Cutting a Rug

Early in the 1957 fall semester, another frosh introduced herself to me at a mixer as “Suzie Wertz, multiple contusions and abrasions.” That was the way her name had been listed in the Daily Collegian that morning, in reporting on the previous day’s disaster. The very last traditional freshman-sophomore tug-of-war had somehow shifted sideways, toppling a tall platform used for directing the Blue Band. Some of those who had climbed the platform for a better view, and some of those in its path when it fell, suffered broken bones. Suzie’s “contusions and abrasions” neither showed, nor hampered her dancing.

Chuck Gaston ’61 Eng
Lititz, Pa.


What a View

The request for freshman stories reminded me of a tale I shared recently with my freshman writing class at Duquesne University. I urged my students to glance to their right or left, recognizing that the person seated beside them might just become a lifelong friend. In my own freshman writing class, I found myself by the window sitting next to my future roommate, Matt. College is brimming with serendipitous encounters with people who, at the time, may seem insignificant. The truth is that these chance meetings often blossom into lifelong friendships.

Mark A. Curcio ’09 Edu
Latrobe, Pa.


Twin Trailblazers

When my twin sister, Edna, and I started at Penn State, there were many problems caused by World War II. We had to travel to State College by train and then by bus due to gas rationing. The dorms were full of naval trainees, so we were housed in a home on College Avenue. There were no laundromats, so we had to mail our dirty laundry home for our mother to wash and return. We were accepted into the concert band and orchestra, me on flute and Edna on oboe. Later, due to a shortage of male musicians, we were asked to play in the all-male Blue Band. We accepted and became among the first females ever included in the Blue Band.

Edna died in 2020, and I am 98 years old. I still attend Penn State home football games with my son and my granddaughter, both Penn Staters. I have been honored on the field for being one of the first female Blue Band members and for being one of the oldest season ticket holders. We Are!

Edith Murray Walker Isacke ’48 Edu
Gaithersburg, Md.


Dive Right In

Fall semester in 1950 began at the Swarthmore Center campus. It was about a 45-minute commute from home, so four of us carpooled to campus each day. I got involved in a theatrical group and played in a mystery production. The worst part of my experience was the mandatory swim course. For a reason I have never understood, bathing suits were not allowed. Can you imagine a group of self-conscious teenagers, previously unknown to each other, standing around in a locker room completely nude waiting for the instructor to arrive?

Richard Altman ’54 Lib
Longwood, Fla.


Stormy Start

My freshman room assignment mailing in 1972 was delayed because of Hurricane Agnes; it was in the mail that was flooded at the Harrisburg post office. When I got my room assignment, I was placed on the third floor of Curtin Hall, where I ended up living all four years. I was also going away from home for the longest time in my life, and the farthest—almost 700 miles. Unfortunately, my first roommate and I didn’t get along. Fortunately, I had a really good RA who saw that I was rarely in my room. She knew someone was leaving to move into an apartment and helped me get into that room. The new roommate and her friends accepted me, and one became a lasting friend to this day. I consider her the sister I never had.

Nancy Tyson Koebel ’76 Lib
Fremont, Ohio


Hello, Hazleton

I started my college years at the Hazleton campus. Living in the dorms was a whole new world. It was so bizarre to have women on one side and men on the other. We weren’t allowed to be in opposite-sex dorm rooms past midnight. This was back in the ’90s, so not that long ago. I had different roommates each semester and had loads of fun with all the experiences that come with being five hours from home. Route 80 was where you always saw lots of Penn State decals and bumper stickers. I spent five years at Penn State—I wanted to stretch it out as much as possible.

Kristine Acevedo ’94 H&HD


The Right Fit

Beep! The sound of my alarm blaring at 7 a.m. Why did I choose to take Math 140 at 8 a.m.? That was the start to my four-year journey. I graduated two years ago, and I cherish the memories. Going to a big school like Penn State was nerve-wracking. My older sister was there when I started, but I wanted to create my own identity. Every freshman is trying to figure out their path. I'd been a dancer, so I decided to join the competitive Indian classical team, Penn State Natya, to continue my love for dance and make new friends, who eventually became some of my best friends.

One of my favorite memories as a freshman was the White Out game, surrounded by so many alumni, students, and faculty who all came together to celebrate. I got to meet so many alumni from my dance team, and it became real: I chose the right school to make my own identity, that has made me who I am today.

Shefali Raghavan ’22 Bus
Yardley, Pa.


