By Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Penny Stamps was co-founder and president of the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation.

The Stamps Family Charitable Foundation is saddened to announce the death of Penny Stamps, who with her husband Roe, established the Stamps Foundation to provide scholarships to thousands of students attending universities across the country. After a courageous battle with leukemia, Penny passed away at home surrounded by family on December 13.

A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Art & Design and a former teacher and business owner, Penny was always passionate about education. In 1986, she and Roe created the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation with the intent of supporting educational initiatives nationwide.

In 2000, Penny and Roe began funding merit-based scholarships at Roe’s alma mater, the Georgia Institute of Technology, for the Stamps Family President’s Scholars. Six years later, through their vision and generosity, Stamps Scholars programs were launched at Georgia Tech and the University of Michigan. To date, this innovative program has funded multi-year scholarships and fellowships for 1,845 students at 44 colleges and universities nationwide.

University of Michigan graduate Cody Halquist said that like many Stamps Scholars, he had a special connection with Penny, not only because of their shared alma mater, but also because of her caring personality.  “She would make time in her incredibly busy life to come see us, whether it be luncheons, conferences, or award dinners,” he said. “What I remember most about her from all the times we crossed paths was that, despite being involved with hundreds of other students, she would always remember me.”

The first Stamps Scholars National Convention was held in 2011 at Penny’s home in Miami, FL.

In addition to her work with the Stamps Foundation, she collaborated with the University of Michigan School of Art and Design to launch the Roman J. Witt Visiting Professors Program in honor of her late father. She also established the highly successful Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Visitors Lectures Series.

“This weekly series has evolved beyond the walls of the academy itself to become a true hallmark of our larger community and a powerful, respected generative space for the proliferation of ideas,” said Chrisstina Hamilton, the director of the series. “I recently engaged with someone in Swaziland, Africa, who let me know that the power company there had changed its customer service protocol through an idea germinated via contact with the speaker series to better serve their customers.”

In 2012, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan was named for her. Penny’s philanthropy has earned her numerous honors, among them the University of Michigan’s 2005 David B. Hermelin Award for Volunteer Leadership and the 2013 National Philanthropy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2018, Penny received an Honorary Doctor of fine arts from the University of Michigan, and in 2015, she was named an Honorary Alumna of Georgia Tech.

University of Michigan alumna Penny Stamps receiving an honorary doctor of fine arts at Spring Commencement 2018. Courtesy of Alec Cohen/Michigan Daily News

“She once told Stamps Scholars to thank and call their parents, often, and engage their outstanding faculty, make and maintain college friendships, and cheer on our Wolverines,” said Darwin Matthews, the University of Michigan director of individual stewardship. “Our university and community has lost a true friend whose generosity and foresight has changed the lives of hundreds of Michigan students and their families.”

University of Michigan Stamps Scholar alumnus Jon Gold said Penny created a family of “older siblings” guiding their fellow scholars through college. He believes these relationships forged through the Stamps Foundation have a lifelong impact.

Penny talking with Scholars at the 2015 Stamps Scholars National Convention, held in Atlanta, GA

“Penny showed us how to invest in ourselves, support our friends, and pay it forward to make the world a better place,” he said. “I am so grateful that Penny believed in me and included me in her extended family of inspiring students across the country. My continued friendships with fellow Stamps Scholars are a testament to her legacy.”

A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, at St. Hugh’s Catholic Church, 3460 Royal Road, Coconut Grove. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a gift to the Penny W Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan.