Kayyali establishes educational equity scholarship in Schreyer Honors College


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After graduating from Penn State in 1996, Basel Kayyali spent a year as an engineer at Intel, helping to design the Pentium III processor, before he realized he didn’t like the solitary aspect of the work.

Kayyali had majored in electrical engineering; his economics minor gave him the confidence to switch gears and work for Intel’s brand management division, which eventually led to another pivot and a successful career in consulting. Now a senior partner at McKinsey and Company, he is grateful to have had both educational experiences as a student in the University Scholars Program, now known as the Schreyer Honors College.

“What I really leveraged from Penn State and the Scholars Program was the problem solving,” Kayyali said.

Kayyali and his wife, Andrea, are helping to support current and future students in the Honors College with a gift of $100,000 that established the Kayyali Family Educational Equity Honors Scholarship. That amount will be matched 1:1 by the University for a total endowment of $200,000 and support students through the recently concluded Educational Equity Matching Program, a priority of the University’s current fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.”

“Basel is living the mission of the Honors College not only by excelling as a leader in his field but also by helping to ensure that future Scholars may receive a world-class honors education,” Dean Peggy A. Johnson said. “We are extremely grateful to the Kayyali family for this generous gift, which will help the College continue to build, foster, and support a diverse group of Scholars.”

The scholarship will be awarded to students who are enrolled or about to enroll in the Schreyer Honors College with a demonstrated financial need to meet their necessary college expenses, and whose gender, ethnic, cultural, and/or national background contribute to the diversity of the college’s student body.

“I wanted to give back,” he said. “Andrea and I had been thinking about what difference we wanted to make. We feel like education is where we want to leave our mark, and a little bit of a legacy, if you will, mainly because I think it is such an important aspect for folks growing up and seeing the world and being aware of what’s out there.”

Kayyali’s father is Lebanese and his mother is Jordanian. They met while both were studying at the American University of Beirut and came to the United States when Kayyali was 7 years old. Andrea, a nurse with experience in the University of Pennsylvania hospital system, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, comes from a family of teachers.

“I came from a family that put a lot of emphasis on education,” Kayyali said. “The reason my parents emigrated to the U.S. was this notion of meritocracy. If you were willing to work hard, you could self-actualize in a way you couldn’t in the Middle East.”

The idea of students being afforded the same opportunities regardless of economic background was a driver for Kayyali in establishing the scholarship, as was the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer last year. His involvement with the Honors College, which also includes a seat on its Scholar Alumni Society Board, has been a way for him to connect with current students and reconnect with the University, he said.

“It’s reminded me of how much I loved my four years at Penn State,” he said.

This gift will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that 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 hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.


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Basel Kayyali graduated with honors from Penn State with a degree in electrical engineering. IMAGE: SCHREYER HONORS COLLEGE