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Patrick and Patricia Kinney are changing students’ lives, one gift at a time

November 2, 2021

The Kinneys
Patrick and Patricia Kinney
By Anne Louise Cropp

“What Would Alice Kinney do?”

Penn State Smeal College of Business alumnus Patrick Kinney said that question is at the heart of everything he does.

Kinney grew up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

“It’s a rough area,” he said. "The kind of place you want to be from, but you don’t want to stay.”

His mother, the late Alice Kinney, wanted nothing more than to see her son get out of the neighborhood, so she applied to Penn State on his behalf. When she let him know that he’d be going to college, he assured her that he had no such plans.

As any parent in similar circumstances might do, Alice Kinney offered her son a bribe — a single case of beer.

“In 1979, I would have followed a case of beer anywhere,” Kinney said with a laugh.

True to his word, Kinney, the oldest of four, got on a bus to Penn State Hazelton — a decision he said likely saved his life.

At the time, his father, a disabled Philadelphia police officer, was working as a bartender, and his family’s finances were extremely tight.

“Food and housing were a struggle for me as a college student, and I sometimes had to steal just to survive,” he said. “Even so, it didn’t take long for me to recognize that Penn State was my chance for a better life.”

Memories of that struggle provided the motivation for Kinney and his wife, Patricia, to make a financial commitment to The Lion’s Pantry, an on-campus food pantry that provides groceries to students, free of charge, and the University’s Student Care & Advocacy Student Emergency Fund, a fund that helps students facing unexpected hardships as they work to complete their college degree.

“It was hard when I was in college, but I think it’s even harder today,” Kinney said. “People understand hunger, but things like Wi-Fi or the cost of a laptop, people don’t necessarily think about that. Those are real expenses too, and not everyone can afford them.”

Kinney graduated from Penn State with a degree in business logistics in 1983.

Shortly after graduation, he began his insurance career with Travelers as a risk management information specialist. The following year, he met, Patricia, who joined Travelers after graduating from Georgetown University.

Kinney held positions of increasing responsibility over the years, and retired earlier this year as executive vice president, field management, business insurance, business insurance marketing and communications — 38 years to the day from his first day with Travelers.

He said that was a very deliberate choice.

“I arrived in Hartford with nothing,” he said. “I didn’t own a car; I didn’t know how to drive; I didn’t have a place to live. I met Patricia at Travelers. I learned how to be a husband and a father while I was there. Everything came full circle. Now’s the time for me to give back.”

Kinney said that he is passionate about helping to increase educational opportunities for students. He serves on the board of Hartford Youth Scholars, a program targeting inner city minority youth from middle school through college.

Kinney said that Patricia, who retired in 2009 after more than 25 years with Travelers, is equally committed to Harc — an organization that offers programs, services, and respite care for people with intellectual and related disabilities and their families.

“When you see your money go directly to work changing peoples’ lives, we both think that’s a really cool thing,” he said.

Kinney said that he and Patricia wanted to have that same impact for Penn State students.

“Cost shouldn’t be a barrier to education,” he said.

That’s why the couple also created the Patrick and Patricia Kinney Scholarship in the Smeal College of Business, with a preference for students living in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties. They’ve even made provisions to add to the scholarship as part of their estate plan.

“Of the 65 people I grew up with, over two-thirds of them are with the Lord,” he said. “Drugs. Murder. A hard life. Education allowed me to escape that. If we can help students get to college, and then have the resources they need to stay in college and complete their degrees, we want to do that.”

That’s what Alice Kinney would do, he said.

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