From Penn State University
University Park - Sarah Donaldson loved Penn State. So much that after earning two degrees at the university - a bachelor's degree in animal bioscience and a master's degree in pathobiology - she chose to begin her career as a research cellular biologist with a job in the College of Agricultural Sciences. She was working in the field of molecular epidemiology, and engaged to be married, when a car accident cut short her life in June 2008 at the age of 28.
Now, those who were closest to her have decided to honor Sarah's life by helping other students attend the university she cared so much about. Her family and friends have contributed $50,000 to endow the Sarah Christine Donaldson Memorial Trustee Scholarship in the College of Agricultural Sciences, which will aid undergraduates who have financial need. First preference for the scholarship will go to students in animal bioscience.
It was important to Sarah's family and friends that something be created to honor her memory that would assist others, and would be lasting.
"Sarah created many ripples that have made a difference for others," said her father, Mike Donaldson. "People were drawn to her for her generosity, her lively sense of humor. Helping others was very important to her. Endowing a scholarship is the best way to immortalize her. It allows her to continue to touch the lives of many people.
"She received a lot of financial aid, and much of what she accomplished was due to this support. We want to help students like her - brilliant and in need of support."
Donaldson grew up on her family's dairy farm in Russell, where her love for animals and skill in handling them was apparent at an early age.
"Sarah's first encounter with dairy cattle was when she was an infant," said Sarah's mother, Pamela J. Douglas-Fontello. "From the beginning, she loved being in the barn."
While attending Wilmington Area High School in Lawrence County, Sarah enrolled in the Pennsylvania Governor's School for Agricultural Sciences, a program where 64 of the state's top high school juniors and seniors spend five weeks at Penn State's University Park campus during the summer. The students learn about such topics animal and plant science, natural resources and the environment, and food science and agricultural engineering from more than 80 College of Agricultural Sciences faculty and staff. They work on research projects and have access to college facilities.
Sarah's father said she fell in love with the campus. She also became a big fan of Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions. When she made the decision to apply for college, she sent only one application - to Penn State.
She was accepted at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, and attended for a year before moving to University Park, where she received her bachelor's degree in animal bioscience from the Schreyer Honors College in 2003 and her master's degree in pathology in 2006.
During her studies she met her future fiance, fellow student Ryan McFadden. She also convinced her brother, Christopher, to attend Penn State; he graduated from the Schreyer Honors College in 2004.
Upon graduation Sarah was employed by the College of Agricultural Sciences as a senior research associate in veterinary and biomedical sciences, working alongside Bhusuan Jayarao, professor of veterinary science. Her most recent research has significantly aided the study and treatment of enlarged and abscessed brains among children in Uganda.
"Sarah did more in her 28 years than many people do in 70," said her father. "She lived her life to the fullest." Her mother added that "the world lost a great member of society with her untimely death."
The Trustee Matching Scholarship Program is designed to keep a Penn State education accessible to all qualified students, regardless of their financial means. The university matches five percent of the principal of each gift annually and combines these funds with income from the endowment to effectively double the financial impact of the scholarship. Implemented in 2002 upon approval by Penn State's Board of Trustees, this unique program assisted approximately 4,600 students university-wide last year.
Sarah's grandparents are Jack and Mary Donaldson of Russell.
Persons interested in contributing to the Sarah Christine Donaldson Memorial Trustee Scholarship should contact Mark Theiss, major gifts officer in the College of Agricultural Sciences, at 814-863-1373, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.