Penn State Behrend to unveil Mary Behrend monument on Oct. 24

October 08, 2015

ERIE, Pa. — A new student-designed monument commemorating Mary Behrend’s 1948 gift of her Glenhill Farm estate to Penn State will be unveiled on Saturday, Oct. 24.

The public is invited to the 3 p.m. ceremony, part of Penn State Behrend’s annual Parents and Families Weekend celebration. The monument is located near Glenhill farmhouse; parking will be available in the Erie Hall, Wilson Picnic Grove, and Science Complex lots.

Mary Behrend, the widow of Hammermill Paper Co. co-founder Ernst Behrend, was originally approached to sell her summer estate to the University. Penn State had been offering technical courses in Erie since 1920 using rented spaces; a committee of community leaders sought to create a permanent Penn State presence in Erie that would provide comprehensive public, coeducational higher education.

In her remarks at the campus’ dedication on Oct. 30, 1948, Mary Behrend told the audience that she was so touched by the Erie committee’s willingness to raise money for the purchase of her estate that she chose instead to donate it as a memorial to her late husband.

Sixty-five years later, a small group of students who felt that Mary’s generosity was not visibly acknowledged on the 4,500-student campus came to Ken Miller, senior director of campus planning and student affairs, with a plan for a tribute proportionate to her gift: a 9-foot granite obelisk surrounded by benches, gardens and inscribed pavers.

“When the students first came to me with the idea for the monument, we had a good but brief conversation. At our second meeting, they came prepared with a PowerPoint presentation and computer-aided drawings of their design. That’s when I knew they were serious,” Miller said. “With the financial support of the student body we hired Brian Weber, a landscape architect from Weber Murphy Fox, to help refine the students’ vision. From there, construction was financed by students, alumni, parents, friends of the college, and faculty and staff members purchasing more than 350 engraved pavers, which now surround the obelisk.”

Richard Sayre, Mary Behrend’s oldest grandson, will speak at the unveiling, as will interim Chancellor Ralph Ford, Penn State Behrend Student Government Association President Joshua Sitter, and alumnus Brennan Zanella, one of the monument’s student designers. The brief ceremony will be followed by a Berkey Creamery ice cream reception.

Inscribed pavers still can be purchased for inclusion at the monument; messages can be three lines of up to 14 characters each. Visit to order, or phone 814-898-6159 for questions about the unveiling ceremony.

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Last Updated October 20, 2015