Military family upbringing inspires gift from Penn State liberal arts alumnus

Geoffrey Morton commits $2 million to support students from military families and to promote campus beautification programs

Liberal Arts alumnus Geoffrey Morton is creating a scholarship for students of military families in the College of the Liberal Arts as well as campus beautification endowments for Penn State's Mont Alto and University Park campuses. This photo was taken while Morton and his wife Lisa were hiking in Utah along the Colorado River in April 2019.

Credit: Geoffrey Morton

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Geoffrey Morton can relate to students who grew up in military families. His father, a 1949 West Point Military Academy graduate, served in the U.S. Army for 27 years, retiring as brigadier general in 1975.

“I’ve lived up and down the east coast. I’ve lived in Canada. I’ve lived in Holland,” said Morton, a 1982 Penn State political science alumnus who, with his wife, Lisa, recently designated $2 million of his future estate to create both a scholarship in the College of the Liberal Arts for students from military families and campus beautification funds for Penn State’s Mont Alto and University Park campuses.

“Being part of a military family has its challenges,” he said. “Moving from place to place and then landing at a big university like Penn State can be scary, especially if tuition is one of your stressors. I don’t know how kids these days do it, so that’s what this [scholarship] is about—giving someone like me, who grew up in a military family, the chance to make it, the chance to do well in life.”

Though his grandfather, father, and two brothers were army veterans and West Point graduates, Morton did not pursue a military career. “I chose the civilian side of the family instead,” he said, adding that his maternal grandfather and an uncle were Penn State alumni.

Morton spent two years at Penn State Mont Alto before transferring to University Park. During summer breaks, he worked as a bank teller and ultimately enjoyed a 27-year career in banking, retiring in October 2018 as relationship manager at Chase Paymentech Solutions in Columbus, Ohio. Morton’s wife, Lisa, was also in banking but now enjoys running a small bed and breakfast and serving as art curator for the faculty club at the Ohio State University.

“We’re proud of our alumni and especially grateful when they share their success with the programs and people who are most meaningful to them,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “We deeply appreciate the Mortons’ vision, generosity and commitment to Penn State. Their gift will enhance our campuses and the lives of students from military families who call them home.”

When asked his reasons for dividing his estate gift between a scholarship and campus beautification funds, Morton cited his lifelong affinity for the outdoors and how Penn State fostered that love.

“Mont Alto is at the base of a mountain, and I loved its forests and its arboretum. And the first time I walked up to Pattee [Library] through the stand of elm trees at University Park, it truly moved me. My hope is that for centuries to come people will visit the campuses and be awed by the beauty and the nature preserved there.”

“On behalf of the Mont Alto campus, I’d like to express my deepest appreciation for this generous campus beautification gift,” said Francis K . Achampong, chancellor of Penn State Mont Alto. “Like Geoffrey Morton, many who set foot on our campus for the first time are awed by its arboretum and beautifully manicured grounds. This gift will ensure that the Mont Alto campus continues to captivate hearts for years to come.”

“Our sincere gratitude goes to Geoffrey Morton for his generous gift to support students from military families,” added Richard Page, associate dean for undergraduate studies for the College of the Liberal Arts. “Military members make many sacrifices to serve the country, and this scholarship will help their family members be successful students as they pursue a liberal arts education at Penn State.”

“Penn State made me what I am,” Morton concluded. “The best years of my life were there. Creating this estate gift just seemed the right thing to do.”

The Geoffrey E. Morton Scholarship in the College of the Liberal Arts will be created with half of the Mortons’ $2 million estate commitment, and the remaining $1 million will be divided equally between the Geoffrey E. Morton Endowment for the Beautification of Penn State Mont Alto and the Geoffrey E. Morton Endowment for the Beautification of University Park.

The gift  helps Penn State as it seeks to fulfill its mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections through  "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a $1.6 billion fundraising campaign focused on three key imperatives: Open Doors, Create Transformative Experiences, and Impact the World. Through teaching, research, and outreach, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of the Liberal Arts is able to offer scholarships to deserving students, create life-shaping experiences, and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit