Impact Stories

A Generous Gift of Real Estate Makes a Real Difference for PSU Students

Penn State campus

Impact Stories

A Generous Gift of Real Estate Makes a Real Difference for PSU Students

Penn State building

When Richard Robinson acquired his aunt's million-dollar Lehman, Pennsylvania, home and fifty-acre farm after her death in 1963, he had a difficult decision to make. A Connecticut resident, he wasn't close enough to take care of the property or farm animals. But he and his cousins—who lived in the Wilkes-Barre area-decided to celebrate their relatives' philanthropic spirit: They would give the real estate to establish a permanent home for Penn State in the Wilkes-Barre region.

"The thing that is unique about Penn State in the local picture is that it offers the associate degree in various fields of engineering technology. This is not duplicated anywhere else, and the demand for it is very great," said one of the cousins, John N. Conyngham III, in 1965, when the property was given to Penn State. "Certainly our hope is that over the years this magnificent home and the acres around it can be expanded to many times its present size."

In the mid-1960s, enrollment at the Penn State Wilkes-Barre campus was steadily increasing and on the verge of outgrowing its facilities. The campus' engineering program was accredited in 1949, following decades of providing educational programs that focused on the employment opportunities in that region. In 1957, a two-year program in survey technology was approved, the precursor to today's baccalaureate degree in surveying, the only one offered in the state.

Because the Wilkes-Barre community showed continued interest in receiving a Penn State degree, then-Penn State President Eric Walker welcomed the opportunity to invest in the region.

"The real objective is to develop more places where we can educate students and expect them to hold jobs in the state of Pennsylvania," said President Walker in 1965. "We want to develop the associate degree programs which we think are so important to the economic growth of the Wilkes-Barre area. We have a number of these programs, and if we get the faculty and the facilities—I know we're going to be able to do it—it's going to be a really successful commonwealth campus."

The Hayfield House, as the estate was called, was built in 1933. The owners, John N. Conyngham II and his wife, Bertha, had amassed a fortune in the coal and banking industries and made Hayfield their summer home. John died shortly after the house was completed, but Bertha still spent her summers in the Pennsylvania countryside, enjoying the Clydesdale horses, Chester White pigs, sheep, and other animals her husband adored during his lifetime.

Now classrooms and administrative offices, the house still features the floating staircase, seventeenth-century fireplace from Vienna, 14-karat gold bathroom fixtures, and fourteenth-century stained glass windows from a Paris cathedral.

Those who knew Bertha affectionately called her Mrs. Conyngham and said she was a generous employer. When Bertha's longtime night nurse, Rita Robins, needed time off to care for an ailing child, Bertha made sure Rita and her family "had all that we needed."

"On a personal level, she was lovely," Rita says. "You built up not only professional relationship with her but a friendly, affectionate relationship. After nine-and-one-half years, you're part of the family."

Bertha would be happy to know her generous legacy continues today. Gifts of real estate-of any size—can have a great impact on the future of Penn State by providing facilities space or funding for new programs. With a permanent location at the Hayfield House, the Wilkes-Barre campus has grown into a vital educational resource, just as President Walker envisioned. Today, it offers seven baccalaureate degrees (in addition to two for working adults), four associate degrees, and other certificate programs. Students can also begin the first two years of any of Penn State's 160-plus majors. Additional buildings have been added to the campus to support student life, academic needs, athletics, and science and technology programs. Penn State Wilkes-Barre also offers outreach programs to community residents, including an annual arts show.

"The Wilkes-Barre campus is magnificent. The exterior part of the house is just as it was when it was built," says Rita, a Kingston, Pennsylvania, resident. "Penn State Wilkes-Barre does a lot for the Wyoming Valley area which is important, and students from around the region are able to get to campus easily.

"Penn State has given us this beautiful campus that I don't think can be compared with any other campus [in the area]."

To learn how you can make a lasting gift to support the future of any of the Penn State campuses, please contact Michael J. Degenhart, Assistant Vice President, or any of the expert gift planning officers in the Office of Gift Planning at Penn State at 888-800-9170 (toll free) or

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Penn State University a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to Penn State University, a nonprofit corporation currently located at c/o Office of Gift Planning, 212 The 103 Building, University Park, PA 16802, or its successor thereto, ______________ [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Penn State or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate, or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property, or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Penn State as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Penn State as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Penn State where you agree to make a gift to Penn State and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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