PSU officials discuss impact of philanthropist, State College resident Joan Schreyer after death

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Joan Legg Schreyer, who, along with her late husband, contributed tens of millions to the Penn State honors college that bears their name, died at age 92 on Nov. 16 — and, on Wednesday, several university officials offered their condolences while remembering her impact.

Joan’s cause of death was not made public. She spent many years living in Buffalo, New York, and Princeton, New Jersey, but after her husband Bill’s death in 2011, she moved to State College and had resided here since 2014.

“The Schreyer legacy at Penn State cannot be overestimated,” university President Eric Barron said in a written statement. “Through their investment and inspiration, through their leadership and love for this institution, Bill and Joan helped Penn State and Penn Staters to be ambitious for our future. The Schreyers were a true partnership, and they shared a belief in service that found expression in their vision for the Schreyer Honors College, and they encouraged every Schreyer Scholar to succeed not just as a student, but also as an ethical leader and global citizen.”

Known as the quintessential party planner — and for her renowned brandied cranberries during the holidays — Joan often emphasized the importance of higher education. She was named an honorary alumna in 1991, and she and her husband often helped lead the university’s fundraising efforts by example.

In 1997, the Schreyers made a $30 million commitment to endow the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State in one of the largest gifts in university history. In 2006, they committed an additional $25 million toward scholarships, international opportunities, and more. And, over the years, the university acknowledged they supported multiple areas such as the Smeal College of Business, the University Libraries, the Palmer Museum of Art, Intercollegiate Athletics, Penn State Health and the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence.

“Bill and Joan Schreyer were pioneers in philanthropy at Penn State,” said O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations. “They understood that through their gifts, alumni and friends of the university could shape our future as an institution. ... Joan Schreyer embraced Bill’s alma mater, and we are profoundly grateful that she continued to be a presence and an inspiration in our community after Bill’s death in 2011, attending Schreyer Honors College events and furthering their shared legacy.”

Joan was born on April 22, 1929, in Buffalo. She attended Sullins Academy before enrolling in Mary Washington College, both in Virginia, and she met her husband in 1951. They married in 1953 and eventually settled in Princeton, where they lived for 45 years.

Bill worked for Merrill Lynch, rising to the company’s top posts, while Joan took on numerous volunteer roles while offering her support. As just a few examples, she chaired both the Car Raffle and Dinner Dance for Princeton Hospital — and, for years, made her famous sour cream coffee cakes for the Christmas Bazaar there. She was also a member of numerous clubs, from New York to Scotland, and was a member of Centre Hills Country Club in State College.

“All of us who take pride in Penn State have reason to be profoundly grateful to Joan Schreyer, and her loss is a loss to our entire community,” said Matthew Schuyler, chair of the university’s board of trustees. “With Bill, she offered wholehearted support for the people and programs of this university, and the Schreyer Honors College has elevated and affirmed our entire institution’s reputation for excellence, drawing top students whose achievements go far beyond the academic and serve to challenge and inspire our whole community.”

Celebrations of Joan’s life will be held in both Princeton and State College in the new year, and she will be interred with her husband in a private service. Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home in State College.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Schreyer Honors College at

“The vision and generosity of the Schreyer family are timeless, and we are grateful for everything they have given to create this remarkable experience for Scholars at Penn State,” said Patrick Mather, who joined the Schreyer Honors College as dean in August of this year.

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