Through the Years History & Traditions
The history of the Schreyer Honors College is rich with stories and milestones that build upon what Penn State has done for nearly two centuries — prepare generations of bright people for a lifetime of success. Our story endures through the lifetime achievements of our Scholar alumni and in the potential for future success being developed in our current students.Mission & Vision Penn State History
A Living Legacy Our History
1948 Simmons Hall Opens
Named after Lucretia Van Tuyl Simmons (1875-1942), who after earning a master's degree from Penn State went on to become a faculty member, the Dean of Women, and eventually the head of the German department. Simmons Hall is now an honors residence hall and home to Schreyer Honors College administrative offices.
1979 William Schreyer Given Distinguished Alumnus Award
The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor bestowed by Penn State upon an outstanding alumna or alumnus. The award salutes the achievements of alumni whose "personal lives, professional achievements, and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater."
1989 New Recruitment Strategy Formalized
A University-wide committee on recruiting academically motivated students was established and a new selection process was instituted for incoming first-year Scholars that replaced exclusive use of high school grades and SAT scores with a full application including essays and teacher recommendations.
1991 Joan Schreyer Named Honorary Alumna
The Honorary Alumni Awards have been given by the Penn State Alumni Association since 1973 to honor people who are not graduates of The Pennsylvania State University but who have made significant contributions toward its welfare, reputation, or prestige.
Who We Are Our Traditions
Scholars Medal & Medals Ceremony
The Scholars Medal is a symbol of academic distinction and achievement. It is presented to graduating Scholars during the Schreyer Honors College's Medals Ceremony, traditionally held on the eve of Penn State's commencement exercises.
Designed by John A. Cook, professor emeritus of art, the medal features an agile lion with extended claws. This lion has become the University's symbol of intellectual excellence. The qualities of 'Scholarly Achievement', 'Integrity of Purpose', and 'Intellectual Curiosity' form the legend of the medal and define the field from which the lion gathers his strength.
A tradition began in the University Scholars Program in 1990, when the ringing of a small brass bell signified the accomplishment of Scholars completing their thesis. This audible symbol of accomplishment often sparked applause and congratulatory words from Schreyer staff and other Scholars.
The bell was replaced in 2000 with the gong and tradition dictates that only Scholars who have completed their thesis have the right to hit the gong. The gong is also used to call the Medals Ceremony to order and is displayed prominently throughout the ceremony.
Scholar Involvement Award
An award funded by Schreyer staff presented annually to a Scholar in recognition of their support of the College's initiatives.
Penn State Traditions
Want to learn more about Penn State and its history? You can read about the University's founding and development, discover the truth about campus legends, and count 50 ways Penn State has shaped the world.