Fostering Lions Program mourns loss of supporter Denise Rohrbach

Child Maltreatment Solutions Network at Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s Fostering Lions Program is grieving the loss of Denise (Shuey) Rohrbach, a 1975 graduate of the College of the Liberal Arts, who established the Rohrbach/Shuey Family Scholarship in 2021.

Created with a gift of $53,000, the Rohrbach/Shuey Family Scholarship provides support to students in the Fostering Lions Program to help reduce the debt incurred with room and board and unforeseen expenses such as food, clothing and transportation.

The scholarship is the first designed to support foster youth at Penn State, who face many additional challenges compared to typical college students. Studies show that foster youth who continue into college are better prepared for adulthood and more likely to achieve economic independence and an improved quality of life.

“We are heartbroken over the loss of Denise, and we are so grateful to her and the Rohrback/Shuey family for leading the way in creating Penn State’s first scholarship for foster youth,” said Cheri McConnell, Fostering Lions coach and education coordinator of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network. “Her gift has impacted seven students, covering needs that tuition waivers and other scholarships don’t cover, and allowing the students to continue attending classes.”

Rohrbach previously said she was inspired to establish a scholarship to support the Fostering Lions after learning about the program. During an internship while pursuing an undergraduate degree in social welfare, Rohrbach met a foster student who could play the piano by ear incredibly well.

“I spent a lot of time trying to find someone to provide free lessons for the young girl, and the memory of working with her stuck with me and inspired me to philanthropically support students in the Fostering Lions Program,” said Rohrbach.

The Fostering Lions Program was launched in 2018 and has been an indispensable resource for the current 57 students and 20 graduates from campuses across the commonwealth.

“Denise has been a true friend of the Fostering Lions Program, and her intentions even in death are that people will continue giving to support the program,” McConnell said.

Denise’s husband Bob Rohrbach, a 1974 College of the Liberal Arts and Air Force ROTC, expressed appreciation to the Fostering Lions Program for the help given in support of their family’s scholarship.

“It is a very important cause Denise held close to her heart. We have designated it as a place for friends and relatives to contribute and hopefully we will be able to continue the growth of the scholarship and help those in need," he said.

Friends of Rohrbach can honor her memory and support Fostering Lions with gifts to the Rohrbach/Shuey Family Scholarship.

The Fostering Lions Program partners with county agencies that work with foster youth to identify potential students who are interested in attending Penn State. Students can also enter the program by being referred by advisers, or by indicating they had previously been in the foster system as part of the New Student Orientation process.

Additional support is provided to foster students through Fostering Independence Through Education Act that was enacted in 2020. It provides a waiver for tuition and mandatory fees charged by most postsecondary institutions located in the commonwealth for youth who are or were in foster care.

Established in 2012, the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network, part of the Social Science Research Institute, is a national leader in research designed to influence public policy that better protects vulnerable children from abuse.

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