Era of Change

My memories after arriving on campus in the fall of 1969: First, the chaos that was registration on the floor of Rec Hall trying to get computer cards for my classes. Making friends from around the state, including a number who had just come from Woodstock. Having calculus at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, with a quiz on Saturday to ensure attendance. Going to football games to cheer on the undefeated Lions. Watching JoePa walk down Park Avenue from my dorm room. Leaving East Halls on cold, windy, wintry days and trudging across Lot 80 to get to campus. Concerts, wrestling, gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, and more in Rec Hall. The intramural facilities at Rec Hall—bowling, handball, racquetball and more. All you could eat in the dining facilities, including Penn State ice cream. Watching the riots in the spring of 1970 after the shooting at Kent State, and following the buses of students detained at Old Main with a state police escort to Beaver Stadium. Because of the disruptions on campus, being able to take my mid-term as pass-fail for biology. Working at Sears in the Nittany Mall part time to help pay expenses. Taking photos around campus. Surviving and enjoying freshman year.

J. Steven Humphrey ’73 H&HD
Gloucester, Va.


Why Not Both?

I arrived on campus registered in the College of Engineering. It quickly occurred to me that the narrow focus of required courses would constrain my interest in history, communication, and social sciences. Fortunately, I was able to find an adviser who had an innovative solution: pursue dual degrees in engineering and liberal arts. It took five years, but thanks to two years as an RA (room and board!), I could manage the expense. As my adviser predicted, my B.S. gave me early career opportunities, while the B.A. provided my long-term platform for growth.

Thomas Doorley ’67 Eng, ’67 Lib
Harwich Port, Mass.


Faking It

On a September morning in 1963, having learned of a great course taught by a great professor, I joined some 200 students in a lecture hall anticipating our first college class. After a few moments, a gray-haired man wearing a gray suit stepped to the lectern. He placed a thick stack of index cards on it. From the first card, he read his name. From the second, he read that the professor we expected was on sabbatical. From the third, he read that he was a professor of Byzantine history. From the fourth, he read that he knew nothing of the ancient world. And so, we learned together, chapter by chapter, about the pre-Christian ancient world. And I learned how unmotivated I could be. By finals, I had a choice: Study hard for a well-earned D in ancient history or write a strong essay for an A in English composition. I got the A. It was the start of a memorable freshman year. I saw Joe Paterno’s first team upset No. 1 Ohio State. On a Friday in November, I returned to my dorm room to the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I pledged a fraternity and made friends who gathered in State College to celebrate our 50th graduation anniversary. It doesn’t feel like ancient history at all.

Jay Grossman ’67 Com


Time to Leave

Freshman year, I lived in Atherton Hall as a University Scholar (now Schreyer Honors College). On one of the very first days, a freshman guy came around asking the girls in our hall if we wanted to go to a party. Sure, why not? This guy and the other Scholars I met that evening became my closest friends in college, and now, 32 years later, four of these people are still my best friends in the world. Now that my son is a sophomore, I still use this example to tell him to always just say yes to new experiences while at school—you could meet your future best friends!

About two months in, that same guy planned a prank on the RA of his hall. About a dozen of us took bed sheets, went out to the HUB lawn, and gathered as many fallen leaves as possible. We stealthily went back into Atherton and unloaded our leaves into the RA’s room. The whole room was over knee-high in leaves—it was a sight to behold! (There’s a group picture somewhere, but I must protect the guilty.) At the time, we thought it innocent enough and just funny (we nerds can have fun, too!), and most of us escaped without repercussions, but our fearless leader was “invited” to immediately move off campus. A great memory we still laugh about!

Patti McGinnis Schuler ’95 Bus
Collegeville, Pa.


illustration of two people seeing a dorm room full of leaves by Jonathan Carlson


Famous 500

I came to Penn State in 1949, one of 500 women admitted that fall. We were the first freshman class admitted after World War II, when veterans were filling the classrooms. Freshmen had been attending state teachers colleges for their freshman year. We lived in Atherton Hall. We were called the “famous 500.” Customs were enforced. We had to wear name tags and green ribbons. We could have no association with men for the first three weeks and had to be in the dormitory by 9:15 on weeknights and by 9:30 on weekends. Following the no-dating period, we could have three dates per weekend. It was the best of times!

