Penn State Gets $3.5 Million Gift From Paterno The Winningest Active Division I-a Football Coach Said He Wanted To ``give Something Back.''

Posted: January 17, 1998

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has led the Nittany Lions to two NCAA national championships, a Big Ten Conference title, and berths in 28 bowl games in his 32 years at the school.

Yesterday, the winningest active Division I-A coach made a huge contribution to the university off the field by donating $3.5 million to endow faculty positions and scholarships and support two building projects.

``I never got into coaching to make money,'' said Paterno, who, with his wife, Sue, has contributed more than $4 million to the university. ``I have made more money than I should make for doing what I like to do. It just seemed like I ought to give it back.''

According to school officials, the donation was the largest ever given by a collegiate coach to his school.

``As far as I'm concerned, I'm the luckiest university president in the United States,'' Graham B. Spanier said.

``We believe this most recent gift from the Paternos is unique in higher-education philanthropy,'' said Rodney P. Kirsch, the school's vice president for development and alumni relations. ``As far as we've been able to determine, it appears to be the most generous gift ever made by a collegiate coach and his family to a university.''

The Paternos, who met decades ago when Sue was tutoring Joe's players in the school library, directed that $2 million of the gift go to establish and support professorships in the University Libraries and the College of the Liberal Arts, a graduate fellowship and undergraduate scholarship in the departments of architecture and landscape architecture, a graduate fellowship in the College of the Liberal Arts and a scholarship in the classics in the College of the Liberal Arts.

The fellowships and scholarships will be named in honor of Sue and Joe Paterno's parents - Alma and August Pohland, and Florence and Angelo Paterno - and Joe Paterno's high school Latin teacher, the Rev. Thomas Bermingham.

The Paternos also stipulated that $1 million of the donation go to fund a new campus interfaith spiritual center and that $250,000 be used to help build an all-sports hall of fame on the campus.

Spanier said the spiritual center will be added to the Eisenhower Chapel, which houses the university's Center for Ethics and Religious Studies. The hall of fame is expected to be built between Beaver Stadium and the Bryce Jordan Center.

``They have chosen to support some of our most critical academic needs and visionary initiatives,'' Spanier said. ``At the same time, the inspirational value of their gift is incalculable.''

The remaining $250,000 will be designated later. Paterno's salary, which is augmented by endorsement deals and several profitable investments, is a closely guarded secret at the college.

Paterno, who appeared almost embarrassed to be able to donate such a large sum, said he gave the money because he enjoyed his low-key style of living and preferred to share his good fortune with the school.

``Sue . . . washes all my shirts, presses all my clothes. We really don't have a lot of things,'' he said. ``[The money] started to [build up], and we didn't know what to do with it.''

The honorary chairman of the school's forthcoming fundraising campaign, Paterno gave Penn State $120,000 to create a library acquisitions fund and $50,000 to endow scholarships for minority students in 1984. In 1992, the Paternos donated $250,000 to help build the Paterno Library, which is under construction.

A native of Brooklyn and a graduate of Brown University, Paterno went to Penn State in 1950 as an assistant coach. He became head coach in 1966 and has compiled a 298-77-3 record. The Lions finished 9-3 last season.

Sue Paterno, from Latrobe, Pa., graduated from Penn State in 1962 and has served as a volunteer in numerous positions for the university. In 1995, she received the Lion's Paw medal for offering the highest level of service to Penn State.

The Paternos have two daughters and three sons, all Penn State graduates.

``Penn State has been very good to both Sue and me,'' said the 71-year-old Paterno, who said he wanted to coach four more seasons. ``I've never felt better about Penn State and its future potential than I do right now. Sue and I want to do all we can to help the university reach that potential.''

Edward R. Hintz, chairman of the college's fundraising campaign and head of a New York investment firm, said he has known the Paternos for more than 30 years and was not surprised by the gift.

``They are remarkable people, totally unselfish in their devotion to Penn State,'' Hintz said. ``Their values and commitment to Penn State are part of the university's culture and history. This latest evidence of their belief in the university is simply overwhelming.''

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