Penn State Opens Time Capsule From 1956

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An opportunity to delve into the minds and lives of Penn State faculty and students from 58 years ago presented itself Wednesday afternoon. A crowd of about 100 reporters, construction workers and Penn State Housing employees gathered to watch the unveiling of a time capsule in front of Hibbs Hall on campus.

Housing officials opened the time capsule dating back to 1956 and replaced it with one to show future generations a glimpse of the year 2014. Inside the one from 1956 were dozens of items, including sorority hats, magazines, student handbooks, campus guides, newspapers and directories, some of which will soon be on display in Redifer Commons.

Two construction workers, Keith Satterfield and Bill Kovach, discovered the capsule on June 17 as they renovated South Halls. It was found in the cornerstone of Hibbs Hall, buried when the building was originally constructed.

Satterfield and Kovach told Housing officials of their discovery and asked if they could be the ones to open the lead capsule. Their request was granted, so they decided to use a construction grinder to slice it open.

Some of the items in the capsule seemed silly by today’s standards, such as dating guides, date cards and strict rulebooks. The Association of Residence Hall Students President Liana Trigg says she hopes that when the 2014 capsule is opened, they think the same about our generation.

“I hope that 50 of 100 years from now when a bunch of students and staff gather to open our time capsule, they reflect on how silly the things we did in 2014 were,” Trigg, a senior majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, says. “I hope they think our rules were backward and that our traditions needed to be improved upon. Why? Because that would mean between now and then some people, not unlike ourselves, came together and actively decided to invoke change. They found out what was wrong, and they fixed it.”

Director of Housing Operations Conal Carr took the time to remind those gathered how much has changed at Penn State since 1956. Back then, East Halls was a sheep and cattle barn. Women could only live in South Halls, whereas men were in West Halls. Much of campus was merely a field of trailers for veterans and families. And perhaps the change that garnered the biggest reaction from the crowd was the cost of tuition.

Back in 1956, Carr says tuition cost $252 for in-state students and $502 for those out-of-state. Fifty-eight years later, the 2014-2015 tuition is set at $16,572 for in-state students.

This isn’t the first time capsule to be found on Penn State’s campus, although this one remained in better condition than others. Carr says it was more popular during the 1950s for capsules to be buried — one was recently found in Borland Building.

There will be a marquee marking the spot of the 2014 time capsule and the year it was buried. It’s up to future generations to decide when to open it. Carr says he hopes they wait at least 50 years but ultimately, the decision will be theirs.

In the 2014 capsule, they will find a Hunger Games DVD, an iPhone, a copy of the Centre Daily Times and Daily Collegian, a THON T-shirt, a James Franklin signed football, a recent edition of the Penn Stater magazine and a Penn State Lives Here pin, among other items.

“We really tried to capture life at Penn State in 2014,” Carr says. “We included food menus from downtown, newspapers, a THON shirt. What I think is really impressive though is the letters we have written from current students.”

The 2014 capsule will be buried sometime in the next few months when construction of Hibbs Hall is complete. Carr says groups and students can submit letter and items to the capsule by contacting Penn State Housing.

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About the Author

Jessica Tully

Jessica Tully is a first-year law student at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law. She graduated in May 2014 with degrees in journalism and political science.

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