The Penner Family Foundation, led by Carrie Walton Penner (C’92) and Gregory Boyd Penner (F’92), has made a $10 million gift to enhance Georgetown’s ongoing commitment to educational access and affordability.
The gift supports two funds at the university, each with immediate impact.
The Penner Family Endowed Scholarship Fund, using $8 million dollars of the gift, will help promising students from low-income households attend Georgetown.
The remainder of the gift augments the existing Penner Family Endowed Experiences Fund, which allows undergraduates, many of whom are first-generation college students, to travel abroad, work at unpaid internships, engage in meaningful research, and participate in extracurricular service projects in the Washington, D.C., community.
“The Penners’ extraordinary generosity exemplifies our shared responsibility to ensure that Georgetown is a place where the very best students, regardless of background, have the opportunity to join our University community,” shares Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia. “Their service further strengthens our commitment to being a ‘community in diversity’—a place where we value a diversity of perspectives, experiences, life histories, gifts, and talents as vital to our community. We are deeply grateful for the Penners’ leadership and ongoing dedication to Georgetown.”
While studying economics and history at Georgetown College, Carrie Walton Penner tutored several high school students in Washington, D.C. After witnessing first-hand the significant disparities in public education, she dedicated her career to education research, evaluation, advocacy, and philanthropy.
For the past 20 years she has focused on helping children in low-income communities attend high-quality K-12 schools and competitive universities.
Greg Penner, who majored in international economics at Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS), is founder and general partner of Madrone Capital Partners, an investment management firm located in Menlo Park, California. He also serves as chair of the Walmart board of directors. While at Georgetown, he participated in DC Schools Project as well as activities through the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service.
“Through the years, we have dedicated our philanthropy to projects that help students reach their full potential,” Carrie Walton Penner says. “For some, the odds are stacked against them from a young age. We want to create a supportive atmosphere where they feel empowered to seize opportunities.”
This isn’t the first time the Penner family has made significant gifts to Georgetown. Past gifts established the Walton Scholarship for Georgetown College undergraduates; the Walton Family SFS Graduate Scholarship for MSFS students; an endowed chair in Asian Studies at the School of Foreign Service; and the Penner Family China Impact & Engagement Fund which supports intercultural and interreligious exchange between Georgetown and entities in China.
Funds from the Penner Family Foundation help advance Georgetown University’s Jesuit tradition of educating the most deserving students, regardless of their background or ability to pay.
“Georgetown is a leading voice in the national conversation about access and affordability in higher education,” adds Greg Penner. “Carrie and I are thrilled to advance this work, and to bring more students to Georgetown who will live their lives in service to others.”
One student, Lindsay Caprio (NHS’19), used a Penner Experiences Fund to stay on campus for the past two summers doing independent research for her honors thesis at the Georgetown University Medical Center. She recently presented her work on neuroblastoma cell migration at a conference.
“The research I do excites me—it’s been incredible to grow as an independent researcher these past few years and generate new, significant knowledge in the field of pediatric cancer biology,” explains Caprio. “This experience has been the hallmark of my Georgetown education, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Another student, Isaiah Fleming-Klink (SFS’19), used a Penner Experiences Fund to do ethnographic research in D.C.’s Landlord and Tenant Court. The fund allowed him to work in an unpaid internship at the court three or four half-days every week for seven months, interviewing tenants for a thesis paper examining procedural burden, opportunity costs, and other challenges.
“This experience allowed me to engage deeply and over a long period of time—and, I hope, respectfully and honestly— with difficult questions about home and the instability that can surround it,” Fleming-Klink explains. “I’m writing about how our institutions and norms impact marginalized communities.”
Fifty Years of Commitment
The Penners’ generous gift comes as the university celebrates the 50th anniversary of its Community Scholars Program (CSP), one of the country’s oldest pre-freshman academic enrichment programs.
Georgetown’s commitment to creating a thriving, diverse community accessible to the very best students, regardless of socioeconomic status, has grown in the 50 years since CSP’s establishment:
In 1968, Georgetown formed the Community Scholars Program (CSP) to support first-generation college students as they transition to higher education. The CSP experience begins with a five-week academic summer program prior to the students’ first year at Georgetown. Students take classes for credit, attend orientation workshops, and begin forming bonds with one another, teachers, and administrators that help sustain them through college. CSP also supports its students throughout their Georgetown careers with academic advising, mentoring and personal counseling, study groups, workshops, and seminars. The program, which boasts a 92 percent graduation rate, is housed in the university’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access (CMEA).
In 1978, Georgetown became one of the first top-tier universities to adopt need-blind admissions and meet-full-need financial aid policies. This decision increased the size and quality of the applicant pool and propelled Georgetown’s rise from a regional to a global university. Only a handful of universities still maintain such policies. Learn more about how Georgetown works to make college accessible and affordable.
In 2004, Georgetown launched the Georgetown Scholarship Program (GSP) to help scholarship students thrive at the university. The program includes mentoring, wellness activities, and support services, including a “Necessity Fund” to cover medical bills and other unforeseen expenses. The six-year graduation rate for GSP students is 96.4 percent, compared to the national rate of 30 percent for first-generation college students.
In 2016, Georgetown created the Regents Science Scholars Program (RSSP) to address the critical shortage of underserved and first-generation college students who successfully complete degrees in the sciences. The program supports CSP students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math by providing peer and faculty mentoring communities.
In 2017, the university became a founding member of the American Talent Initiative as part of an ongoing effort to make education accessible to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The initiative is a growing alliance of colleges and universities that are dedicated to substantially expanding opportunities and access for talented, low- and moderate-income students at institutions with the nation’s highest graduation rates.
In 2018, the university launched a weekly newsfeed in order to support the national conversation about the cost and equality of opportunity in 21st century higher education. In addition a member of the GSP staff is now dedicated to national outreach, visiting schools and conferences to share Georgetown’s best practices.
In 2019, Georgetown created a new office, the Office of Student Equity and Inclusion (OSEI). OSEI is within of the Office of the Provost and is led by Dr. Adanna J. Johnson, Associate Vice President for Student Equity and Inclusion, who previously served as the Senior Associate Dean and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success. OSEI is an umbrella unit that brings together, in one place, our Center for Multicultural Equity and Access (CMEA), Community Scholars Program (CSP), and the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP). The launch of this new, integrated unit is part of a “whole institution” approach to supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion of students on the Main Campus.