In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State University students play frisbee on campus in November.

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"Penn State never really lost the support of its alumni," says a school spokesman

During the fiscal year, donations totaled $208.7 million

That's the second-highest annual amount in school history

CNN  — 

In a year marred with controversy and national notoriety, Penn State University alumni and boosters finally have something to smile about.

In fiscal year 2011-2012, the school earned $208.7 million in donations – the second-highest annual amount in school history – according to a release from the Development and Alumni Relations division.

Penn State spokesman David LeTorre said the donations “send a loud and distinct message,” in what has been a particularly challenging time for the school.

“Despite the things that have happened with Jerry Sandusky, Penn State never really lost the support of its alumni,” La Torre said.

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The school was thrust into the national spotlight with accusations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted last month on 45 of 48 counts related to sexual abuse of boys. The scandal’s fallout included the firings of legendary football coach Joe Paterno and university President Graham Spanier.

“So many alumni were ready to contribute this year,” La Torre said, “which is proof enough our family our alumni family is there when we need them.”

A total of 191,712 supporters donated 323,271 gifts that have put the school ahead of schedule to reach its $2 billion fundraising goal by June 2014 for its “For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students” campaign. Since the effort began in January of 2007, $1.6 billion has been raised.

“Fundraising is always challenging,” La Torre said. But, he said, those seeking donations didn’t go about it any differently even in light of the highly publicized scandal and an economic downturn.

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“We knew people were going to ask questions and want answers,” he said. “The philosophy of Penn State has been to listen and give answers to the best of our ability.”

La Torre said anyone donating to the university has a right to specify what the money goes for.