Penn State Alumnus Creates Scholarship To Support Rail Transportation Engineering Program


A Penn State alumnus has created a scholarship that will support students enrolled in the college's rail transportation engineering (RTE) program, a groundbreaking academic initiative designed to prepare students for placement and career advancement within the rail industry.

Gerhard Thelen's scholarship fund for Penn State Altoon will be given a student who is a child or grandchild of a current or former employee of Norfolk Southern Corp. or Consolidated Rail Corp., organizations in which Thelen worked during his 36-year career in the rail industry.

"I have had an interesting and fulfilling career with both Conrail and Norfolk Southern, and I would like to help both students and the rail industry alike by ensuring the continued availability of qualified employees," Thelen said. "The RTE program is exactly what the railroad industry needs to continue to grow and flourish."

Thelen, who earned a master's degree in engineering from Penn State, serves as chairman of Penn State Altoona's RTE Advisory Board. He retired from Norfolk Southern in 2013 as vice president, operations planning and support.

In recognition of the gift, Thelen will be inducted into the campus's Ivyside Society. The society was established in 1987 to honor those who, through their philanthropic support and leadership, share a commitment to the continuing excellence of Penn State Altoona. Thelen will also be recognized at the college's annual Student Benefactor Dinner, beginning in 2015.

"I express heartfelt thanks to Gerhard Thelen for this generous gift to support our students who are pursuing a rail transportation engineering degree," Penn State Altoona Chancellor and Dean Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry said in a statement. "Our college is also grateful to Gerhard for his inspired leadership of our RTE program's advisory board. Undeniably, he is playing a signature role in the development of our program, and his imprint is indelible."

Established in 2011, Penn State Altoona's RTE baccalaureate degree program is the first of its kind in the nation. Created in direct response to demographic shifts that have resulted in the loss of highly trained senior railroad engineers in recent years, the program provides students with a unique multi-disciplinary experience that emphasizes the study, development, and application of new and emerging technologies impacting the rail industry.

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