Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Schreyer Lauded at Penn State

Friends celebrate life of honors college founder




A business degree from Penn State in hand, William Schreyer left Penn State in 1948 and went on to build a career managing one of the nation’s largest financial institutions.

But his proudest investment wasn’t made on Wall Street — instead, it overlooks College Avenue.
 
During his four years at University Park, Schreyer was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and, above all, a proud Penn Stater.
 
Schreyer died Saturday at the age of 83.
 
His accomplishments outside of University Park include a two-year tour in Germany as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, a term as the president of Merrill Lynch, a subsequent term as the chief executive and chairman of Merrill Lynch, and chairman of the executive committee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C.
 
Back at Penn State, though, Schreyer established the Schreyer Institute for Innovation in Learning, and in 1997, he donated $30 million to become the primary benefactor and namesake of the Schreyer Honors College. Nine years later, Schreyer and his wife Joan committed another $25 million to the university for study abroad programs for scholars.
 
In total, his contributions to the university are valued at more than $58 million, making him one of Penn State’s most prominent donors.
 
A Penn State Legacy
Charlie Frazier, never intended to come to Penn State — but when he took a closer look at the program his grandfather helped shape, he knew he couldn’t shy away from applying.
 
Now pursuing a Penn State business degree of his own through the college his grandfather helped found, Frazier said he takes advantage of every opportunity –– and with a sense of humor, just like his grandfather always taught him.
 
“He always said, ‘Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously,’ ” Frazier (senior-accounting and finance) said.
 
He said when people asked his grandfather what he would have done differently, he always replied that he had no regrets.
 
“He just had the biggest sense of humor,” Frazier said. “Even up until the end, he’d always be cracking jokes.”
 
A Partner in Education
Christian Brady, dean of the Schreyer Honors College, describes Schreyer as being a man of “great integrity.”
 
“He genuinely wanted to make this world a better place,” Brady said. “His ability and talents were in leadership in the financial world — but he wasn’t satisfied at that.”
 
In addition to speaking with Schreyer once a month and seeing him every three months, Brady said Schreyer always wanted to speak with him the week before the honors college’s medal ceremony in order to get to know the graduating students.
 
“It sounds cliché, but he always maintained that he felt that the best investment that they ever made was in the college and in Penn State, because he was investing in the students,” Brady said.
 
Brady said Schreyer was never someone who gave his money simply to have others do work in his name, instead preferring to empower students to fulfill their own potential and to better the world around them.
 
“When he gave the gift he said, ‘I don’t want to see this on the heavenly news network. I want to see this doing good now. I want to be a part of this,’ ” Brady said.
 
Brady said the high percentage of SHC scholars who study abroad — more than 50 percent — is reflective of the principles emphasized by Schreyer.
 
“In terms of not just recruitment to the honors college, but Penn State as a whole, Mr. Schreyer has had a kind of impact that I think Mr. Paterno has had on the football program,” Brady said.
 
An Old Friend
In his years spent contributing to the university, Schreyer developed a close friendship with Sue and Joe Paterno.
News of his friend’s death, Paterno said, felt “like losing a brother.”
 
“Bill was one of the finest guys I’ve ever known,” Paterno said. “He was as smart as a whip, he had a fantastic sense of humor and great way with people. He was truly a leader.”
 
Paterno described his experience when Schreyer asked him to be one of the assistant chairmen for his fundraising campaigns –– which happened to meet in New York City on the day the stock market dropped 500 points in one day.
 
“There were 15 or 16 of us in the Merrill Lynch building in downtownan. We were going over things and all of the sudden somebody came in, one of the people who works there, and said, ‘Hey boss, I gotta talk to you a minute. The market is collapsing.’ Bill said, ‘Well, I better get going, then,’ ” Paterno said.
 
When Schreyer returned to the room, Paterno said he was notably optimistic.
 
“He came back in an hour and said, ‘Well, we got some problems, but that’s what I get paid for,’ ” Paterno said.
Paterno said Schreyer expressed the same optimism on national television days later.
 
“When he went on national television to encourage everybody, he ended up saying ‘We’re bullish on America,’ ” Paterno said. “Most people will tell you that was one of the keys to people taking a good look at where we were going.”
 
Paterno noted Schreyer’s optimism was something that was ever-present in his own personal interactions with Schreyer.
 
“We played the University of Texas in a bowl game that New York put on, and they gave us a good licking,” Paterno said. “I remember Bill had a little get together after and he was determined that everybody was going to have a good time, despite the outcome of the game.”
 
All in all, Paterno said he has met few people like his friend.
 
“He was someone who’s made Penn State a much better place,” Paterno said. “Anyone who knew him was better for knowing him.”