Barbara Greer McKeehen ’53 Bus
State College


Tough Choices

Coming from the inner city and basically on my own, I was unaware of any scholarships or financial aid assistance. It was hard to keep up with studies while working at the same time, so there wasn’t time to “enjoy” the freshman life. I joined ROTC because the Army would pay for my last two years in exchange for signing a four-year enlistment contract. With the Vietnam War raging and seeing some friends come home in a box, I eventually decided not to sign the contract. In the meantime, all decisions—about getting married to my girlfriend, my career, etc.—were overshadowed by the near certainty that I would be drafted. I luckily ended up with a lottery number of 299 in December 1969, which ensured that I wouldn’t get drafted. I made the most of it, and when I look back at the letters sent home, I was a happy guy, striving for a good life, which I have had.

Ronald Kaizar ’70 Bus
Newtown, Pa.


Quite a Scare

In 1959, Mont Alto was only for freshmen in forestry, and almost everyone had a gun in his room. (There were no women in those days.) A common amusement was to empty half the powder from a .22 short round and replace the projectile with paper wadding. Then turn out the light in your room and sit with the rifle pointed at the door. On entering, your roommate would see the rifle, hear a gunshot, and be hit with paper wadding.

Which brings me to my most memorable experience. A classmate was trying to study for the next day’s botany exam. Two other students were trying to distract him; they didn’t want him to screw up the curve. I went to his bulletin board, where he had posted a dollar bill. I stuck it with my sheaf knife, flipped it onto his desk and laughed: “I found this lying on the floor!”

“That did it!” he said. He put a round in the chamber and pointed it (I thought) at me. He thought he had the safety on. Wrong. When he pulled the trigger, the noise and flying plaster resulted in four of the most frightened kids on the planet. Fortunately, he’d been trained to not actually point a gun at someone, and the shot was harmless. I was so shaken that I studied for the exam and messed up the curve myself. It was my only academic success. I withdrew to avoid all those Fs on my record.

Bill Durbin ’71 Lib
Tucson, Ariz.


The Infamous Green Dinks

In 1952, every freshman had to wear a green dinky with a button on top. If an upperclassman said, “button frosh,” you had to lift your dinky by its button and bow to the upperclassman. Before I graduated, they were building the student union building (the HUB). They had to drill into solid limestone and blast on a daily basis; one time, a rock escaped and went sailing into campus; to this day, I do not know where it landed.

I belonged to the Spelunking Club—cave exploring. We used to clean our muddy clothes by wearing them in the shower. It was no activity for people with claustrophobia.

As freshmen, we had the worst seats in the Beaver Field end zone, when it was on the west side of the campus. I remember seeing Jim Brown when he played for Syracuse. To this day, I have never seen anyone run like that. Many more stories, but I have to get back to work—still working full time at 89.

Richard Grime ’57 Eng
Collegeville, Pa.


Big Guy

One of my roommates at Altoona was a guy that everyone called “Big Guy.” Big Guy was, well, a big guy—about 5-foot-10 and at least 250 pounds. One of the girls from our building freshman year could never remember his name, so she started saying: “Heyyyyy big guy,” and the nickname stuck.

Big Guy had a 1960s Volkswagen Bug; eventually, it would have a blue and white paint job with a big white Nittany Lion paw on the roof. We called his car the “Deathmobile” or the “Death Bug.” The sunroof was about all that worked on the car. It routinely burned through more oil than gasoline. If you tried to turn on the headlights, the car would stall. We would constantly have people yelling at us: “Your lights are off!” when we were driving at night. The windshield wipers had one speed: super, super slow. It was the duty of whoever rode shotgun that he lean out the window at every stop and wipe off the windshield when it was raining or snowing. There was a hole in the undercarriage in the back seat, which meant that in the wintertime, you had to watch out for slush flying up in your face. Once, I tried to turn on the heat when it was snowing lightly outside; the car immediately filled with snowflakes, as the heating system only took in air from outside of the car without heating it.

I miss Big Guy—he left school midway through sophomore year, and we never heard from him again.

Will Murray ’93 EMS
Pawtucket, R.I.


Chin Up!

On my very first day of classes, I had a sixth period, which started about 3:30. Before that, I ventured to Rec Hall with some new friends from West Halls to check it out. We found an open trampoline, and having been a competitive diver and swimmer in my earlier years, I felt sure I could easily perform on it. As I jumped higher, I suddenly got off balance, and on the way down one leg slipped underneath me, and the trampoline caught the other leg and slammed it into my chin. My chin opened up, and blood went everywhere. I subsequently made it to the Ritenour Health Center where I received about a dozen stitches in my chin. When I arrived for my sixth period class, my chin was heavily bandaged. Naturally every head in the lecture hall turned in my direction. I still have the scar from that experience and have not tried a trampoline since!

