionary leader who delighted in sharing his enthusiasm for the college and its students with others.

"Bill Schreyer was a close friend, business partner and colleague," Poole said. "It has been a great privilege to have led the board in recent years. When Bill made the decision to establish the honors college, he knew that this would not only change Penn State but that he was doing something that would indeed create opportunities for bright young people who would go on to change the world. To see that Bill's vision has been embraced by these bright young people says much about the wisdom and greatness of Bill's mind and heart, and all of us are better for it."

Brady, who became dean of the college in 2006 as it prepared to celebrate its first decade of operation, was in close and frequent communication with Schreyer over the years.

"Mr. Schreyer was a man of big ideas, and the Schreyer Honors College had to be among one of his biggest," Brady said. "The idea of transforming Penn State's University Scholars Program into a college in which this public research university would compete for the country's brightest students was a big, bold, daunting idea. But Mr. Schreyer seized upon it as the place to invest his money, his name and his legacy for which all Penn Staters should be most grateful for the success and standing this college has achieved on behalf of this great university."

Brady noted that the honors college's mission reflects the principles that defined Schreyer's life and achievements.

"The vision and mission of our college, that our students are to be both academically excellent as well as concerned for the world and the plight of others and that above all ethics and integrity were to be prized, came directly from Mr. Schreyer himself," Brady said.

Brady and his predecessor, Cheryl Achterberg, regularly visited Schreyer in his Princeton office and talked with him over the phone to discuss the college's initiatives.

Achterberg, who is now the dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University, reflected on the college's early years when reached at her home in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday. Achterberg was the Schreyer Honors College founding dean, serving in that capacity from 1998 until 2005 when she left to accept a position as dean of the College of Human Sciences at Iowa State University.

"One of the things that Mr. Schreyer was superb at was seeing into the future, seeing farther into the future than most people do when they try," Achterberg said. "He did that in his work at Merrill Lynch, and he also did that in terms of honors education. He set the vision and goals and held us accountable. To anyone who wants to talk about a transformational gift, I would say this is the best example I've ever heard of. It really did what it was designed to do -- to lift Penn State up and extend so many lessons learned into terms of teaching and learning out into the campus broadly for the benefit of the entire university."

Brady said that he will miss the conversations with a man he found to be "most genuine, most humble and most wise." Schreyer's interest in the college never waned, Brady said.

"When he committed to establishing this college with a $30 million gift to Penn State in 1997, Mr. Schreyer also committed himself to lending his time and energy toward seeing that this college became a national leader in honors education," Brady said. "To Mr. Schreyer's delight and to his credit, this college has done just that in the years since its founding. All of us here in the college are most grateful to his leadership, vision and stewardship and are most proud to be a part of his legacy."

For more information on Bill Schreyer's life and accomplishments, see or

Bill and Joan Schreyer join Penn State President Graham Spanier, right, to sign documents creating the Schreyer Honors College with the couple's $30 million gift, September 1997. Credit: Penn State Department of Public InformationAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated January 10, 2014