SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. — Electrical engineering alumnus Joseph S. Gera is a loyal Penn Stater through and through. A 25-year recruitment volunteer, long-term football season ticket holder, and alumni chapter co-founder, he’s now deepening his connection to Penn State with a legacy scholarship endowment: The Joseph S. Gera Engineering Scholarship.
Along with his wife, Cheryl, Gera pledged $50,000 to establish the scholarship, which will be awarded yearly to high-achieving, rising Penn State Schuylkill sophomores studying engineering. Students also must be Schuylkill County residents with an unmet financial need.
Gera graduated from Penn State with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering in 1981, and a master's in electrical engineering in 1982. He attended Penn State Schuylkill for the first two years of his college degree.
“The Joseph S. Gera Engineering Scholarship will help generations of deserving Penn State Schuylkill students achieve their educational goals. We are so grateful that Joe and Cheryl have chosen to give back and make a difference in the lives of our students and community,” said Penn State Schuylkill Chancellor Patrick M. Jones.
Gera hopes the scholarship will help current and future students access the potential that comes from earning a Penn State degree. He also expects that it will encourage academic success, which is why he included a 3.5 or greater GPA requirement.
“My Penn State academic journey truly began at the Schuylkill campus and set me on a trajectory towards a very successful and rewarding 33-year career at IBM,” Gera said. “With this scholarship, I’m hoping to help a new generation of students find similar success in their own lives.”
A Penn State story begins
Gera said he was almost predestined to be a Penn State alumnus. Growing up in Frackville, Pennsylvania, immersed in the Penn State spirit and with a Commonwealth Campus right down the road, Gera saw Penn State Schuylkill as a logical choice when weighing his higher-education options. After graduating from North Schuylkill High School in 1977, he spent two years at the Schuylkill campus before transferring to University Park.
"I think if you have a good experience somewhere, you want to get involved and give back. It just feels good to be able to do that.”
— Penn State alumnus Joe Gera
A first-generation college graduate, Gera speaks enthusiastically about his time at Penn State Schuylkill, citing a caring environment and professors who encouraged his love of learning. He recites some well-known faculty names: Mike Cardamone, professor emeritus in physics, and Franklin Platts, a former engineering professor.
“Faculty like Dr. Cardamone and Professor Platts were top-notch educators,” said Gera. “They knew how to teach … they knew how to mix theory with application, and they inspired their students — myself included — to want to learn.”
Gera took that strong educational foundation with him to University Park, where he was active in four national honors societies. He graduated early by stacking his course load, and while still finishing his master’s degree was recruited by IBM, from which he retired more than three decades later. During the span of that 33-year career, Gera held leadership positions in engineering, management, marketing and sales. He retired in 2015 as program director of marketing planning and strategy for IBM's high-end mainframe server brand.
“I’ve done a lot,” Gera reflects. “And it’s all because of Penn State.”
The art of giving back
From his current home in New Paltz, New York, Gera remains an active alumnus. He is a member of the Worldwide Penn State Alumni Association, and in 1999 he cofounded the Mid-Hudson Valley Penn State Alumni chapter, now in its 20th year. He has also been an active Penn State recruitment volunteer across three different upstate New York counties, helping to enroll approximately 50 to 60 students annually.
Yet, he wanted to do even more. Gera knew that he wanted to do something special for the Schuylkill campus that meant so much to him as he was finding his academic footing and looking to launch a career.
“Establishing this scholarship allows me to give back directly to the Schuylkill campus community, of which I am so fond,” Gera said.
When asked about his deliberation and why he chose to endow this scholarship, Gera reiterated his deep and life-long connection to the University.
“Penn State is a way of life for me. It was instilled in me at a young age. Plus, I had a good run at Penn State. I think if you have a good experience somewhere, you want to get involved and give back," he said. "It just feels good to be able to do that.”
The Joseph S. Gera Engineering Scholarship will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu. To discuss ways to make a gift to Penn State Schuylkill, contact Eileen Kuperavage, director of development, at 570-385-6260.