It’s not easy to get from the tiny, unincorporated village of Home, Pennsylvania to Penn State’s University Park campus. Whether you go south through Hollidaysburg or north through Clearfield County, the road is long and winding.
Yet more and more students will be making the journey thanks to the generosity of Tom and Sandra “Sonnie” Spring, longtime residents of Home.
In 2015, the Indiana County couple made a gift of stock to endow the Thomas and Sandra Spring Scholarship, which will benefit students from Marion Center High School, near Home, who wish to study agriculture at Penn State. Last year, they added to that commitment through their estate plans, affirming that Home really is where the heart is.
“We’re grateful for the life Penn State enabled us to build, and we want to help students in our area to find their own way forward,” says Tom.
A native of Danville, Pennsylvania, Tom graduated from the College of Agricultural Sciences in 1958 with a degree in Agricultural Education. Herself a graduate of Meadville Area High School, Sonnie has embraced the University as her own.
While Indiana County is IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) territory, the Springs bring the spirit of Happy Valley to Home. The couple are lifetime members of the Penn State Alumni Association and avid fans of WPSU, to which they have made gifts every year for the last two decades. A replica of the Nittany Lion statue, which Tom hand-carved out of rosewood, is displayed in their living room, and a copy of The Penn Stater magazine can usually be found on their coffee table.
In addition to a love for Penn State, Tom and Sonnie share a love for agriculture. Though Tom retired as a manager of a local trucking company, he began his career as an agricultural educator. Sonnie served for forty-one years as a customer service representative for a mail-order tree nursery before her retirement. The two are passionate gardeners and landscapers, a talent on display outside their home and on their dinner table.
In the spring of 2016, the couple took their devotion to Penn State, agriculture, and students from Indiana County to an extraordinary new level. With no heirs of their own, they committed their entire estate—house, land, and retirement accounts—to the University, with the intention that their assets ultimately be used to grow the Thomas and Sandra Spring Scholarship. This will significantly increase the impact on students from Home and the surrounding area.
While modest, Tom and Sonnie enjoy considering all the good their philanthropy will do in the years to come.
“There’s so much to learn in agriculture,” says Sonnie. “We don’t know who our scholarship will benefit, but we’re excited at the impact it will make.”