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Former Norfolk Southern Corp. executive Gerhard Thelen has created a scholarship fund for Penn State Altoona to help support students enrolled in the college's Rail Transportation Engineering (RTE) program, which prepares students for placement and career advancement in the rail industry.Among candidates who meet scholarship criteria, preference will be given to a student who is a child or grandchild of a current or former employee of NS or Consolidated Rail Corp. Thelen worked for both organizations during his 36-year rail industry career prior to retiring from NS in 2013 as vice president of operations planning and support. He earned a master's degree in engineering from Penn State and chairs the RTE program's advisory board at Penn State Altoona."I have had an interesting and fulfilling career with both Conrail and Norfolk Southern, and I would like to help both students and the rail industry alike by ensuring the continued availability of qualified employees," said Thelen in a press release. "The RTE program is exactly what the railroad industry needs to continue to grow and flourish."To recognize Thelen's generosity, Penn State Altoona will induct him into its Ivyside Society, which was established in 1987 to honor individual's philanthropic support and leadership. Thelen also will be honored at the college's annual student benefactor dinner, beginning in 2015.Established in 2011, the RTE program emphasizes the study, development and application of new and emerging technologies impacting the rail industry, Penn State Altoona officials said. The scholarship fund will help the college play a more vital role in training engineers for placement within the expanding industry, they said.