Paul Kirvan ’71 Lib
Atlantic Highlands, N.J.


illustration of a guy falling on a trampoline by Jonathan Carlson


Rosey the Rebounder

Many of the football players in our era lived in West Halls. I got to know some of them because we all dined in Warnock. Two of them were Rosey Grier and Lenny Moore. One evening, we had a pickup basketball game in Rec Hall. I ended up playing against Rosey. I matched his height but certainly not his girth. And I wore my glasses. We went up for a rebound and as he swatted the ball away, he caught my glasses and broke the frame. Years later, as he became famous, I would brag about the fact that I had played basketball with Rosey Grier (and that he had destroyed my glasses). P.S. He was a really nice guy!

Lam Hood ’59, ’68 PhD Agr
State College


Epic Trek

I arrived in State College in September 1964. Penn State was the only university to which I had applied. My father was in the Air Force and was stationed in Colorado Springs. He had maintained his residency in Pennsylvania, which allowed me to be considered for in-state tuition. To get to State College from Colorado Springs, I rode multiple Greyhound buses for 52 hours with new, very uncomfortable shoes. My sole suitcase, which had all the information about where I should go upon arrival, did not arrive with me and would not do so for several days. After I arrived at the bus station on Atherton Street, the much-appreciated help of several Penn Staters guided me to the Nittany dorms, which no longer exist.

One of my other memories of Penn State is the university’s reduction in tuition to $450 from $525 per year. Those were the long-past days when a summer job could provide almost all the money I needed for the entire academic year.

Rich Tobin ’68 Lib
Alexandria, Va.


Time Flies

I met Lou Koehler and Ed Korecky during registration for classes in September 1965. The three of us lived in New Jersey within 15 minutes of each other, and Ed and I joined the same fraternity at Penn State—Pi Kappa Phi. Lou joined Kappa Sig. The three of us felt we were almost brothers at both fraternities. Ed and I still drive and room together for our fraternity golf reunion every year. We shared season football tickets with other fraternity brothers for 40 years. What incredible lifelong relationships developed from meeting at registration 58 years ago; we are still the best of friends and see each other regularly.

John Kieser ’70 Eng
Summit, N.J.


The Balcony

My first dorm at Penn State in 1959 was Thompson at West Halls. As an only child, it was decided I might benefit from having a single room, which turned out to be the right-hand window at the “balcony,” above the arch at Thompson. At that time, we had house mothers at the dorm, and ours was extremely nervous, frequently fearing that panty raid plans were in the works, with the balcony being a likely entry point. The only way to combat that was removing us all from our rooms, especially those of us in those rooms over the arch. So, we spent many an evening sitting on the floor in the halls of the dorm. It was impossible to study, and so we learned to come bearing whatever snacks we had, and it turned into a giant party until somehow an all-clear must have been transmitted to the house mother and we were allowed to return to our rooms.

Sadly, we never were invaded. However, the girls in the middle room, and often their friends, managed to befriend a number of football players who often appeared under the arch for conversation. One frequent visitor was Dave Robinson. A very nice young man, Dave later played in the NFL and was inducted to both the college and pro football halls of fame.

Patricia Mattson Forrester ’63 Edu
Colorado Springs, Colo.


Colorful Campus

It was the fall of 1966 when I started at the Ogontz Campus. I remember how beautiful the campus was with all the trees and the duck pond. Freshmen had to wear a “dink” back in those days. We also had to carry a coloring book and crayons, in case a sophomore asked us to color a page for them. Such a fun tradition! I met my future roommate, Kathi, and we roomed together for junior and senior years at University Park. As a commuter, my transfer from high school to college was very smooth. The smaller campus was definitely an advantage.

Suzanne Walton Dalesandro ’70 Edu
Stuart, Fla.


