Maroon & Gray Society Class of 2024 Ginger Breon ’77

Ginger Breon ’77 was the first in her family to go to college—a decision she made thanks to her favorite teacher who she said, “saw more in me than I saw in myself,” and set the course for her career.

“Mr. Jim Williams inspired my love for accounting and the critical thinking needed to validate an entity’s fiscal health. He provided me with the opportunity to put into practice using that knowledge and skills to track and reconcile the high school football game receipts,” she said. “My plan after high school was to get an accounting job at Penn State since my high school curriculum was focused on the clerical path. In my senior year after completing the two-week work experience requirement within Penn State’s Food Services and receiving a full-time offer, Mr. Williams asked me ‘Ginger, why do you want to rush into taking a job?  Why are you not going to college?’”

“Mr. Williams planted the seed that I could achieve greater opportunities if I expanded my goals – a person who would be the first in my family to go to college,” she continued. “I did take that accounting job at Penn State, but within three months, Mr. Williams’ words echoed in my mind. I handed in my resignation to attend Penn State full-time pursuing dual degrees in accounting and agriculture business management. This knowledge set the foundation for my professional career path and managing our family farm.”  

On the clerical tract, Ginger also studied Business English with another favorite teacher, Mrs, Gilliland, and formed friendships with classmates with whom she remains close today.

Ginger’s journey in higher education didn’t end when she graduated from Penn State. “Going to college was a game changer for me,” she said. “I enjoyed being a student and went on to earn my MBA.  It gave me a great appreciation for how education can open doors to a multitude of opportunities.” 

While her family supported her, they didn’t have the means to financially support her through college. She milked cows, umpired softball games, and worked as a cashier to earn money to pay for college. Today, Ginger has “worked in the private and public sectors providing farm financial management to over 150 farmers and advancing higher education at two Big-Ten, Research 1, land grant institutions – Penn State and Ohio State.” The foundational skills she learned at State High, combined with her college and graduate school education, “helped her expand her professional career by leading technology teams for implementing, innovative, enterprise-wide solutions to advance the academic missions in higher education and gave her the self-confidence to embrace change and transform our family farm by collaborating with government and conservation agencies.”  She secured over $2 million in grant funding to modernize the infrastructure and improve conservation practices to enable the family farm to continue to operate.

Ginger and her husband, Bob, have been married for 42 years and have one son, Shawn, and two grandsons, Owen and Ethan. “We built our home on our family farm and most weekends you will find me there working – milking cows, managing the finances, including capital investments, and planning the operations,” she said.

“I am very proud of being the first one in my family to go to college and have encouraged and assisted other family members to expand their education. I am also proud of the transformation of our family farm by collaborating with funding agencies to enhance conservation, improve operations, and lessen the manual labor needed,” Ginger said.

In addition, she has many accomplishments in higher education, leading technology innovations that advance the academic missions of teaching, learning, research, and outreach. “The positive impact on people’s lives and society by supporting faculty who discover a new treatment to eliminate cancers or provide an opportunity for a student to expand their skills for advancing their professional career goals, or connecting partners to give back feels awesome,” she said.

“My plans and goals include instilling the thrill of discovery and learning in the next generation, especially my grandsons. Providing them opportunities to see and experience new things while being grounded in the history of our family as farmers,”

A self-described “farmer at heart,” Ginger shared that she’s humbled to receive the recognition of the Maroon & Gray Society. “There are State College High School graduates who have achieved great successes. It is an honor for me to be considered one of them,” she said, and offered this fitting advice to today’s students: “Believe in yourself to expand your goals – reach for the stars, pay it forward, and enjoy life!”

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