For nearly 60 years, Bill Jaffe (’60 B.A. Journ) has been philanthropically engaged with the university he deeply loves, and as fundraising efforts for the new University Art Museum kicked off, he saw an opportunity to contribute to the arts at Penn State and inspire others to do the same.
Jaffe has contributed $250,000 to construction of the museum building, which would be located adjacent to the Arboretum at Penn State and encompass approximately 68,000 to 73,000 square feet. It has a total project budget of $71.1 million, funded by Penn State’s five-year capital plan that runs through 2023, and that total could increase to as much as $85 million with philanthropic support. Final project plans and costs are subject to approval by the Board of Trustees.
Jaffe’s decades-long devotion to the arts at Penn State has manifested itself in countless ways. After moving to State College in 1995, he and his late wife, Honey, consistently supported the arts by not only contributing financially, but by serving on numerous advisory boards and simply enjoying the world-class art experiences that Penn State offers.
“The arts at Penn State have been a major part of my life and consume a great deal of my time,” Jaffe said. “Penn State, following President Barron’s leadership, has made a commitment to the arts at the University that I think is vital. And after hearing about the plans for the museum, I wanted to be a part of it from the start.”
Originally from Philipsburg, Jaffe graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism in 1960 and enjoyed a successful career in human resources before retiring in 1992 as vice president of Towers Perrin, one of the world’s largest management consulting firms.
Jaffe has long been philanthropically engaged with multiple areas of the University, including intercollegiate athletics, the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and the College of Arts and Architecture, often in leadership positions.
Mostly in the names of “Bill and Honey,” Jaffe has established nearly 20 scholarships and endowments across the University and is undeniably interwoven into the philanthropic fabric at Penn State.
Erin Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art, said Jaffe’s contributions to the University have been tremendous, and his commitment to Penn State’s strategic priority to elevate the arts and humanities and establish the University as a cultural destination is remarkable.
“Bill is a philanthropist, a leader and a role model,” Coe said. “He understands that philanthropy is often about inspiring others through example, and I trust and hope potential donors will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Bill and support this strategic initiative that will reimagine the University’s art museum for the 21st century.”
Jaffe said his work in making the new museum a reality isn’t stopping with his monetary gift. As the plans became public, the Palmer Museum Advisory Board began securing leadership to help steer the discussions and, following a request from the board’s chair, Christine Lichtig, Jaffe stepped up once again.
“She approached me about coming on the board and I said, ‘wait a minute, at my age? I’m 81 years old,’ but nope, they wanted me on and I’m now the secretary,” Jaffe said. “I just think this is very important for Penn State and for the community. We need to do it right in order to ensure that the museum is a cultural destination that highlights the arts at Penn State.”
Integration with the Arboretum is a primary goal of the project. Allied Works, the architecture firm selected for the new museum, has developed a design concept, in consultation with museum and Penn State leadership, that envisions the new art museum as extending into the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens.
With a concept in place, design of the building is underway. But to get the project to the finish line, Jaffe said it’s going to take artistic vision and the willingness of potential donors to commit to the future of the arts at Penn State.
“We have a unique opportunity—but also a tight window—to raise the amount of money we need to maximize the potential of the new museum,” Jaffe said. “I think it’s important for people to step up who want to see a modernized museum that can be the home to an ever-growing collection that represents the vitality of the arts at Penn State. This is an important moment and I hope that others will embrace this opportunity.”
For information on how to contribute to the new University Art Museum, including naming opportunities and donation structures, contact Robin Seymour, director of major gifts in the College of Arts and Architecture, at 814-863-7751 or firstname.lastname@example.org.