90 Years And Counting
Penn State Lehigh Valley has been on the leading edge since its opening
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 history. Throughout this academic year, Intercom plans to highlight those histories.
Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the presidential race with a landslide victory; Native American Jim Thorpe became known as the world's greatest athlete at the Olympics in Stockholm; Girl Scouts of the United States of America was chartered; New Mexico and Arizona became America's 47th and 48th states; and the first permanent Penn State technical center was established in the attic of the Stevens School at Sixth and Tilghman streets in Allentown. The year was 1912.
During the past 90 years, the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus has seen many changes. Through this metamorphosis from humble beginnings that offered evening courses in engineering to present-day offerings of four-year baccalaureate degrees, the campus has grown and thrived, remaining the oldest continuous classroom operation away from University Park. This success can be attributed -- at least in part -- to the campus's ability to adapt to the changes of the times and respond to the needs of the local community.
The campus was ahead of its time from the beginning. Answering the community and the country's needs during World War I, the Penn State Allentown branch school enrolled women into the classroom for the first time. Most of the women were trained to fill positions in the drafting rooms of the Lehigh Valley's steel and cement industries left void by the servicemen who went to war.
The 1920s saw the creation of "Foreman Training" evening programs, which led to the current Management Development program. During that same time period, the Penn State Allentown branch school provided "continuation school" one day a week for young workers in silk mills and other factories in the area. Then, the Bethlehem Steel Corp. offered all of its employees the opportunity to enroll in shop and engineering courses through the campus. These business partnerships with local industries provided the support the companies needed for their employees and provided a basis for the school to grow and meet the needs of the community. Today, Penn State Lehigh Valley ranks as one of the leading providers of management development programming in the state, and prides itself on the ability to create personalized corporate business courses for any area business.
The Allentown branch school offered one year's tuition at a cost of $30 in the three-year civil, electrical, industrial, mechanical and mining engineering evening programs since Depression-era families could not afford to send their children away to college.
In 1953, Penn State became the first major universityto develop associate degrees in engineering technology, based in large part on full-time day programs Allentown had been offering since 1948. With the help of state legislators from the Lehigh Valley and the campus' advisory board, the center's mission to include a two-year baccalaureate transfer program became a reality in the mid-1960s.
It took until the merger of the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus with the Penn State Berks campus in 1997, forming Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College, for the campus to be able to offer several Penn State four-year baccalaureate degrees in the Lehigh Valley area.
Through the name changes -- Penn State Allentown's branch school, Penn State Allentown Center and Penn State Lehigh Valley -- and the location changes -- a former cigar factory, boy's club and some elementary schools -- Penn State Lehigh Valley has built lifelong community and business partnerships.
Today, Penn State Lehigh Valley stands on top of 40 acres of land near Fogelsville, donated by Mohr's Orchard.
Kimberly Golden Benner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lehigh Valley at a glance
* Ann M. Williams, CEO.
* 40-acre campus in Fogelsville, near Allentown
* Student enrollment of about 700
* 27 full-time and approximately 50 part-time faculty members
* Student/faculty ratio of 15 to 1
* First two years of about 160 Penn State majors
* Complete four bachelor's and three associate degrees
* Professional development programs
* Three varsity sports headquartered at Lehigh Valley campus and roughly 15 varsity sports for Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College
* More than 22 student clubs and organizations