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Penn State Legacies: Who Are Campus Buildings Named After?

When you’re walking around campus on a crisp autumn day, you have the opportunity to take in some of the best sights and sounds Penn State has to offer. Whether it’s a “We Are” chant off in the distance or an observation of amazing architecture, campus rarely disappoints.

Aspects that are often overlooked, but still important to observe, are the legacies that our predecessors left before us. University Park boasts almost 300 buildings, so it’s hard to observe or value the legacies of the figures that campus buildings are named for. It’s true that a lot of the buildings on campus are named after former presidents and generous donors such as Schwab, Carnegie, and Thomas, but what about those who excelled in their field of study or given more to Penn State than just a large check? Here’s a list of some of those prominent figures that have left a lasting imprint on Penn State’s history.

George H. Deike Building


The home of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences as well as the Department of Geosciences, the George H. Deike building was built in 1963 and is named after one of the most prominent figures Penn State has ever seen. In 1899, Deike enrolled in what was then known as the Pennsylvania State College, with hopes of pursuing a degree in mining and engineering. During a routine quarter inspection of Deike’s dorm, the head officer of the college’s ROTC program noticed a bugle hanging on Deike’s wall. When asked about the bugle, Deike was prompted to assemble a musical group of other students. Unknowing of what it would eventually become, Deike formed a six-member drum and bugle corps. That six member band grew steadily through the years, eventually forming into what is known today as the Penn State Blue Band.

Taking the knowledge he gained from Penn State, Deike partnered with John Ryan to form Mine Safety Appliances in 1914. With specific attention to safety, the two met with Thomas Edison, who had already garnered world-renowned recognition, to engineer the Electric Miner’s Cap Lamp. The cap ultimately made the open flame lamp obsolete and in doing so, saved millions of lives in one of the most hazardous and dangerous occupations the job market had to offer. As MSA thrived, Deike never turned his back on his alma mater and became President of the Penn State Alumni Association in 1922. A born leader, he also served as a member of the Board of Trustees for 38 years, nine as vice president and two as president.

Erwin W. Mueller Lab


The Mueller Lab houses the Department of Biology and the Institute for Molecular Evolutionary Genetics. It’s named after Erwin W. Mueller, an immigrant born in Berlin and a world renowned scholar in physical chemistry. Mueller achieved more success than most professors can ever dream of achieving. Before World War II, Mueller researched at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and the Free University of West Berlin, where he discovered the field emission microscope in 1936.

Upon making the journey to Happy Valley, Mueller continued his success not only as a well-respected professor, but as a pioneer in microscopy. In 1967, Mueller invented the atom-probe field ion microscope granting the opportunity to identify a single atom by its mass through the separation of neighboring atoms, allowing scientist to discover isotope differentiation among various elements. Mueller continues to be a well-respected member of the science community as he was awarded the National Medal of Science, the highest honor bestowed upon those who have made enormous advancements in their field of study.

Berkey Creamery


Born in Somerset, Earl Berkey inherited his father’s milk company and processing plant that was founded in 1925. As the son of a successful dairy farmer, Earl met his future wife, Jeanne Claycomb, through the university’s dairy science program. As time progressed, Earl and Jeanne sold the plant, but continued to dabble in the ice cream retail business until 1977.

Both physically and figuratively, The Berkeys were always generous to Penn State. Four of the Berkey Milk Company’s superintendents were Penn State graduates and the plant was commonly used for university milk testing. Never doubting the potential Penn State students behold, the Berkeys made a sizeable donation to Penn State in order to fund the new creamery.

Wagner Building


Edward Wagner enrolled at Penn State in the fall of 1937. Wagner was not afraid to pack on the extra-curriculars, involving himself in sports as the assistant manager to the football and track teams, as well as in social life as the president of both the Interfraternity Council and the Student Union Board. During his senior year, Wagner earned a tap from prominent societies such as Phi Beta Kappa and Lion’s Paw for his dedication to student service.

As the United States was poised for another world war, Wagner was graduating from Penn State University. Serving as a Lieutenant in the famed 82nd Airborne Division, he was part of the largest military campaign in the war. During the campaign in Normandy, Wagner’s unit completely missed their drop zones as they became completely isolated from any allied contact. Along with 182 other paratroopers, the improvised unit began holding off multiple Nazi infantry divisions. As the fighting ensued, Wagner demonstrated honor and commitment as he fought to his last breath.

Wagner is symbolized as a graduate who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of his country. 384 graduates lost their lives in sacrifice for our nation’s security, with 44 from the class of 1941, including Wagner. To this day, Penn State boasts a strong reputation when it comes to those who serve in our military. The H. Edward Wagner building is home of the Air Force, Army, and Navy ROTC Offices as well as the office for the College of Arts and Architecture.

Hugh N. McAllister Building


Hugh N. McAllister, born in 1809, graduated from Jefferson College in 1833 and eventually decided to pursue a career in the legal field. In November 1835, McAllister earned eligibility to practice law in Pennsylvania. In 1859, McAllister partnered with James A. Beaver to form the law firm of McAllister & Beaver. The two practiced law through the years as McAllister was often reviewed by his peers as one of the most personal, honest, and industrious men in the Commonwealth.

A dedicated supporter of the Lincoln Administration, McAllister tirelessly secured volunteers and raised an entire company from Centre County to fight for the Union. Although he was unfit to fight under military standards due to his age and prominent education, he still stood and fought side by side with the men of his company on the battlefield until a younger military captain was available to take his place.

Based out of the neighboring town of Bellefonte, McAllister strongly supported the effort to situate the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania in Centre County. When the board of the schoool at the time decided to take General James Irvin’s 200-acre land offer, McAllister was the first to step forward and propose the design of a five-story limestone building on a gentle rise, now known as Old Main. Located next to the Hub and offset to Old Main, many students know the McAllister Building as the location of the Post Office, but it also houses the Mathematics Department.


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About the Author

Jon Deasy

is a senior majoring in criminology from the Steel City. You can find him at the Rathskeller on a Saturday or in the library at four in the morning. He plans to attend law school in the future and enjoys writing about college kids committing the most comical crimes in State College. When he’s not busy, he’s aimlessly staring at his Twitter, @jon_deasy. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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