Retired mathematics professor creates scholarship at Penn State Shenango

SHARON, Pa. — John R. Garell, who taught mathematics at Penn State Shenango for 33 years, has recently continued his efforts in support of local students. Garell was one of the original six faculty members of the then-Penn State Shenango Valley campus, teaching mathematics, computer science and statistics, as well as running the Computer Lab from 1965 until his retirement in 1998. He was the first elected chairman of the faculty at the Shenango Valley campus. Through a gift of $30,000, he has created the John R. Garell Renaissance Scholarship at Penn State Shenango.

Renaissance Scholarships benefit high-achieving students with the greatest financial need. The University will match the gift 1:1 through the First-Time Endowed Scholarship Donor Matching Program, a featured giving opportunity of “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” the University’s current fundraising campaign. Accordingly, the scholarship fund will be created with a $60,000 endowment. 

“I wanted to provide a way for talented students to receive a world-class education, and having taught mathematics at Penn State Shenango for over 33 years, I am confident this scholarship will support students who need a little extra help,” said Garell.

Jo Anne Carrick, campus director and chief academic officer at Penn State Shenango, said she was extremely honored to learn of this recent gift. 

"John Garell was an outstanding mentor to generations of faculty and students. He continues his tremendous leadership and contributions to the campus through the generous gift that he made to establish the John R. Garell Renaissance Scholarship at Penn State Shenango, which will help academically talented students obtain a quality education,” she said. “From the many things I've heard about John and his time spent at the Shenango campus, it is no surprise to me that he would want to continue his good work and support local students with great financial need.”

Penn State Shenango’s current math faculty said they fondly remember their time working alongside Garell, and are not surprised by his generous gift.

Chikkanna Selvaraj, associate professor of mathematics at Penn State Shenango, knew John and his passion for mathematics and Penn State.

“While John retired in 1998, he always kept Penn State Shenango in his thoughts. He sent annual holiday cards to the math department at the campus, something that we looked forward to every year,” he said. “John was a great professor and was enormously appreciated by all faculty, staff and students for his friendly and professional qualities. I know this scholarship will continue his legacy in supporting Penn State Shenango students.”    

In addition, current Penn State Shenango Math Instructor Jim Brenneis agreed that Garell truly made an impact during his many years on campus. 

“As a student at Penn State Shenango Valley campus, I had John for about eight courses. I know John found it very gratifying to see the success of the Shenango students,” he said. “In addition to teaching mathematics, he also taught computer science courses and was in charge of all IT services.”

Garell was born Aug. 30, 1942, in Allison, Pennsylvania. In January 1963, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from what is now California University of Pennsylvania. He began his teaching career as a mathematics instructor for the Penn Hills School District, a suburb of Pittsburgh. He earned a master’s in math education and a master of arts in mathematics from the Penn State, attending the University Park campus, in 1965 and 1969, respectively.  

It was Garell’s dying wish to establish a scholarship at Penn State Shenango. He died peacefully at the age of 75 on Friday, Aug. 24, under the care of home hospice. He is survived by his high school sweetheart, Cassandra, and three daughters and their families: Diane and Patrick Bacon and their children, Maria, Joey, Nick and Ana; Karen and David Anderson and their children, Lillian, Kate and Ellie; Cheryl Curtis and her children, Sydney and Zach; and brother-in-law AJ Sweitzer. 

Garell’s gift will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” at Penn State Shenango. This focused campaign seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship.

To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit To learn how you can support Penn State Shenango, contact Allison Engstrom at 724-983-2907.