Wishing a Happy 102nd Birthday to an Alumna
Peg Barnard Chalfant, who graduated from Penn State 80 years ago, says she hasn’t been up to anything very new lately. “I try to keep up with the old things,” she says, chuckling.
Though she doesn’t use most technological advancements like email, she says she loves her Kindle.
And perhaps that’s just it. Perhaps keeping up with the times and not letting nostalgia get the best of you is how you chug forward in life. Chalfant lives for the present, and perhaps that’s why she’s still so happy and healthy as she celebrates her 102nd birthday Friday.
Like many who are living a long life, Chalfant ’34 Edu couldn’t pinpoint what exactly has kept her going, but she says maybe staying active has helped. She used to love playing golf, even though she says she wasn’t very good. The last time she played was when she was 98. She also drove her own car until that age.
She’s still active. Every Sunday, Chalfant walks three blocks from her home—a row house she has lived in since 1935—to her church. (Her bedroom is on the third floor, but going up and down the steps doesn’t seem to bother her a bit.) The First Presbyterian Church in West Chester, Pa., is where she met John Carrigan, a local real estate agent. Chalfant shared a pew with his family, and they have become friends.
Carrigan wanted to make his friend’s birthday special, so he contacted the Penn State Alumni Association. He learned that Chalfant is Penn State’s second oldest graduate, and the association sent him scans of Chalfant’s graduation photo and a picture of her being crowned as the May Queen from the 1934 La Vie.
Chalfant remembers the May Queen ceremony and walking up the steps of Old Main wearing a long veil and holding a saber and flowers. It was “quite an event for women,” she said. She was surprised Penn State doesn’t celebrate May Day festivities anymore.
A bit of nostalgia broke through as she said she’s “too old” to go back and she hasn’t been back to Penn State in a while. She was shocked to find out sorority houses were no longer on campus. Chalfant was a sister of Chi Omega.
“I would be lost on campus now,” she says. “I wouldn’t come back now—I would be heartbroken. I’m happier with my memories.”
To Chalfant, memories are intended to provide solace and joy when looking back, but nothing to linger on. Her memories of being at Penn State and her choice to attend the university do bring her joy. “Penn State was right for me,” she says, “and I was right for it.”
Kelly Godzik, intern