UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Describing himself as a “Virginia Tech duck in a lion country pond,” William “Bill” Achor, vice president of York Ag Products in York, Pennsylvania, said creating a scholarship at Penn State was an easy decision. York Ag Products has a history of being generous to Penn State, and Achor wanted to honor a past president —and Penn State alumnus — who was instrumental in his career.
Together with his wife, Catherine, also a Virginia Tech graduate, Achor recently established the J. Richard and Deborah S. Roenigk Family Scholarship in Agricultural and Extension Education in the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.
Raised in Virginia but a Pennsylvania resident since 1990, Achor joined York Ag Products in 2011. York Ag addresses the nutrition needs of the commercial egg laying and animal production industries. Richard Roenigk was the company’s president at the time, and Achor respected Roenigk for his management style and appreciated the leadership opportunities Roenigk gave him. Achor also was impressed by the generosity of the company. Under Roenigk’s leadership, York Ag established the York Ag Products, W. Dale Anderson Memorial Trustee Scholarship at Penn State and did a great deal to support the surrounding community.
“I’ve learned in life that it’s not all about me,” Achor said. “It’s about what’s going on around you. And as I got more involved in the company and saw how generous they were, I thought about how I might be part of that one day.”
The perfect opportunity presented itself when Roenigk retired.
“Rich simply stepped away, passing the torch and trusting me 100 percent,” Achor said. “He told me it was time for the younger generation to run the company now.”
Achor decided it was time to honor Roenigk, as well as his late wife, Deborah, whom Achor had never met. Unbeknownst to Achor, Richard and Deborah Roenigk met at Penn State and were lifelong Nittany Lion fans.
“In his role as president of York Ag, Rich carried on Debbie’s legacy by supporting and training family and consumer sciences teachers. I hoped that I could honor both Rich and his wife by doing something for their alma mater.”
“Top students from all over the country want to come to Penn State, but cost is often an issue,” noted Tracy Hoover, the college’s associate dean for undergraduate education. “Scholarships can make all the difference, and we are deeply grateful that Mr. and Mrs. Achor — who are not alumni — have endorsed the quality of our programs by honoring an alumnus while also providing critical financial support for deserving students.”
During “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” the University’s $1.6 billion fundraising campaign, the Achors took advantage of a now-expired 1:1 matching program, which doubled the size of their endowment. The scholarship will be awarded to full-time undergraduate students who are majoring in agricultural and extension education in the college’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education.
Roenigk, a father of two, said he was very surprised when Achor told him about the scholarship.
“My daughter was particularly touched, because she and her mother were very close,” Roenigk said. “The cost of education just keeps going up, though, and this scholarship money will really help. I’m honored that Bill did this. It’s over the top.”
The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences represents the foundation of Penn State University and its land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has begun “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives: Open Doors, Create Transformative Experiences, and Impact the World. Through teaching, research and Extension, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of Agricultural Sciences is able to offer scholarships to one in four students, create life-shaping opportunities, and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit http://agsci.psu.edu/giving.