By KATE DAY SAGER
days at the Pitt-Bradford found staff monitoring
students in a dorm that had been once operated as a hotel, professors who
taught in classrooms at a former hardware store and office employees who worked
at credenzas in a former hospital building.
former and current employees at Pitt-Bradford shared memories from years when
the campus was still in its infancy in commemoration of the university’s 50th
anniversary. The recollections come from a time when students in penny loafers
walked on campus sidewalks made of wood and rode a big, lumbering “Blue Goose”
shuttle bus to classes in town.
bookkeeper at Pitt-Bradford, 1964-1971
Louise Stoltz learned there was an opening for a bookkeeper at the new
Pitt-Bradford campus during the spring semester of 1964 she decided to give it
“I started out in Hamsher House, and I worked in the
bookkeeping department,” Stoltz said of the former Bradford Hospital building
purchased by the college for classrooms, offices and a student lounge. “We
didn’t have desks because they didn’t have very much money, so I worked at a
business staff and administrators, who included Dr. Donald E. Swarts, college
president, were located in upstairs rooms of Hamsher House while students
studied in labs and classrooms downstairs.
addition to bookkeeping, the staff was required to type individual form letters
to all student applicants seeking admission to the two-year college, Stoltz
Swarts signed every one of those letters,” she added.
said the college’s shoestring budget at the time occasionally delayed the
always paid on the 28th of the month, but sometimes we didn’t get it
until the following month because they didn’t have the money,” she said, noting
she and her late husband, Harry, were raising three children at the time.
pay would typically come a week later, Stoltz remained loyal to her job, with
her husband’s blessings, as they knew the university needed employee
and community support.
didn’t know if (the university) was really going to take,” she said of the
A year or
so later, the business staff was moved to the former Emery Hardware building on
Main Street in downtown Bradford. It wouldn’t be long after that when the
college started a campaign in the community to raise needed funds.
started a big campaign (in the mid-1960s) to raise millions of dollars,” Stoltz
recalled. “That campaign was ongoing for a number of years.”
said she left the college in 1971 to take an accounting job in town, but never
forgot her years of helping the fledgling campus. This is evidenced by the
Harry B. and Louise A. Stoltz Scholarship Fund established for nontraditional
Stoltz attends events at Pitt-Bradford regularly, including community
luncheons, banquets and fundraisers. She also enjoys the beautiful surroundings
found throughout the campus.
it’s come a long way, and it’s a beautiful place,” she said.
Jay Monti, professor
and dean, 1965-1971
long after Jay Monti had returned from teaching English in Africa with the
Peace Corps in 1965 when he stopped at the Pitt-Bradford book shop to look
told the clerk, Virginia Ball, of his teaching experience in Africa, as well as
in the Altoona area prior to that, she pounced on the young man.
‘You’re a teacher, don’t move,’ and called Don Swarts.” An interview set up
that same day with the college president. The interview with Swarts went
well despite Monti’s concerns with his credentials.
had a bachelor’s degree, but if I was willing to work for an advanced degree
the job was mine,” Monti recalled. He remembers that his starting pay was
$3,600 a year. Later on, when he became the director of housing he was
required to live in the dorm at Emery Towers to keep an eye on the students.
classroom was at Hamsher House where he taught English and French. In the
ensuing years, his class was moved to the Emery Hardware building where he had
a view of Main Street from the front classroom window. In the following
years, he was promoted to the positions of dean of student activities and
director of housing. He also earned his master’s degree along the way.
One of his
more amusing memories occurred while living in Emery Towers. At the time,
several male students smuggled an iguana into the dorm. The dean of women at
the time was concerned the boys would also try to sneak onto the
girls’ floors during the prank and called Monti for help.
were trying to get the girls to open the fire door on the fifth floor” to
frighten them with the iguana, Monti said. As it turned out, the iguana
got away from the boys, only to be immediately caught by Monti. He decided to
hide the creature until he could take it to a biology teacher in Altoona, who
kept it a number of years.
was afraid to open the doors because they thought there was an iguana loose in
the dorm,” he said, clearly enjoying the memory. “The girls didn’t know where
it was and neither did the boys.”
incident created such a stir that it merited a photo in Pitt-Bradford’s early
yearbook titled “The Interim.”
also remembers a mock anti-war demonstration staged by the students to give the
local National Guard an opportunity to practice a drill in hostile situations.
