Fayette alumni create Open Doors Scholarship at campus

LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — Renata (King) and Leland Engel have committed $50,000 to Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus in coordination with the Open Doors Scholarship Program.

The Renata (King) and Leland Engel Open Doors Scholarship will benefit students enrolled in the Open Doors Scholarship family of programs, including Pathways to Success: Summer Start (PaSSS). The PaSSS program was launched in 2015 to help students learn skills, establish connections, and earn credits during the summers before their first and second years at Penn State. Recent beneficiaries of the program have earned a baccalaureate degree from Fayette in as little as three years.

Born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, Renata graduated from Geibel Catholic High School and attended Penn State Fayette in 1978, where she would meet her husband, Leland, a U.S. Navy veteran. To pay for classes, she worked several jobs on and off campus.

“One day, I went to pay my tuition bill and I was told that there was no balance. Someone, through some channel, had awarded me a scholarship,” she said. “It was a vote of confidence from a person who believed that their investment was going to be a good one.”

Renata and Leland transitioned to University Park to study engineering science and mechanical engineering, respectively. The couple graduated and were married in 1982 and, this year, will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in State College, Pennsylvania. For them, the foundation and friends they established at Fayette were integral to their college experience.

“Penn State Fayette is the place I began my engineering studies. The faculty and staff — I can still name them — impressed upon me not only what I was learning from them, but how I had to learn at the college level,” said Renata. “This gift, in part, is our way of saying thank you to the campus and to those people who preceded us.”

Leland has held numerous positions in the field of aerospace engineering. In 1989, he received a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of South Florida. In 1991, he joined Penn State astrophysics department as a design engineer and, later, an instructor of mechanical engineering. He retired in 2014.

“I wasn’t from the area, so, for me, Fayette felt like a family,” said Leland, who relied on the GI Bill for tuition assistance. “I saw the hours my wife worked, how she struggled to pay for classes, so I know our gift will benefit people like her in the region.”

Renata earned her doctorate in engineering from the University of South Florida and began her career at Penn State in 1990 as a faculty member, holding the title of professor of engineering mechanics and engineering design. Since 2018, she has served as Penn State’s vice provost for Online Education. Her office administers Penn State World Campus, which offers more than 175 degree and certificate programs online for distance learners across the globe. As the co-chair of the committee for access and affordability, she helped to develop Open Doors Scholarship programming.

“Our gift is an investment in students we’ll never know, long after we’re gone. There will always be somebody who needs support, and Penn Staters take care of Penn Staters,” she said. “We want to take care of future Penn Staters because we know the difference an education can make in someone’s life.”

“We are very thankful to Renata and Leland for this generous gift to assist the students at Penn State Fayette,” said Charles Patrick, chancellor and chief academic officer. “They know the student financial needs at our campus and the region because both Renata and Leland started their Penn State education with Penn State Fayette.”

To contribute a gift to the Open Doors Scholarship Program, contact Lori Omatick, director of development and alumni relations, at 724-430-4190 or [email protected].

The establishment of this scholarship 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 serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

“This gift, in part, is our way of saying thank you to the campus and to those people who preceded us.”

—Renata (King) Engel , vice provost for Online Education at Penn State