When Roger and Rosalie Dietz made the decision to spend their retirement years in Happy Valley, the atmosphere and accessibility of Penn State was a driving force. But the joy and enlightenment that resulted from their immersion in the University’s culture has created a philanthropic mindset that aims to enrich the student experience at Penn State.
As a result of their philanthropy, the Dietzes have bequeathed a significant portion of their estate to benefit the School of Music, School of Theatre, College of Agricultural Sciences, the Arboretum at Penn State, and the Palmer Museum of Art.
Their decision came approximately three years after the couple moved to State College from Devon, located northwest of Philadelphia and their home for nearly four decades. The Dietzes had regularly travelled to Penn State for women’s volleyball games and Roger Dietz said the weekend visits are what opened his eyes to the world-class research and educational offerings of the University.
“In our wanderings around campus on those weekends, I discovered that there was so much to Penn State that I didn’t know a thing about,” Dietz said. “And as we got settled in after the move, I realized the unbelievable opportunities that young students have here and I wanted to be a part of it in any way that I could.”
Dietz graduated from Penn State in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and worked in investment securities for more than forty years before he retired in 2001. Although his life’s work didn’t connect directly with his education, Dietz credits his love of the arts to his time as a student at Penn State.
“I developed a passion for and understanding of classical music and poetry thanks to professors like Hum Fishburn, who was the head of the music department at the time,” Dietz said. “And because of that, my first gift to Rosie when she was my girlfriend was a classical music album.”
In 2016, when Roger, then 85 years old, approached Rosalie with the idea of taking a music course, she knew it was a perfect way for him to not only continue his education, but to reconnect with his roots.
Swiping through her iPad, Rosalie’s infectious smile brightens as she stops on the photo she took of Roger on his first day of class in the fall 2016 semester.
“I just thought it was a wonderful idea,” Rosalie Dietz said. “His time at Penn State in the 1950s was something that means a lot to him and this was a fun opportunity for him to get out and be around the students and the academics of Penn State.”
As Dietz worked his way through the introductory music history course taught by Charles Youmans, music history professor, he developed a friendship with Youmans that planted the seed for the Dietzes’ decision to give back to Penn State.
“I asked a lot of questions in that class and I think Chuck really liked that,” Dietz said. “And as we got to talking after some classes, he explained to me how difficult it is financially for some students in the School of Music.”
Youmans explained to Dietz that the restringing of a bass fiddle can cost almost $700.
“There just aren’t that many kids that have $700 lying around to do that,” Dietz said. “So our focus became trying to help those kids that are in need to continue their education.”
The focal points of their philanthropy became more clear as the couple entrenched themselves in the culture of Penn State and the community. Rosalie began her volunteer work at various organizations, including the Arboretum at Penn State, Hort Woods Child Care Center, and Schlow Library. Roger subscribed to—and regularly read—newsletters from the various colleges at the University.
The result was a growing feeling that they wanted to give back and the couple began with donating to the women’s volleyball team and Penn State’s equine facilities. After working with development staff to allocate their wishes for their major gift, five funds were established, reflecting interests closest to their family: the Roger and Rosalie Dietz School of Music Assistance Fund, Roger and Rosalie Dietz Research Fund in the College of Agricultural Sciences, Rosalie and Charlotte Dietz Backstage Excellence Fund (School of Theatre), Rosalie Dietz Outreach and Education Program Endowment (Palmer Museum of Art), and the K.C. and Rebecca Dietz Endowment for Internships in the Arboretum at Penn State.
“To me Penn State is community and a diversity of interests that you just don’t understand until you are here and exposed to it all,” Rosalie Dietz said. “And our focus in each of the areas is to simply help students and our hope is that their experience is enhanced in a way that leaves a lasting impact on their lives.”