It *Is* Rocket Science

It was a long time ago, September 1964. Joe Paterno was still an assistant coach, and everyone was excited about flying to the moon. I had decided to pursue an aerospace degree early in high school, and Penn State was the only university with a good program and also within my budget. I stayed in North Halls at a dorm which was later converted to an administrative building. The entire country was space crazy, and as I recall, there were about 300 freshman students for the aerospace engineering degree, and about 99 percent were male and white. Times have certainty changed. The 1964 freshman enthusiasm for rocket science rapidly led to reality, as the 300 aspiring space cadets encountered calculus and physics. As I recall, my fall 1964 roommate lasted about six weeks before transferring to a less math-intensive business degree. However, I and a highly dedicated minority persisted and graduated in 1968. According to the commencement bulletin, there were about 30 B.S. degrees in aerospace engineering, issued at an outdoor ceremony at Beaver Stadium. However, because of the intensity of the program, my social life was limited mostly to attending the Saturday football games and occasionally visiting the HUB. At the end of freshman year in 1965, I received a letter from the engineering science department and accepted a transfer to a possibly even more difficult program. I received a B.S. in engineering science, but was hired by the Naval Air Development Center near Philadelphia, where I worked as an airplane engineer and later earned an M.S. in aerospace from MIT. Today I am retired, and my white Subaru Outback has a toy Nittany Lion hanging from the rearview mirror and the car is decorated with blue stripes and the number 68.

Ronald Lloyd Nave ’68 Eng
Horsham, Pa.


illustration of a man driving by Jonathan Carlson


Needed a Ride

Arriving on campus in 1959, I was assigned to the newly constructed North Halls. Freshman hazing was still in vogue, so survival skills had to be quickly acquired. Faced with such humiliation, I soon stopped wearing the dink. Life became much easier without the indignities. My subversion was never discovered.

Student car ownership was virtually unheard of. Roughly 50 guys lived on my floor, yet only four owned a car; obviously, they had less trouble getting dates. Fast-forward to today, when students often drive better cars than the faculty. Color me green with envy.

Fred Milano ’63, ’73 MA, ’77 PhD Lib
Boone, N.C.


’80s Daze

My friend Suzanne Conard and I graduated from high school on a Saturday in June 1981. Our parents drove us to University Park the next morning for orientation. As we moved into the dorm, the women in the room opposite ours, prompted by one of their mothers, introduced themselves. We had only just arrived, and we already had friends!

Memories from my first year include our first dorm room in Schulze Hall overlooking the quad; the Arts Festival; Menagerie/Cartoon …“there ain’t no flies on JoePa”; Attack of the Killer Tomatoes on the HUB lawn; dropping chem to add astronomy, which had to be easier (spoiler: it wasn’t about constellations); the cool which followed five minutes of daily rain on summer afternoons; waking up in the wee hours to watch Prince Charles and Lady Di’s wedding with Mary McCammon; guitar Mass in the Forum; a 700-person biology class; cramming into the student-filled HUB TV room to watch the Luke-and-Laura General Hospital saga between classes; grilled stickies; Creamery ice cream; the freshman 20; the clack of football helmets and the smell of fall in Beaver Stadium; climbing Mt. Nittany; trimesters; walking across the “frozen tundra” that Lot 80 became in winter; and the power of tens of thousands of voices chanting “We are ... Penn State.”

Carol Powell ’84 Sci
Cave Creek, Ariz.


Lion Legacy

I am from a family of Penn Staters. My dad graduated in 1915, my sister in 1936, my brother in 1938, and then me in 1941. So I knew all the school songs and was familiar with the campus when I arrived as a freshman in 1937. Penn State was growing so fast that there were not enough dorms to house all incoming students, so I lived in a private house with seven other freshmen women. We were required to wear a green bow in their hair, and men green beanies. We were required to go to all activities, such as football games. If we didn't want to go, we stayed out of sight, or succumed to a penalty. I believe we just did this for the first semester; then we were accepted as regular students.

We walked to all our classes, and some were quite a distance. On the way, we would pass a bakery and the aroma was so wonderful and inviting that we sometimes yielded to it. We also walked past the Corner Room, where once in a while I would have a "Ham a la Corner" sandwich. And of course a stop at the Creamery for an ice cream cone.

Betty Rahn Cresswell ’41 H&HD
Casper, Wyo.


Know Your Load

I grew up in our family’s summer boarding house in the Pike County area of the Poconos.  One of my tasks was to help with the weekly laundry, and I learned early on from my mother that white and dark clothes needed to be done separately. So it was quite a shock living in McKee Hall in the fall of 1957 that many of my new classmates had either never done their own laundry or were unaware of the need to separate the loads. I recall having to teach several of them this important lesson after their first attempts resulted in multicolored disasters!

Bill Oelkers ’61 Bus
Hickory, N.C.