Brocks to endow first H&SS professorship, institute

June 17, 2010

Erie native Rev. J. Charles Brock and his wife, Carolyn, have committed a $2 million estate gift to create the Erie Art Metal Professorship in Integrative Humanities, the first endowed professorship in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, and the Institute on the American Dream Program Endowment to support the institute that Charles Brock founded.

Charles Brock is currently director of the Institute on the American Dream and senior research associate in religious studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Before joining Penn State Behrend in 1999, Brock spent 35 years as a member of the theology faculty and chaplain to Reformed students at Oxford University in England and as fellow, chaplain and director of ministerial education at Mansfield College. He currently is an emeritus fellow. While in England, Brock concurrently served as minister of Wheatley United Reformed Church, located in a village five miles outside Oxford. He was chair of the United Reformed Church’s urban and rural mission committee, which concentrates on urban and rural poverty.

Carolyn Brock is a professional musician specializing in choirs and pipe organs.

“In addition to being a longtime Oxford faculty member, Charles has been a champion of Penn State Behrend, making significant contributions to the college professionally and personally,” said Jack Burke, chancellor. “We are grateful that he and Carolyn have chosen to not only fund the first professorship of its kind in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, but are also ensuring that the institute’s dreams will continue.”

The professorship is named in honor of Erie Art Metal, a family-owned business that had about 100 employees and specialized in sheet metal products, notably Dan-Dee wastebaskets. The company was founded by Walter Knobloch and grew under the leadership of his son, Carl, who was Brock’s stepfather.

“My wife and I wanted to support the Erie community and decided that sponsoring a professorship -- my own chosen field of work -- and continuing to support the institute would complement each other perfectly. I think it is important to stress interdisciplinary study rather than the 19th century specializations that dominate universities today,” Brock said.

This gift will support Penn State Behrend in its goal to raise $32 million as part of the University’s capital campaign, For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. As the University enters the public phase of the campaign, Penn State Behrend has secured nearly $21 million to date while Penn State has raised more than $1 billion University-wide. For the Future is the largest campaign in University history with a goal to raise $2 billion by 2014.

The recipient of the professorship will lead the Institute on the American Dream, teach and conduct research. The institute’s mission is to organize academic and community programs that examine the American dream through literature, sociology, race, religion, gender, economics and local conditions while investigating a vision for the future.

Within the Penn State Behrend community, Brock has taught a variety of courses, including "Religion in American Life and Thought," "the American Dream" and "Introduction to Islam." He currently teaches "Comparative Religion" with an emphasis on how religion and politics interweave. He is an advisory board member of the Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Organizational Research and Evaluation (CORE), and co-vice chair and founding board member of the Young People’s Chorus of Erie. CORE, YPC Erie and the Institute on the American Dream are outreach initiatives of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Today, he is acting minister of First Universalist Church in Girard, Pa.

Brock earned a bachelor of science in industrial management from Carnegie Mellon University, a master of divinity from Harvard University, and a master of letters from Oxford University.

Brock’s mother, Arloween Zurn Todd, was a strong supporter of Penn State Behrend and his grandfather, John A. Zurn, was one of four Erie businessmen who urged Mary Behrend to deed her land to Penn State. Penn State Behrend is named in recognition of that donation by Mary Behrend, widow of Ernst Behrend, who founded the Hammermill Paper Co. in Erie in 1898. The Behrend family lived on the 400-acre Glenhill Farm, which is the core of the Penn State Behrend campus today.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 30, 2010