Key founders got campus up and running

On Oct. 16, 1962, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Edward Litchfield announced that Bradford had been selected as a location for a two-year regional campus to meet the education needs of the region. Four months later, on Feb. 4, 1963, Dr. Donald Swarts, then academic dean of the Johnstown Campus of the University of Pittsburgh, was named president of the new Bradford campus. His task was clear: Work with an advisory board and community leaders to open a new campus by September 1963.

Dr. Donald Swarts

Swarts was a newcomer to Bradford in 1963, but immediately felt a kinship with the local community. Born in Brookville in 1906, he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1929 and later studied at Allegheny College, Duke University, and Geneva College.

He traveled extensively throughout Europe, and lived in France, Spain and Algeria in his early career, studying at the Sorbonne and later received a doctorate in modern English literature from the University of Pittsburgh.

His 10-year tenure as the president of Pitt-Bradford marked by the growth of the college, with increased enrollment, new classrooms, capital improvements and a focus on new academic programs.

Swarts was active in civic and community organizations as well. He was a member of the board of the Carnegie Public Library, a director of the Bradford Area United Way, a member of the Pennhills Club, the Rotary, and past president of the Bradford Landmark Society during the Bicentennial. He belonged to the Bradford Club, and was a past director of the First Federal Savings and Loan in Bradford. He received the Golden Deeds Award from the Exchange Club in 1973.

He retired in 1973. Two years later, Swarts Hall was dedicated in his honor.

Swarts was given the task of overseeing a Bradford campus Advisory Board for the new college. These advisors would offer their independent opinions, help with marketing and financial support, and give qualified guidance to make the new regional campus a success.

Each Advisory Board member chosen was a respected and well-known member of the community with useful ties and connections. Many members of that first Advisory Board knew each other very well. Most belonged to the same clubs, fraternal organizations and churches. Nearly all had college or university degrees and based on their own experiences realized the importance and advantage of a higher education.

That first Pitt-Bradford Advisory Board worked enthusiastically on many aspects of the development of the new college, supporting fundraising and community awareness, helping to design the buildings, recruiting educators, offering advice on selection of the president, and formulating the curriculum. Many members served for life.

The 48 men and women named included politicians, lawyers, educators, doctors, oil producers, business leaders, manufacturers, bankers, and civic leaders from a five-county area surrounding Bradford. Each key member was chosen based on his or her qualifications, expertise, and experience, and all had the same objective - help the new campus become a reality.

J. Bertram Fisher

The first chairman of the Advisory Board was J. Bertram “Bert” Fisher, the president of Kendall Refining Co. His selection was a popular choice. Born in Bradford, but raised in Buffalo, NY, he returned to Bradford after graduating cum laude from Harvard University in 1920. He went to work at Kendall, was elected to the board of directors in 1927 and named executive vice president in 1938. In 1943 he succeeded Otto Koch as president, a position he held until the company's merger with Witco Chemical Corp. He was then elected a director and corporate vice president and became the first general manager of the newly formed Kendall/Amalie Division.

Fisher retired in 1969 but remained active in many state, regional and local organizations. In his lifetime, he held many important posts in the petroleum industry, including the president of the National Petroleum Association, director of the Pennsylvania Grade Crude Oil Association and president of the Pennsylvania Associated Petroleum Industries Corp.

Fisher was involved with the Bradford flood control projects and was a director of the Bradford Industrial Development Corp. He was also a member of the Route 219 Association and the Bradford Chamber of Commerce.

Fisher helped organized the Bradford Kiwanis Club tree farm, which is still exists today, from a 169-acre Kendall tract of land near Kennedy Springs in 1955. He was also a director of the Bradford National Bank and instrumental in its merger with Elk County Bank & Trust Co., which evolved into First Laurel Bank of Bradford - later Pennbank.

He was awarded the Golden Deeds Award in 1964.

As chairman of the 1963 Pitt-Bradford Advisory Board, Fisher saw the vision of Pitt-Bradford and wholeheartedly encouraged its success. Fisher said, “We welcome the university and believe strongly that the presence of this campus in our community is an important addition to this region and will have an influence on every family. The growing complexity of the world in which we live places an ever-increasing value on the educated man and woman, and we must make the opportunity for higher education available to the young people of the region.”

Dr. Robert B. Bromeley

Local businessman Dr. Robert B. Bromeley was also asked to sit on the Advisory Board. It was an ideal choice: a newspaperman, community leader, entrepreneur, philanthropist and gentleman. He was a man who “contributed ideas, time, and a vision for the future and was a mentor to many leaders in the Bradford community.” As a key founder of Pitt-Bradford, Bromeley was insightful and incisive. Years later, when Dick McDowell was president of Pitt-Bradford, he said Bromeley had an immense influence on him.

