Volunteerism and philanthropy are coming together to create opportunities for service members studying at Penn State World Campus — in the shape of the Veterans’ Education and Advancement Fund (VEAF). Al Matyasovsky, who recently retired from his position as program manager for Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant, and his wife, Sharon, created the fund to recognize outstanding achievement by a United States military member or an immediate family member.
With Sharon’s support, Al created the fund through his young company, Sustainable Development Solutions, LLC, which provides consultancy services to firms looking for ways to more effectively and sustainably manage resources and waste. The company donates 50 percent of its profits to the fund.
Al created the fund to provide educational opportunities for military personnel and to honor some very important people in his life. His father, Albert, fought under General Patton, served a year and a half in Europe, and received five stars for his service. Says Al, “He was a hero to me — not just because he served, but also because he set an example for me for how to live.” His mother, Edith, brought the family through tough times and always encouraged Al to pursue his education. Sharon’s parents are almost a mirror image, with her father, Fred Lantz, a Seabee in the Korean War, and Betty, taking care of home and hearth.
Raised in poor circumstances in Large, a coal mining town near Pittsburgh, Al remembers that “not much was expected of the kids there.” Yet his mother gave him a different vision, telling him that “being poor has nothing to do with who you are as a person” and that working hard at his education would open the door to opportunity.
And there was also “the difference maker” — Ms. Ruth Manning, Al’s guidance counselor, whom the fund is also designed to honor. Realizing that Al had not applied to college, she called him to her office, placed a call to the director of admissions at Lock Haven State Teachers College, and read him Al’s transcript. By the time she hung up the phone, Al had his spot at the school. Later, Ms. Manning obtained the financial aid that made it possible for Al to actually attend Lock Haven, where he earned a chemistry degree — the basis of his successful career as a high school teacher. Says Al, “I remember the faith they had in me. I have that faith in our veterans.”
Since creating VEAF and making his own contributions to it, Al has become a volunteer fundraiser. He has also inspired others to give to the cause by promoting the fund and World Campus to his business contacts, participating in the Rotary Club, speaking on the radio, and becoming a member of the World Campus Military Scholarship Advisory Board. He even hopes to plan some fundraising events.
Says Al, “I thought, ‘who is more deserving of support to earn a Penn State degree than those who have protected our freedom by putting themselves in harm’s way? And what better fit than Penn State World Campus for service members stationed all over the world?'”
Every contribution makes a difference to our service members. To talk about volunteer and giving opportunities for military personnel at World Campus, contact Andy Gatto at email@example.com. You can also make a tax-deductible contribution to VEAF now.
Awards will be made to students when the Penn State World Campus Veterans’ Education and Advancement Fund is fully funded.