Penn State Intercom......April 18, 2002


Special mission campus

Penn College continues
longstanding tradition of
work-force technical training

In 1914, a small industrial shop at Williamsport High School began offering education and training programs to adults. By 1918, many of the students in those programs were disabled World War I veterans needing new skills to re-enter the work force.

From those humble beginnings arose the model for what would become -- 75 years later -- the state's premier PennCollege1technical college, Pennsylvania College of Technology, established in 1989 as an affiliate of Penn State. Penn College is a special-mission affiliate of the University, committed to advanced-technology education.

In the throes of the Great Depression in 1931, the school, under the leadership of George H. Parkes, one of the nation's leaders in developing vocational education, collaborated with local industry on a plan to retrain the burgeoning ranks of the unemployed. The much-hailed "Williamsport Plan" and resulting study, "What We Do For a Living," connected education and work-force development, attracting national attention and inspiring imitation.

In 1941, the "Williamsport Technical Institute" (W.T.I.) was officially founded, and soon it embarked on 24-hour-a-day training programs to meet defense-industry needs for World War II. The instruction included programs for individuals with handicaps, who played a vital role in the war effort.

W.T.I. became one of the nation's largest providers of training and retraining for those with physical handicaps, including returning disabled World War II veterans seeking civilian employment. PennCollege2

From this solid underpinning of workforce education and training, the Williamsport Area Community College was created in 1965, shortly after passage of the Community College Act. The college, under the leadership of Kenneth E. Carl, a graduate of W.T.I.'s drafting program, used the institute's programs and facilities to launch further growth and development, with area school districts serving as sponsors.

By the 1970s and '80s, service to the sponsoring districts included credit and noncredit courses. Enrollment was climbing steadily, with more students hailing from outside what traditionally had been the college's principal service area in Lycoming County and North Central Pennsylvania.

As the campus grew and enrollment expanded, the college, under the leadership of Robert L. Breuder, faced the challenge of eroding financial support from the sponsoring school districts. The City of Williamsport assumed the sponsor role temporarily until 1989, when Gov. Robert P. Casey signed legislation creating the affiliation with Penn State.

As a Penn State affiliate, Penn College -- under the present leadership of its first female president, Davie Jane Gilmour -- is realizing its full potential as Pennsylvania's premier technical college. Enrollment exceeds 5,500, and instruction is offered at the college's 105-acre main campus, the Advanced Automotive Technology Center in Williamsport, the Schneebeli Earth Science Center near Allenwood and the Lumley Aviation Center at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville. Extensive noncredit education and work-force training are offered through the Technology Transfer Center at the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce's Business and Technology Resource Center and at the North Campus near Wellsboro.

Baccalaureate majors, first offered in the mid-1990s, now account for a third of all credit enrollment. Students can PennCollege4choose bachelor- and associate-degree and certificate majors representing from more than 100 career fields.

Recently, the college began constru ction on a Student and Administrative Services Center that will consolidate most student-related services in one facility near the college's new main entrance, freeing space in the college's oldest structure -- the Klump Academic Center (circa 1914) -- for more classrooms, laboratories and faculty offices.

Today at Penn College, students from around the world enjoy the benefits of state-of-the-art programs in traditional and emerging technologies.

Penn College at a Glance

* Davie Jane Gilmour, president

* 105-acre main campus in Williamsport, Lycoming County; five additional locations

* Student enrollment exceeds 5,500

* 265 full-time, 146 part-time faculty

* Fewer than 20 students in most classes

* Graduate-placement rates of 90 percent overall, 100 percent in many majors

* One computer for every five students

* 14 varsity sports

* Nearly 50 student clubs and organizations

* Le Jeune Chef Restaurant, a practical-laboratory experience for culinary students

* Community Arts Center offers live performances and films in downtown Williamsport