Local Couple and University Employees Support Higher Ed Program
by Pamela Batson
Roger Williams ’73 Lib, ’75 M.A. (Com), ’88 D.Ed. and Karen Magnuson ’75 A&A have designated $25,000 in their estate to create the Roger L. Williams and Karen Magnuson Program Endowment in Higher Education.
Perhaps few alumni couples have stronger ties to Penn State than Williams and Magnuson. Besides their philanthropy and combined four degrees, they are also employed at Penn State.
“Penn State means everything to us, and we wanted to give something back that in some small way helps to strengthen our alma mater,” Williams said. “In particular, I wanted to provide an endowment for the Higher Education program, which year in and year out continues to be ranked in the top three such programs in the nation. Over the six years it took me to complete my doctorate, my experience with its superb faculty and superior graduate students went well beyond expectations. The program was a tight-knit and mutually supportive academic community in the best sense of the word. After graduation, the program offered me a post as an affiliate assistant professor (now associate professor). I continue to remain well connected to it, and want to see it thrive in the years to come.”
Williams began his Penn State career in 1978 and in 1986 became assistant vice president and executive director of university relations, a position he held for nine years. He later held executive administrative positions at Georgetown University and the University of Arkansas before returning to Penn State in 2003 as the executive director of the Alumni Association; the largest dues-paying alumni association in the world. Since 1992 he has held a faculty position in the College of Education’s Higher Education program. All told, his professional career with Penn State spans more than twenty-three years.
An accomplished author, Williams has published twenty-five professional and scholarly articles. His book, The Origins of Federal Support for Higher Education: George W. Atherton and the Land-Grant College Movement (Penn State Press, 1991), was drawn from his doctoral thesis, which won the 1989 dissertation-of-the-year award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education.
Magnuson is assistant director of University Publications and manager of the University Editor Representative System. She is responsible for overseeing the University’s graphic identity system and was part of the team in 1987 that implemented the Penn State mark. She works with a network of University communicators from the campuses, colleges, and administrative divisions to maintain visual and editorial standards and produce high-quality publications. With thirty years of service to the University, she also enjoys her unofficial role as an ambassador at alumni association events.
“Roger and Karen have been great friends of Penn State in so many ways it’s hard to sum up the importance of their contributions in a few words. Their involvement creates this wonderful ripple effect throughout the community because they touch so many people each day,” said Dean David Monk. “We are certainly proud that they’ve chosen to support our Higher Education program.”
In addition to their support of the College of Education, Williams and Magnuson have included the College of Agricultural Sciences in their estate plans.
“We established an endowment in the College of Agricultural Sciences to supplement the Burton S. Horne Memorial Scholarship Fund. Burton, an agricultural engineering professor, was my children’s grandfather. Well known throughout cooperative extension and the Pennsylvania farming community, he was passionate about teaching. Honoring Burt’s memory just fits in naturally with our support of the Higher Education program,” said Magnuson.
They are members of the Mount Nittany Society and together they have four children ranging in age from 20 to 34.