$4.25 million Weiss gift to benefit Breakthrough Scholarships, Center for Sports Medicine

University Park, Pa. -- Recent gifts for scholarships and the Penn State Center for Sports Medicine from William and Josephine Weiss have brought the couple's total commitment to the University's new capital campaign to $4.25 million.

The Weisses, both Penn State alumni, made a new commitment of $2.5 million to support Breakthrough Scholarships, which they established in 1995 to assist outstanding undergraduates in the Colleges of Engineering and the Liberal Arts who have financial need. They have also committed $1.75 million to help upgrade programs and facilities at the Center for Sports Medicine.

"Bill and Jo Weiss continue to demonstrate an extraordinary dedication to the Penn State community, and especially to giving our students the opportunity to realize their full potential academically and as future leaders of our society," said University President Graham Spanier. "We are deeply grateful for their generosity and the example they have set in making student support a personal priority as we begin our University-wide fund-raising effort."

The campaign, For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, began January 1 and is in its leadership gifts phase. It places highest priorities on ensuring that a Penn State education remains accessible to students regardless of their financial means, and to strengthening the qualities that make Penn State a student-centered university. A dollar goal for the campaign will be determined later.   

The Weiss Breakthrough Scholarships are four-year awards and have aided 93 students over the past 13 years, included 24 during the current academic year. Recipients must demonstrate financial need, together with outstanding academic and leadership accomplishment or potential. First preference is given to students who are the first generation in their families to attend college. Penn State's Office of Student Aid selects recipients.

"We're extremely pleased with the results of the Breakthrough Scholarship program," said Jo Weiss. "We take a lot of satisfaction in getting to meet the students who have received these awards, and learning more about how a Penn State education is helping them to meet their career and personal goals. This kind of personal interaction helps us stay in touch with the University and inspires Bill and me in our own lives, as well."

The Penn State Center for Sports Medicine, located in the Centre Medical Sciences Building in State College, has more than 90,000 patient encounters annually, including all 29 Penn State varsity teams, area high school athletes, and the general public. It offers a wide array of services within the traditional sports medicine setting such as orthopedics and physical therapy, as well as within such specialty areas as internal medicine, physiatry, and pain management.

The center is in the process of securing private funds for facilities improvements and endowments to support a variety of staff positions and programs.

The Weisses first became aware of the center's work through its director, Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, William Weiss said.

"We were impressed by Dr. Sebastianelli's personal commitment to providing quality health care and by his overall leadership and vision for the center," Weiss said. "The center is a valuable asset, not only to Penn State, but to the greater community."

The center's sports medicine, physical therapy and rehabilitation, and orthopedic wings will be named for the Weisses in recognition of their generosity.

William Weiss, a 1951 Penn State graduate in industrial engineering, retired in 1994 as chairman and CEO of Ameritech Corp., an international telecommunications firm. Josephine Berry Weiss is a 1950 Penn State graduate in the liberal arts.

As longtime donors to Penn State, the Weisses directed their philanthropy primarily to students and faculty in the Colleges of Engineering and the Liberal Arts, and to the University Libraries. Penn State honored them as Philanthropists of the Year in 2005.

William Weiss has also served in a number of volunteer leadership capacities in support of Penn State's private fund-raising efforts, including as a vice chair of the Grand Destiny capital campaign between 1996 and 2003. He was a trustee of the University from 1994 to 2003, and a member of the board of directors of the Hershey Medical Center.

A Big Run native, he joined Bell Telephone upon graduating from Penn State. He was named chairman and CEO of Ameritech (now part of the new AT&T) in 1984, following a career with Bell companies in four states.

Josephine Weiss, a native of Lock Haven, has served on the Penn State Libraries development advisory board, which provides volunteer leadership for the Libraries' fund-raising efforts. She has been involved as a volunteer leader with such diverse organizations as the Adler Planetarium as vice chair of its board of trustees, the Chicago Child Care Society, the Women's Board of Northwestern University and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

The Weisses divide their residence between State College and Sarasota, Fla.

Bill and Jo Weiss Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated November 18, 2010