“Oh my, do
I remember that, I organized it,” he said. “We were so good at it that we
scared the National Guard, so they cancelled it.”
Tuck Shop, which sold snacks and was run by Margaret Faye in Hamsher House,
evokes fond memories for Monti.
such a mother to the students and was a great contributor to Pitt,” Monti said.
his strongest memories from those years were of the two Allegheny Airline airplane
accidents that happened approximately a week apart during December 1968 and
January 1969. Monti was an American Red Cross board member and helped with the
second accident, which occurred at Pine Acres golf course on Jan. 6, and took
the lives of three Pitt-Bradford students.
right up to West Warren Road where they had set up a morgue,” Monti remembered.
“We knew there were kids (from Pitt-Bradford) on it.” He also had the sad
responsibility of identifying the remains of the three students, a task made
more difficult because he knew the young men. To this day, he still
remembers details from their lives and families.
he left Pitt-Bradford to teach at Bradford High School because his new job put
him back in the classroom.
the money, it was just that I didn’t want to be a director … and maybe
teach one class a week,” he explained. “But working at Pitt was good, or I
wouldn’t have worked there over five years.”
Dr.Marvin Thomas had no idea what he was getting into when a colleague wrote to
him in 1969 in Munich to tell him about an opening at the new university where
she was teaching, which was, of course, Pitt-Bradford.
entered into a transatlantic negotiation with Dr. Donald Swarts, then-president
of Pitt-Bradford, who interviewed his colleague, Marlene Reich, as a proxy.
Swarts sent a telegram to Thomas to let him know he was hired.
He and his
wife, Christine, arrived by steamship in New York harbor in late August. Thomas
attended his first faculty meeting with 10 fellow teachers a few days later.
know it was a hardware store,” he said of Pitt-Bradford, which at the time
consisted of Hamsher House near the hospital and the Emery Hotel and rented
Emery Hardware store downtown. “But the story had a happy ending. You just have
to hang on,” he added, indicating the current campus.
he and his wife lived on Chestnut Street, and he walked to work at the Emery
Hardware building. Later, they lived in the Orchard Apartments, and he walked
to Hamsher House. And sometimes he walked from Emery Hardware to Hamsher House.
“I did a lot of walking,” he said.
later, he went to another faculty meeting, where Swarts made an important
announcement: “It’s official – UPB is going to be permanent.”
knew there was any doubt!” Thomas said.
professor, he quickly developed a reputation as exacting taskmaster. In his
first semester, 125 of 172 students failed. Remarkably, Swarts was understanding
of Thomas’s stringent standards. Thomas decided to break European history down
into smaller courses to make it more digestible. Some of those, he’s still
university grew and Dr. Rick Frederick was hired to teach American history,
students no longer have to take a Thomas class.
basically have the crème-de-la-crème of students because no one has to take
European history,” he said. He and all those students seem to have come to some
sort of peace. In 1997, he was one of the first recipients of the Pitt-Bradford
Alumni Association’s Teaching Excellence Award.
Bryner, dean of women, 1970-1972.
Bryner was fresh out of college and looking for employment when she learned
Pitt- Bradford needed a dean of women and a physical education
instructor. She had a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education
and was hired for both positions.
basically started (at Pitt-Bradford) a week after I graduated,” she said of her
hiring in June of 1970 at the age of 21. “I moved into an apartment in Emery
dean of women, she monitored female students on two floors.
have to take care of the housing needs and be around if there were issues with
the students,” she recalled. She taught physical education classes and swimming
at the Bradford YMCA on Boylston Street. She taught bowling at the former
Star Lanes on Barbour Street.
remember teaching class at 7 o’clock in the morning at the Y,” she said,
recalling that the students were often very groggy at that hour. “They survived
it; that was the good thing.”
