Ryan and Sara Hinkle with thier two children
Penn Priority //

A Step Forward

A Penn journey, made possible in part by financial aid, has led to the creation of a scholarship, with hopes of helping create a more equitable future

Growing up in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Ryan Hinkle, EE’03, W’03, who is now Managing Director at Insight Partners, did not initially have Penn on his radar as a high school student. “I wanted to be in Boston or Chicago,” he recalls. A friend’s aunt invited him to a college fair at Conestoga High School, where Ryan met representatives from Penn. He discussed his struggle in deciding whether to major in business or engineering. The response: “Why not both?”

The representatives were referring to the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology (M&T), one of the premier dual-degree options Penn offers for students with cross-disciplinary interests and aptitudes. “I remember telling my guidance counselor about it,” Hinkle says. “The feedback was, ‘Don’t waste the application fee.’ But the more I learned, the more I wanted to be a part of the Penn community, no matter the odds.”

Hinkle would be accepted, receiving a partial grant to help overcome a family crisis. “Our family business closed during my junior year of high school,” he says. “I had offers from several other schools, including generous aid packages. The financial aid I received from Penn ultimately enabled me to pursue the M&T Program.” Penn would become “the epicenter of the two most important relationships” in his life—his career and his wife, Sara Hinkle, W’04.

Ryan and Sara Hinkle with thier two children
Ryan Hinkle, EE’03, W’03, and Sara Hinkle, W’04, with their family.

Ryan met Sara, who is from rural Pennsylvania, when both served as teaching assistants for the Management 100 course. “One thing Ryan and I had in common was we both had no idea what to expect from Penn,” she says. “We were struck that so many of our classmates arrived on campus with master plans for their college experience. It was overwhelming. And yet, however hard it felt at the time, we acknowledge that we had the benefit of white privilege in being able to navigate the experience and our career paths.”

As the Hinkles reached a position where they were ready to give back, educational access loomed front and center. “I had always thought about how I could pay back the gratitude of receiving the grant that made my Penn experience possible,” he says. “Over time, I came to realize that I didn’t want to pay it back; I wanted to pay it forward. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, and it would take 20 years for me to figure it out.”

“Education creates opportunity, but education cannot do its job without equitable access. Creating this scholarship is a nod to our desires to seek social equity, to inspire access to education, and to remember our roots.”
Ryan and Sara Hinkle

Figure it out he would, as he and Sara established the Hinkle Family Endowed Scholarship with a leadership gift to support students of color who are the first generation in their family to attend college. The Hinkles were driven to make this significant commitment by Ryan’s gratitude for his grant, as well as their shared belief that education is a tool of equity. “We realize there are many larger institutional and social policies that impact life opportunities, especially for people of color,” says Sara Hinkle. “We decided to focus on what we could do in this moment—and that is create meaningful change for at least one deserving student at a time.”

“We were inspired by the permanence of an endowed scholarship,” adds Ryan Hinkle. “It’s the ultimate in paying forward something that has made a profound difference in our lives.”