Yearlong Penn College centennial celebration looks at past, present and future

For the past century, Pennsylvania College of Technology and its predecessors filled a unique position in higher education, focused on applied technology and emerging work-force needs. Throughout 2014, the college invites alumni and the public to join the campus community in celebrating milestones of its first 100 years and exploring the future of technology and society.

The college’s foundation was laid in 1914, with the opening of a new Williamsport High School (today’s Klump Academic Center), which included a small industrial arts shop that became a home for adult education and training programs. As the high school vocational program grew into the renowned Williamsport Technical Institute (1941), and later Williamsport Area Community College (1965) and Penn College (1989), the institution established itself as a leader in meeting the challenges of a changing workplace.

It first gained national acclaim for partnering with local industries to combat the Great Depression by training the unemployed to fill vacant, skilled positions. Later, classes operated 24 hours a day, providing defense industry training for World War II. Veterans of both world wars, including those who were disabled, were among the first students to benefit from hands-on education at the Williamsport campus.

In the mid-20th century, the institution’s scope expanded to include associate degree programming, when it joined the state’s community college system. It expanded again a quarter century later when, as a special mission affiliate of Penn State, the college began offering baccalaureate degrees and added on-campus student residences.

Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour said: “Centennial events will honor our founders, our students, our employees, our alumni and our community. All have helped to build the first 100 years of our history: a legacy that is worthy of reflection and commemoration.”

To kick off the 100th anniversary celebration, the college welcomes John Ratzenberger, best known as a star of television’s “Cheers” and producer/host of the Travel Channel’s “Made in America” series, on Jan. 23. Ratzenberger, a champion of American manufacturing, ingenuity and innovation, will provide timely advice for students and the college community when he offers a keynote address titled “The Need for Skilled Workers and Their Shortage in the Workplace.” He will also meet with representatives of the area news media.

The celebration continues with the college’s Centennial Colloquia Series on technology and society, headlined by acclaimed authors Jaron Lanier and Alan Lightman.

Lanier, who will visit March 17, was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2010. As founder of VPL Research, the first company to sell virtual-reality products, he coined the phrase “virtual reality.” He is a composer, artist and author of the best-selling books “Who Owns the Future?” and “You Are Not a Gadget.”

Lanier’s talk, titled “People and Computers: Who’s on Top?” will address two common views of technology: Either it serves humanity or it is coming alive on its own. He will discuss issues involving balancing privacy and security, and the potential consequences of positioning machines above humans in these matters.

Lightman, whose Oct. 28 discussion will examine the significance, potential and limitations of major scientific and technological discoveries, is a theoretical physicist and author of the international best-seller “Einstein’s Dream,” one of the most widely read books on university campuses. He is one of the first professors to receive a dual faculty appointment – in science and humanities – at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His most recent book, “The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew,” is a collection of essays on modern physics and philosophy.

The remainder of the Centennial Colloquia Series features:
-- Feb. 27 – “Sustainable and Affordable Home Building,” by Dorothy J. Gerring and Rob A. Wozniak, associate professors of architectural technology, joined by students participating in the first U.S. Department of Energy Challenge Home Student Design Competition
-- April 11 – “Google Meets Aldo Leopold: Information, Technology and 21st Century Environmental Ethics,” by Rob Cooley, assistant professor of anthropology/environmental science, and Mark D. Noe, professor of English-composition
-- Sept. 16 – “Biometrics in Today’s Society: Protecting Identity in the 21st Century,” by Lisa R. Bock, assistant professor of computer information technology
-- Nov. 18 – “Technology, Power and Responsibility,” by Craig A. Miller, assistant professor of history/political science

On March 29 and Oct. 26, the college will extend its traditional Open House events by inviting the general public to tour campus from 2 to 4 p.m., following a program for prospective students and their families that will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. After 2 p.m., public visitors will have the opportunity to visit college classrooms and laboratories and view historical displays that celebrate the institution’s 100-year history. Memorabilia from the technical institute and community college will be featured, and WTI and WACC commemorative items will be available for purchase in The College Store.

The annual reunion of WTI alumni will be held on campus April 25. On that day, one of the institution’s oldest and most successful programs – automotive technology – will be featured as the college hosts a “Horseless Carriage Car Show,” open to alumni and the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For the first time in its history, the college will invite all alumni of Williamsport Area Community College to return to campus for a reunion as part of the annual Homecoming celebration in October. In addition to the first WACC alumni reunion, Homecoming activities will include a reunion of welding alumni, a golf team reunion, and a food and wine festival.

Also planned for Homecoming weekend is the dedication of “Student Bodies,” a metal sculpture by students and faculty in the welding program, and the opening of the “100 Works!” juried art exhibit in The Gallery at Penn College. The exhibit, open Oct. 10 to Nov. 9, is set to feature works by students, alumni, employees and retirees.

The campus community also will celebrate with special activities throughout the year including an employee picnic, donor recognition events, and a student concert featuring Switchfoot, winner of a Grammy Award for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album.

The president opened 2014 by reminding faculty and staff that they will help to determine how the institution is remembered over the next 100 years.

“Over a century, we have grown,” she said. “As I think back to the founders of our institution, I see a clear picture of their mission and our vision. Their success – in retraining disabled World War I veterans for new roles, preparing the unemployed of the Great Depression for jobs and serving GI Bill-supported veterans – is our inheritance. We proudly accept the continuing commitment to transform lives by providing academic and personal support to students and by taking risks and making bold decisions that will strengthen our campus and our community.”

For more about Penn College’s Centennial Celebration – and the many events and activities that are planned – visit www.pct.edu/centennial.

Individuals who would like to share stories, photographs, video or other memorabilia from their personal experiences involving the institution are invited to submit information online or to contact the College Information and Community Relations office at cicr@pct.edu or 570-320-2400, ext. 7253.

For more about the college, visit www.pct.edu, email admissions@pct.edu or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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Last Updated January 17, 2014