Bromeley graduated magna cum laude from Otterbein College in 1929 and also received a degree from the school of business administration at Northwestern University.

His greatest skill lay in entrepreneurship; whether it was in acquiring newspapers, hotels, radio stations, and insurance companies; starting up manufacturing concerns; or helping to establish a campus in his hometown. McDowell said of Bromeley “Being a founding member, he was a grand contributor of his time, talent and wealth over many years.”

Bromeley succeeded Fisher as the second chairman on the board and later served on the executive committee for 47 years. His service in the field of education was impressive. He was a commonwealth trustee of the University of Pittsburgh, chairman emeritus of the Pitt-Bradford Advisory Board, honorary chairman of Otterbein College, and chairman emeritus and lifetime trustee of Alfred University.

Locally, he was past president of the Rotary Club, past president of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, and treasurer of the Bradford United Fund. He also belonged to the all the Mason bodies, the Pennhills Club, the Bradford Club, the Valley Hunt and Sigma Delta Chi.

He was also an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church.

A remarkable man who lived life in the truest sense of the word, Bromeley died in May 2000. He was 90 years old.

George G. Blaisdell

One of the best-known members of that first Advisory Board was George G. Blaisdell, the president and founder of Zippo ManufacturingCo. Blaisdell was already famous by 1963 for his windproof Zippo lighter and for starting the company responsible for the jobs of hundreds of Zippo employees. Therefore, it was inconceivable to imagine any cause of action that would change the future of the city as positively as a regional campus of a major university without inviting Blaisdell to be a part of it.   

Ironically, Blaisdell never went to college. He never even graduated from high school. He was literally a self-taught man who found a niche in the manufacturing world with his Zippo lighter during the Depression years and went on to create a multi-million dollar company. His own story was unique, but he realized that the world was changing and a higher education or technical training beyond the high school level was essential. 

George Duke, Blaisdell's grandson, once said of Blaisdell that he “realized that education was, in fact, fundamental in getting ahead in the world. He'd know that today you can't start a world-class company without the skills that are being taught at the college and in the classroom.”

In many ways, Blaisdell symbolized all the values that would make the new campus a success. Perseverance, determination, confidence, and, most importantly perhaps, hometown pride, were intrinsic qualities that were needed as the fledgling campus began to take form.

Blaisdell died in 1978 at the age of 83.

Robert Wick

Blaisdell's son-in-law, Robert Wick, a prominent local attorney, was chosen to serve on the university's Advisory Board as legal counsel. Born in Bradford in 1916, Wick attended Bradford schools and graduated from Culver Military Academy in 1934, obtained his undergraduate degree from Lafayette College in 1938 and his law degree from Temple University in 1941. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and served in the European and African theaters. In the North African invasion, he was captured by the Germans and spent two years in a POW camp in Poland. Wick was honorably discharged in 1946 with the rank of captain.

He returned to Bradford and with Daniel Daly formed the law partnership of Wick and Daly. Both men merged with Jack McDowell and Tom McDowell in October 1958, creating the law firm of McDowell, McDowell, Wick and Daly. Wick was a member of the McKean County Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Association and the American Bar Association.

For 51 years he served as the executive secretary of the Philo and Sarah Blaisdell Foundation, a nonprofit charitable trust, and a director of the YMCA from 1964 to 1973. Socially, he was a member of the Bradford Club and the Pennhills Club.

Experience, training, and circumstance shaped Wick's commitment to the Bradford community and the new university.

Dr. T. Edward Hanley

T. Edward Hanley was named as a member of the honorary board of advisors. A world-famous art collector, oil executive and patron of several libraries, colleges, schools, and universities, including Pitt-Bradford and nearby St. Bonaventure, he gave a fortune away in terms of art and books during his lifetime.

He was born in Bradford in 1893, the son of William Hanley, founder of Hanley Brick and Hanley Oil and Gas, and graduated from Harvard University in 1915. As a member of the Advisory Board, his financial support and donation of thousands of books were critical in establishing the Pitt-Bradford library, which was named the T. Edward and Tullah Hanley Library in March 1988.

H. Tom Morris

H. Tom Morris, 46, the president of Bradford Motor Works, had been an excellent choice to serve on the new Advisory Board as well. Born in Bradford, he graduated from Yale University in 1941, fought in World War II, and returned home to Bradford to continue a career with Bradford Motor Works, which had been founded by his father, George Morris, in 1911. Active in many local civic organizations, including the Rotary, the Bradford Area United Fund and the American Red Cross, he also held memberships in the Valley Hunt Club, the Pennhills Club and the local Masonic Lodge. Like his fellow board members, he believed that education was the key to the success of Bradford and wholeheartedly supported the efforts of establishing a small college here.

