Long-term donors leave lasting impact on College of Education
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Harry Kropp and Edward Legutko first donated to the College of Education 13 years ago, they never dreamed they would someday be able to create a named scholarship like their new award for student teaching.
“This never would have happened without marriage equality,” said Kropp, an alumnus of the college and lifetime member of the Penn State Alumni Association. “Before, we couldn’t commit to a long-term gift because if one of us passed, the other would have to pay a 15-percent inheritance tax.”“We had talked about doing something like this but we didn’t have the financial certainty and security to be able to do it until this law passed,” Legutko added. “Now, we have those assurances and we can go forward and make plans.”
Those plans include the establishment of The Harry B. Kropp and Edward J. Legutko Award for Student Teaching, an annual award that honors and recognizes an undergraduate student who has excelled in his or her student-teaching or field experience.
“This was one way we could give back to Penn State, who trained me, and we also felt that we would like to encourage other students to go into teaching,” Kropp said.
A true love for education
The couple, who spent their careers as public school teachers in Greenwich, Connecticut, wanted to create an award to show their love, commitment and appreciation for the field of education.
“It’s a way to honor our profession,” Legutko said. “We are doing what we can, which is little in comparison to some, to honor what we did for our careers and encourage others — students — to go into teaching.”
“We just feel that education is so terribly important and it needs to be supported by everybody,” Kropp added. “A lot of problems arise if you’re not educated and without education, a lot of things don’t get done.”
But education means even more to the couple, who recently celebrated 49 years together, because it is how they shared their lives.
“Education is what brought us together,” Kropp said.
After graduating from Penn State, Kropp had the opportunity to interview for a teaching position in Greenwich. Unsure about his desire to move to another state, he declined the interview. But fate had other plans.
“I got this phone call from the foreign language supervisor persuading me to come for the interview, so I went and accepted the position, and ended up meeting Ed,” he said. “It’s just so ironic how it all happened because I never thought Greenwich was the place for me.”
That place was where they would both spend the next 26 years before ultimately retiring and returning to State College to spend their golden years together.
“We wanted something ongoing and in our name,” Kropp said of the new award. “We have no children so now we will have an award in our name and when we’re not around anymore, with our life story.”
“We just feel that education is so terribly important and it needs to be supported by everybody. A lot of problems arise if you’re not educated and without education, a lot of things don’t get done.”
— Harry Kropp, alumnus and donor
Making giving possible
Kropp and Legutko have donated the same amount to the college every year. And even though they have changed their annual donation to a program award, the amount of their contribution has not changed.
“Harry and Ed chose to give through their estate but they also chose to early activate their gift so they’re paying toward it now with their annual contribution and once they pass on, the remainder will come from their estate,” said Mary Beth Spang, assistant director of development for the College of Education, explaining that donors have the option to set up endowments and follow what is essentially a payment plan.
“Many of people don’t have, for example, $20,000 to contribute outright so they commit to $20,000 over a period of time,” she said. “Instead of budgeting for one lump sum, donors can budget to give $4,000 over a period of five years, which is a lot easier for a lot of people.”
“It’s a good option for donors who are interested in contributing but aren’t necessarily wealthy,” she said.
It’s important for donors or those interested in contributing to the college to understand that all donations, regardless of the amount, go a long way, Spang said.
“I know it is redundant, but every little bit counts,” she said. “Even those small contributions go toward existing endowments or funds like the College of Education Future Fund, which helps support more immediate and pressing needs of the college.”
Currently, more than 4,000 College of Education alumni have made contributions to Penn State every year since graduating. Those contributions are used throughout the college to support students, research, academic programs or other areas of need.
Kropp and Legutko credit Spang, along with Simon Corby, director of development for the college, and the college’s development staff for helping them make their dream possible.
“We’ve always wanted to do something and never felt that we really could,” Legutko said. “Simon and Mary Beth showed us that what we were doing now — giving a set amount each year — could be turned into an endowed award and have a larger impact for students.”
“This has just been a really wonderful opportunity for us,” Kropp added. “It’s what we’ve always been doing but now it is something that can be long-lasting.”
Kropp and Legutko also emphasized the importance Dean David H. Monk’s leadership played in their decision to give, stating that they were drawn to the college through him.
“When we came to the College of Education, Dean Monk and the community here welcomed us as a couple and me as a Nittany Lion even though I’m not an alumnus,” Legutko said. “And I appreciated that so much, to be included.”
“This college really does care about the people,” Kropp said. “And that really matters to us.”
By Jessica Buterbaugh (November 2016)