January of 1972, we moved all the students out to the new complex on campus,”
she said of the college’s new property at the former Harri Emery Airport. “Just
the apartments were built, and we had our meals in the hangar” which also had
served as the student union. Since the move was in the middle of winter,
the sidewalks on campus were made of wood.
not fun … there was lots of mud,” she said remembering the slippery walkways.
“And the students would take a bus from the hangar to Hamsher House” for
She lived in
one of the student apartments on campus, which were comfortable and more
spacious. The remainder of the campus was still an open area with plans for
construction still in the works.
resigned from her position in June of that year and traveled to Europe. The
following year, she returned to college and obtained her master’s degree
in counseling from Indiana University. That was followed by a teaching position
at Bethel College in Tennessee from 1973 to 1975. She returned to the area in
1975 to accept a position at St. Bonaventure University where she taught
physical education and served as a women’s volleyball coach. For the past 30
years, she has worked in St. Bonaventure’s Higher Education Opportunity Program
for academically under-prepared and economically disadvantaged students from
New York state. She has served as director of the program for a number of
said Pitt-Bradford will always be special to her because it was the first job
in her profession.
me the opportunity to work and teach at the college level and thus begin a most
satisfying journey, which has taken me to a variety of educational
institutions,” Bryner said. “It was a wonderful experience, and I was glad I
could give back to my home community. I got my start there … and I’m still
connected to Pitt because of those two years.”
said she enjoys visiting the current campus with its many expansions.
“It offers a lot to our area, and we’ve been lucky with our
administration here,” she said. “It was fun to be part of the early growth
Donny Johnson, Pitt-Bradford
mail carrier, 1979 – present
past three decades, mail has been delivered to offices and departments on the
Pitt-Bradford campus, rain or shine, thanks to the diligence and dedication of
so devoted to his job that he insisted on walking his mail route around campus
while sharing the story of his years with the university. His first employment
on campus was with the food service department not long after he graduated from
Bradford High School in 1969. That was followed by employment with a cleaning
crew from Futures Rehabilitation Center that worked in the dorms. When Johnson
was offered a job as the mail carrier on campus, he readily accepted.
early years on campus, Johnson rode the “Blue Goose” student bus to and from
work while sharing a home with his late mother, Helen. Johnson now lives in his
own apartment and takes an ATA bus to and from work.
In the 30
or more years that he has delivered postal and campus mail, Johnson has made
many friends among the staff and students.
“I like to
talk to people, they’re friendly and it’s a nice place to work,” Johnson said
during his brisk pace around a campus that has expanded in the years he has
Gleason, supervisor of the Mail Center on campus, said she has enjoyed working
with Johnson over the past 20 years. Her late mother, Dusty Gray, had worked
with Johnson in the center prior to that time.
always willing to help and do extra things outside of his job,” Gleason
said. “If he’s out there in the field (delivering mail) and sees a
family, he’s more than willing to give them information. He’s a good ambassador
for the university.”
Johnson delivers mail to offices in all buildings on campus, all seasons of the
doesn’t complain (about the weather), he’ll walk around when it’s raining and
say ‘I’m a duck,’” she said with a smile.
said Johnson is loved and admired by all of the staff on campus. It’s not
unusual to see him dining or attending social functions in the community with
university employees. He also assists with sports teams on campus, as well as
travels with them on occasion.
enthusiasm on campus and in the community has not gone unnoticed over the
years. In 2005, he received the university’s Chancellor’s Award for Staff for
Service to the Community.
Ryan, county coordinator for McKean County Special Olympics and a friend of
Johnson’s through his previous employment at Futures, had written a letter of
recommendation for Johnson in support of the award. In it, Ryan wrote that
Johnson is not only a benefit to Special Olympics as a certified track and
field coach, chaperone and volunteer, but also to the community.
enthusiasm and spirit are infectious … he is most deserving,” Ryan wrote of
Marcott Weinberg contributed to this story.