Lucas establishes scholarship for honors engineering students

Alumnus' gift will support Scholars who enter Schreyer Honors College as sophomores or juniors


By Jeff Rice

Patrick Lucas took multiple honors courses during his first two years at Penn State. His professors were often surprised to discover that the industrial engineering student wasn’t in the Schreyer Honors College.

“I thought it was something that would be worthwhile doing,” he said.

Lucas applied but was not accepted to the Honors College as a first-year student. After taking those honors courses and with the encouragement of his professors, he applied again as a sophomore. This time he was accepted and went on to graduate with honors in industrial engineering in 2013. Now an analytics success manager, he will help support current Penn State students who follow his path and enter the Honors College after their first year.

The Lucas Family Honors Scholarship will support undergraduate students who enter the Schreyer Honors College in their sophomore or junior years. Current Penn State students entering the college do not receive an Academic Excellence Scholarship, as all first-year Scholars do, and Lucas hopes to help support those students. His scholarship will be awarded with a first preference for those studying engineering, as he did.

“One thing at the time was kind of difficult for me as I was weighing the decision to apply or not to apply to the Honors College was that I wasn’t getting the financial benefit,” said Lucas, who now lives in Melrose, Massachusetts. “That was something that has stayed with me.”

Lucas, who also played for the championship-winning club baseball team while at Penn State, spent a semester at the consulting firm Accenture as part of a co-op, focusing on labor planning and labor optimization, then spent five years with the company as a management consultant and manager.

“For a young kid just graduating college, it was definitely attractive to travel and see different parts of the country and the world,” he said. “It was a cool experience to get to do that while solving different kinds of problems for different clients along the way.”

In 2019, Lucas took a position as a customer engagement manager at Celect, an artificial intelligence startup founded by MIT professors Devavrat Shah and Vivek Farias, using analytics and optimization to deploy inventory for retailers in efficient and profitable ways. It was a new challenge that became yet another new challenge when Nike acquired Celect a few months later. He now works with data scientists and engineers to apply Celect’s inventory optimization suite to Nike’s inventory.

“We use analytics to predict how each product will sell at each store and then use an optimization engine to deploy the inventory that maximizes the total gain from the portfolio stores,” Lucas said.

Lucas reconnected to the Honors College at a “Meet the Dean” event in Boston last year and credits its development team with helping him to find an achievable schedule for his gift, which also includes a corporate match from Nike. With the scholarship, he hopes to support students who have displayed both academic achievement and the same sense of curiosity and determination that led him to pursue honors courses and then join the Honors College after his sophomore year.

“There’s a sense of pride that I have for not being accepted initially and proving that I was capable of being in the honors program and succeeding at it,” he said. “That’s a lesson I’ll take away — that sort of ‘If at first you don’t succeed …” kind of lesson.”

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


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Megan Lakatos