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Better Know a Branch Campus: Penn State Mont Alto

There are 24 campuses in the Penn State system. The one that gets the most attention is University Park, but what about the other 23? That’s where we come in with our newest 23 part series, Better Know a Branch Campus, inspired by Stephen Colbert’s Better Know a District. Next up: Penn State Mont Alto.

Name: Penn State Mont Alto. The Fightin’ Altos! Which sounds like a name of group of saxophone players that go around challenging people to Sax Battles.

Chancellor: Dr. David Gnage.

Enrollment: 1,023 students, making it the 10th smallest branch campus in the Penn State system.

Location: Mont Alto is located in Mont Alto, Pennsylvania — go figure. The campus is about 100 miles from State College, 163 miles from Philadelphia, and 171 miles from Pittsburgh. It’s right next to the Maryland border, and is closer to Baltimore (90 miles) than it is State College.

Sports: The school is one of the many branch campuses that competes in the Penn State University Athletic Conference. Mont Alto features 11 teams: baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s golf, softball, men’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball.

Fun Fact: One of the more prominent buildings on campus, Wiestling Hall, is allegedly haunted by the ghost of Col. Wiestling, the first ironmaster who lived there. Wiestling is the oldest building on campus besides University Park.

History: Mont Alto is the oldest branch campus in the Penn State system, having opened in 1903. It was originally a forestry school, and at the time of its opening, was one of only three forestry schools in America. In 1930, the university began offering a 1 + 3 program — one year at Mont Alto, three at University Park — and in 1963, Mont Alto officially became a branch campus.

Right Now: The university has 120 professors, 60 full time and 60 adjunct. It has three residence halls on campus: Mont Alto Hall, Penn Gate I, and Penn Gate II. You can check them all out right here. There’s also a cafeteria.

Story Time: I got more emails about this branch campus than any other one so far. Awesome job, Mont Alto! I love you almost as much as I love Daniel Bryan. Here we go:

“Went there in the late 80s. All I can really say about the place is that it was originally a Forestry school and for that reason there was a high percentage of students in Ag majors. Mont Alto hosted a Woodsmen competition, log splitting, tree climbing, etc., pretty fun to watch actually. Besides this, there was a historic church on the property which rumor had it was part of the underground railroad, and someone famous in the movement preached there…sorry don’t recall the specifics. Other than those things, the only stories I really remember were keggers in the woods. Basically someone came around and collected a few bucks and gave you a ticket. Then on most Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights someone with a 4WD would haul kegs up into the mountainous woods about a ½ mile or so behind the campus, we’d trek up there with 64 oz cups, drink piss beer and stand around the bonfire.”

“In 2011, a number of students veterans in collaboration with campus leadership, our development office, alumni, and local community fundraised over $35,000 to build a veterans memorial on campus. The memorial was dedicated on Sep 11,2012. Our student veterans chapter is one of over 950 as part of national non profit Student Veterans of America. We have been strong advocates for our student veterans on campus and across the Penn State University system.  Our chapter was honored along with 5 other chapters at the 2014 Student Veterans of America National Conference where we presented our chapter business plan to a national audience.”

“It is a common occurrence to see not only squirrels climbing up and down trees but students as well. Mont Alto is, at its core, a forestry school. One cannot walk around campus without seeing the foresters in their orange hard hats and big backpacks. Although the foresters’ parties are a bit too out of hand.”

“The real action for all students in the know is at Apex housing which lies a mere 10 minute walk from campus or 3 minutes from Penn Gate. Here lies the traditional college party. Water pong, beer if age allows, loud music, and quite literally the best times of your life can be found at these parties, as long as the cops don’t show up. Apex is also about two thirds of the cost of staying on campus, and you get your own bathroom.”

Next Time: Penn State New Kensington! I don’t know a single thing about that campus. If you do, I’d love to learn. Hit me with an email.

Previous Better Know a Branch Campus features: AbingtonAltoonaBeaverBerksBrandywineDuBoisErieFayetteGreater AlleghenyHarrisburgHazleton, Lehigh Valley.

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10 Questions With 2019 Class Gift Director Tom Beeby

Tom Beeby will serve as the 2019 Class Gift Executive Director.

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