His role on the Advisory Board was short lived however, as he died in a plane crash in May 1965. Morris, an experienced pilot, his 17-year-old daughter, Lynne, and 19-year-old Kathryn Madden, also of Bradford, were enroute from Beaumont, Texas, to Tulsa, Okla., in his small twin-engine Comanche plane when a severe thunderstorm forced the small plane down in a swampy area near the Angelina River. A five-day search for the plane revealed that all three had been killed instantly.

The first Advisory Board consisted mostly of men who were leaders in the Bradford community and influential in financial and industrial endeavors. Four women, however, were also chosen to serve as advisors for the new university: Virginia Loveland Miles, Harriet Gallup, Elizabeth Fesenmyer and Harriett Wick. More than just a token gesture to include women on a male-dominated board, the selection of these particular women was inspired.

All four had been educated at prestigious colleges and were supportive of further education for women as well as men. Each had married and raised a family and was active in numerous civic and service organizations and educational and social circles. They offered a woman's perspective for the new campus.  

Virginia Loveland Miles

The first of these, Virginia Loveland Miles, the daughter of H. N. Loveland, executive of the Bradford National Bank, was born in Bradford in 1909 and attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. She managed - and eventually owned - her grandfather Gus Herbig's bakery on East Corydon Street for many years, claiming renown as a baker, a businesswoman and a kind-hearted woman who frequently gave away not only baked delights but also financial support to those organizations or individuals in need. She volunteered on many local boards and was a member of several organizations.


A hallmark of her life was the support of higher education both on a local level as witnessed by her dedication to the Bradford Area Public Library and Pitt-Bradford as a lifelong member of the Advisory Board. She was honored in 1988 at Pitt-Bradford's Celebration of Women for her significant contributions to the growth and development of the university, received Pitt-Bradford's Presidential Medal of Distinction in 1991 and the Woman of the Year Award in 1992 from the American Association of University Women.


Some years later, Miles explained the importance of that first Advisory Board. “I liked what Dr. Swarts was trying to do in establishing the college here. People throughout the area wanted a college here, and they wanted it to be successful. Whatever we could do to promote and help build the college, we did.”


Harriet Gallup


Harriet Gallup was also chosen to serve on the Advisory Board. A graduate of Vassar College in 1931, she also attended Yale University for two years. She married William D. Gallup, a local attorney, in 1934 and came to Bradford as a new bride, settling into life as the wife of a prominent attorney and the mother of three children, Margaret, Edward and Frederick.


She was an icon of Bradford society, served on the board and executive committees of the Bradford Area United Fund, and was a member of the Women's Auxiliary of Bradford Hospital, the McKean County Women's Federation, the Women's Literary Club and the American Association of University Women.


Like other members of that first Advisory Board, Gallup helped focus the vision that would become Pitt-Bradford.


Elizabeth Emery Fesenmyer


Elizabeth Emery Fesenmyer was asked to serve in an honorary capacity on the Advisory Board in acknowledgment of her lifelong dedication to civic service and support of local organizations. Born in Bradford, she was a granddaughter of Lewis Emery, a noted Bradford businessman, oil producer, statesman, and entrepreneur from whom she inherited an ingrained and abiding interest in Bradford's future. A graduate of Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C., she fully supported the fledgling college with pride.


She received the Golden Deeds award in 1980, a tribute to a lifetime of activity in the Children's Home of Bradford (now Beacon Light), the Women's Literary Club, the Bradford Resale Shop, the Women's Republican Committee, the Girl Scouts and Phi Beta Psi charities. Fesenmyer also was a chronicler of Bradford's history and kept extensive scrapbooks that today are part of the collection at Hanley library. Her continued involvement in community affairs had one goal in mind: to guide people to work in unison to help Bradford grow.


Harriett B. Wick


Advisory Board member Harriett Wick, wife of Robert Wick (who also served on the Advisory Board) was a confidant businesswoman who served as vice president and secretary of Zippo Manufacturing, which was founded by her father, George G. Blaisdell. Wick has long been acknowledged and admired for her generosity to the community and the college. In 1993, both she and her sister, Sarah Dorn, were awarded the Presidential Medal of Distinction, the highest award given by Pitt-Bradford.


