The Future of Liberal Arts
The Susan Welch Liberal Arts Building—the first new Liberal Arts building at Penn State University Park in more than fifty years—will be an innovative hub of social science teaching, research, and outreach activity when it opens in fall 2024.
The Building’s Name
The Welch Building is named in honor of Susan Welch, dean of the college from 1991 until 2019, who passed away in March 2022. The Penn State Board of Trustees unanimously approved the building’s name in January 2022 in order to recognize Susan’s deep, longstanding impact on the college and University during her tenure, and to recognize a transformational gift made by Gene (’62) and Roz Chaiken which further cemented their legacy as the largest scholarship donors in Penn State history.
Gene and Roz Chaiken
Gene (’62) and Roz Chaiken are the most generous benefactors in the history of the College of the Liberal Arts and the largest scholarship donors in Penn State history. Their first major gift was in 1989, when they joined forces with Gene’s brother, Sheldon, and his wife, Gail, to endow the Chaiken Family Chair in Jewish Studies. They followed that gift with other philanthropic contributions to the Jewish Studies program, often encouraging other Liberal Arts benefactors to join them.
Perhaps their most significant contributions came when Roz, concerned with the rising cost of Penn State tuition, said she wanted to do something that would directly benefit students. The Penn State Trustee Scholarship Program offered the perfect solution for the Chaikens, who decided to establish the Gene and Roz Chaiken Trustee Scholarship in 2008, followed in 2013 by the Chaiken Family Trustee Scholarship. Since their inception, these scholarships have provided nearly $7.7 million to more than 1,100 students. They also have created the Roz and Gene Chaiken Center for Student Success, which provides students with resources, programming, and other support to help them succeed in their studies.
Gene is a former member of the Penn State Board of Trustees and the Liberal Arts Development Council. He has received several honors from the University and the college for his leadership, philanthropy, and service. In honor of their legacy at Penn State and inspiring students to lead meaningful, generous lives, Gene and Roz were named Penn State Philanthropists of the Year in 2021.
Susan’s academic and professional journey started at the University of Illinois, where she earned her baccalaureate and doctoral degrees in political science, and then she headed to the University of Nebraska as an assistant professor of political science. It was at Nebraska where Susan launched a more than fifty-year career during which she established herself as one of the foremost political science scholars of her generation; it was also there that she began to forge her storied career in academic administration which brought her to Penn State in 1991.
When Susan became dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, she was one of only a few women nationwide at the time—and one of only a handful of women at that point in Penn State history—to have held that title. By the time she stepped aside to rejoin the faculty twenty-eight years later, she had helped transform the college into one of the leading public liberal arts institutions in the country.
Susan was very active in several national professional service organizations, having held several offices in the American Political Science Association and serving as president of the Midwest Political Science Association. She and her husband, the late Alan Booth, were also noteworthy philanthropists, having established nearly $3 million in endowments benefiting Penn State and the College of the Liberal Arts alone.
The 143,000-square-foot Welch Building will bring several academic units, labs, centers, institutes, and other state-of-the-art learning spaces under one roof.
- Department of Anthropology
- Department of Political Science
- Department of Sociology and Criminology
- School of International Affairs
- School of Public Policy
- Criminal Justice Research Center
- Matson Museum of Anthropology
- The McCourtney Institute for Democracy
- Population Research Institute
- General-Purpose Classrooms