Penn State Intercom......October 25, 2001


Born from community need

History of Penn State DuBois is closely linked to that of its hometown

Editor's note: Most people know the history of Penn State as that of a school chartered in 1855 at the request of the Pennsylvania State Agricultural Society to apply scientific principles to farming. Since that time, Penn State has grown from that one campus at University Park to 24 locations statewide, and each of those other locations has its own special history. Throughout this academic year, Intercom plans to highlight those histories, as told by experts at each of those campus locations.

By Michele Moyer
Penn State DuBois
DuBois at a glance

Penn State DuBois is named for the founder of its hometown, John DuBois, a lumber baron whose logging empire helped carve a thriving city out of the forests of rural Clearfield County in the mid-1800s. DuBois_symmco_old

A name is not all the town and campus share, however. Since the DuBois Undergraduate Center opened its doors in 1935, the histories of the campus, the town and its founding family have become closely intertwined.

Penn State established the center at the request of local business and civic leaders who had surveyed the town and surrounding communities and found great interest in and support for a college facility.

The center opened at the old Hubert Street grade school with 42 students.

As enrollment began to grow, the local school board and heirs of the DuBois family gave the center "in perpetual lease" the family homestead: a Tudor-style mansion surrounded by four acres of formal English gardens. The center moved to the mansion in 1938 and held classes there until 1975. DuBois_monument

At a pioneer alumni reunion held last May, students of the center recalled the architectural beauty of the mansion and their thrill in taking classes in the home of a man whose reputation extended far beyond their hometown.

Over the years, community support has played a vital role in the campus' growth. In 1945, local leaders organized a community advisory board, the DuBois Educational Foundation, whose first act was to hold a successful fund drive to build a wing on the Science Building.

An updated Science Building was a necessity to meet the needs of servicemen who were returning from World War II and enrolling at the campus on the GI Bill. At that time, many local veterans started their Penn State bachelor's degree in engineering or other related fields at DuBois.

In 1955, at the urging of the foundation, the campus instituted a two-year associate degree program to enable students to enter specialized engineering fields.

Today, the campus offers three associate degrees in engineering technology. Located in the heart of the state's flourishing powder metal industry, the campus offers programs in materials engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology to provideDuBois_Lion a trained work force for the region's largest industry.

In 1962, the DEF once again turned to the community to raise $500,000 to help construct the Swift Memorial Building, which houses classrooms and labs. A Multi-Purpose Building for athletic events followed in 1967 and the Donald S. Hiller Building, which includes an auditorium, library, student lounge and administrative offices, was completed in 1975.

In 1989, the foundation successfully concluded its portion of a $2 million campaign to erect a new classroom building on the former site of the DuBois Mansion. Business leader and campus alumnus Frank Smeal and wife Mary Jean provided the lead gift, and Penn State named the building in honor of his mother.

Recently, the campus acquired two historical city landmarks.

In 1998, it purchased a second Victorian mansion owned by the DuBois family. Built in 1900 by John E. DuBois Sr. for his two sisters, the house will be used as an administrative center and called Symmco House. It will include the offices of the campus executive officer, director of Academic Affairs and director of University Relations. A gift from the Symmco Foundation of Sykesville is helping to restore the home so it reflects the lumber heritage of the city. Renovations currently are under way.

Last year, the foundation helped the campus acquire Monument Hill, a 10.4-acre parcel north of the campus. The hilltop property is home to the burial site of John DuBois, whose tomb is topped with the statue of a woman and inscribed with the word "hope," a symbol of DuBois' enduring sense of hope for his city.

Two acres of the site have been earmarked to meet future parking needs. The remaining eight acres will be developed as a recreational area for students and the community. Cleanup has begun on the site, with extensive landscaping planned to help renew the area's natural beauty. The cleanup effort already has improved the hill by uncovering the brush-covered monument and making it visible once again to the community.

Michele Moyer can be reached at

DuBois at a glance

* Claudia A. Limbert, CEO

* Member of the Commonwealth College

* Student enrollment of about 1,100

* 38 percent adult learners

* Courses offered in DuBois, St. Marys and Ridgway

* 11 associate degrees, three baccalaureate degrees, two master's degrees

* Continuing Education serves approximately 2,000 annually

* Variety of on-site training programs for local business, industry

* 20 student organizations

* Nearly $250,000 awarded annually in scholarships

* 2000 recipient of the DuBois Greater Chamber of Commerce Community Cup for community service and first-place winner of the 2000 City Garden Contest

* New on campus: Nittany Lion shrine and 227-space student parking lot