UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Pennsylvania state Sen. Judith L. Schwank, D-11th District, received the 12th annual Friend of Penn State Legislative Award for the significant role she has played in the continued improvement of Penn State.
Schwank is a Penn State alumna with bachelor of science and master of education degrees in agricultural education. The 11th District includes part of Berks County, including Reading.
“Penn State touches everything near and dear to my heart,” Schwank said. “Throughout my education and career, Penn State has had a significant impact on my life but more than that, as our land-grant institution, Penn State has helped the lives of my constituents and all Pennsylvanians. As a state senator, I have come to realize the value and significance of Penn State’s education and research programs. To be recognized as a friend of a world-renowned institution is a great honor.”
The award luncheon was held June 15 in the Hintz Family Alumni Center on Penn State’s University Park campus. Richard Roush, dean of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, nominated Schwank for the award, and her nomination received a letter of support from A. Craig Hillemeier, dean of Penn State’s College of Medicine, CEO of Penn State Health, and senior vice president for health affairs.
The Penn State Alumni Association has presented the award annually since 2006. Schwank was named the 2017 award recipient by the Legislative Education and Advocacy Committee of Alumni Council, the governing body of the Penn State Alumni Association.
In choosing Schwank to receive the award, committee members noted her understanding of the importance of agricultural research and her commitment to a healthier community within and outside of her district.
“Sen. Schwank has been a strong advocate for state funding for agricultural research and cooperative extension in the College of Agricultural Sciences. She is passionate about promoting sustainable growth and preserving agricultural integrity,” said Committee Chair Kathleen Hume. “In the health care arena, she has advocated for early intervention services to infants of mothers suffering from postpartum depression, addressed the opioid abuse crisis, and brought attention to the impact of the Zika virus. Also, she has taken a tremendous interest in the Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Campus.”
Before joining the Senate in 2011, Schwank served as the dean of agricultural and environmental sciences at Delaware Valley College. After graduating from Penn State, Schwank worked as a Berks County horticultural agent for Penn State Cooperative Extension and established the Master Gardener Program. In 1991 she became director of the Berks County Cooperative Extension Program, and in 2000 she was the first woman to be elected as a Berks County commissioner.
As minority chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and as vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Schwank has been a strong supporter of agriculture and of Penn State’s agricultural research and extension programs, and an effective advocate for land preservation and sustainability.
As the minority chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and a member of the Women’s Health Caucus, she has strongly supported the work of Penn State Health St. Joseph, which is located in her district, and has worked tirelessly on critical health issues that impact many individuals, including at-risk children and teens.
Schwank serves on the board of governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Fairness.