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Historical Exhibit Commemorates PSU Heritage

Most Penn State students are familiar with staple historical landmarks on campus like Old Main and the Lion Shrine. What most students don’t realize is that over 70 historical markers and buildings decorate the beautiful west side of campus. On top of that, Penn State has a history of considerable accomplishments in the fields of engineering, agriculture, nuclear science and bio-mechanics.

A photo-exhibition, honoring just a part of Penn State’s vast heritage, is currently on display at the Hintz-Alumni Center until June 8. The 32 pictures, which are hanging in Robb Hall, can be divided into three main categories: prominent people, historical buildings and noteworthy accomplishments.

Among the many portraits in the exhibit are Moses Thompson, who was instrumental in designating the location of the school and served as its treasurer from 1867 to 1874, and first president of the university Evan Pugh, who pushed for integrating science, agriculture and engineering into the curriculum.

The exhibit also brings together many of the 29 historical buildings that predominantly mark the west side of campus. Two of the more interesting buildings are Old Engineering and Borland Lab (see image).

Old Engineering, which opened in 1892, was considered to be the “capstone” of campus. During its time, the building housed the studies of civil, mechanical, electrical and mining engineering, in addition to providing steam heating for the entire campus. Old Engineering would propel Penn State into the top ten engineering schools in the country, and stood until it was destroyed by an incredible fire on November 25, 1918.

Borland Lab became the world wide home of animal insemination during the 1940s. Studies conducted by Professor John Almquist in the lab discovered new techniques for preserving animal semen with antibiotics. As these techniques gained recognition, there was an increase across the globe in both the breeding of cattle and the production of food.

Even more interesting are the myriad groundbreaking accomplishments Penn State has achieved over the years.

In 1955, Penn State became the first university to operate a nuclear reactor as a part of President Eisenhower’s “Atoms of Peace” program.

In 1967, Dr. Richard Nelson spearheaded the development of the world’s first bio-mechanics laboratory for the purpose of studying sports science and health at Penn State. Six years later, the International Society of Biomechnics was founded here.

In addition to these, Penn State has played a pivotal role in the fields of cardiovascular health, mushroom science and atmospheric research.

The “Commemorating Penn State Accomplishments: The Historical Markers” exhibit was brought to fruition under the guidance and leadership of Paul Karwacki, a member of the Special Collections Library of the University Archives Unit. Karwacki, who graduated in the 70’s and has been a member of the University Archives Unit for six years, said he was “very interested in learning about the markers…and taking charge of putting the exhibition together.” Karawaki, who sorted through hundreds of photos with a team of coworkers and eventually narrowed them down  to those now displayed, went on to say that “This exhibit was a way for me to learn some of that heritage, and especially to share it with the PSU, and surrounding community.”

Students interested in learning more about Penn State’s colorful heritage can check out the Historical Markers Exhibit up until June 8 in the Hintz Alumni Center.


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