James Weaver


Some of the members of the Advisory Board were chosen because of a special connection to the community and its industrial workforce. Just 31 years old, James Weaver, a graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a degree in economics (and later, a master's degree from St. Francis College in industrial relations) was employed by the Dresser Manufacturing Co., one of Bradford's biggest employers.

Weaver's greatest strength on the Advisory Board in those early years was as liaison between the major industrial employers in Bradford - Corning, Dresser, Bradford Motor Works, Kendall, and W.R. Case and Sons Cutlery Co. - and as an invaluable spokesman among the workers when the fund drive campaign began. He enthusiastically served on the board for more than 40 years until his death in 2007, continually adding his opinion, support and advice as the campus grew.

J. Russell Osborne

Popular, well known and respected, J. Russell Osborne, president of W.R. Case and Sons Cutlery Co., was also named to the Advisory Board. Osborne had worked his way up the corporate ladder at Case, from part-time jobs during high school years to post-war employment in the cutlery business, eventually being named president in 1952. He was also president and director of Case Shear Corp. and Case Nashville Corp., and vice president of Swingline. He was also the past president of the American Cutlery Manufacturer's Association.

Osborne was an excellent choice for the Advisory Board. He attended Pennsylvania State University and St. Bonaventure University. He came by his business alacrity in manufacturing from his great uncle, J. Russell Case, for whom he was named, and his mother, Rhea Osborne O'Kain. The granddaughter of W. R. Case, O'Kain was a businesswoman and generous philanthropist in her own right. In 1977, the university dedicated O'Kain Auditorium in Swarts Hall in her honor and in gratitude for her financial support.

Locally, Osborne was active in a variety of community and fraternal organizations. He was past president of the Bradford Area Chamber of Commerce, president and director of Bradford Hospital, past president of Kiwanis, past campaign chairman and director of the Bradford Area United Fun, past director of the Pennhills Club, and a member of the Bradford Club and the Valley Hunt Club. In addition, he was a director of the Bradford National Bank and its successor banks, First Laurel Bank and Pennbank. He was a member of Union Lodge 334 F&AM, Coudersport Consistory, Zem Zem Shrine of Erie, the McKean County Shrine Club, and the McKean County Road Runners.

Tom J. McDowell

Prominent in business, law, finance, the oil industry, and charitable and civic service, Tom J. McDowell served on the Advisory Board for seven years until his death in 1970. He graduated from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania in 1933 and the university's law school in 1936. Following graduation, he returned to Bradford and joined into partnership with his brother, Jack McDowell. The two brothers later joined with Robert H. Wick and Daniel W. Daly, to form McDowell, McDowell, Wick and Daly in 1958.

Like his fellow board members, McDowell was a leader in civic affairs. He was a member of the American Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and a member and president of the McKean County Bar Association. He was a director (in addition to vice chairman and board chairman at one time) of Pennzoil-United Inc. As president of the bank, he guided Northwest Savings Association through its most notable growth years, and served on the boards of Citizens National Bank and Bradford National Bank.

In addition, he was chairman of the Bradford City Planning Commission and the Bradford Area Planning Council. He was a director and past president of the Bradford YMCA and also served as trustee for the YWCA. An enthusiastic sportsman, McDowell also served as a member of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

McDowell also joined many local organizations, including the Bradford Club, The Pennhills Club, the Elks, Moose, and was a member of Bradford Lodge No. 749, F&AM, the Coudersport Consistory and the Zem Zem Shrine Temple.

His son, Dr. Richard E. McDowell was named president of Pitt-Bradford in 1973.

John Mitchell

John Mitchell, president of Lloyd-Smith Co., was also chosen to serve on the board. He was born in Emlenton, Pa., graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, and obtained the rank of lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

After the war, he came to Bradford as an employee of Lloyd-Smith Co., was president of that company by 1948 and chairman of the board by 1967.

But he devoted much of his life to civic service and community organizations and held leadership positions in nearly all of them. He was a director of Pennzoil Co, chairman of Wolf's Head Refining Company and past president of the Bradford School Board.

He belonged to the YMCA, was a supporting member of the Boy Scouts of America, was past campaign chairman of the Bradford United Way, a member of the Pennhills Club, past president of the Salvation Army advisory board, a charter member of the Bradford Kiwanis, and a 50-year member of the Masonic Lodge of Bradford, the Coudersport Consistory and the Zem Zem Temple of Erie.

He served on the Pitt-Bradford's Advisory Board for 20 years.

Other Advisory Board members were equally prestigious. Robert R. Williams, president of Bradford National Bank, was designated as the Advisory Board's campaign fund chairman, and through his efforts a total of $758,000 was pledged for the new college.

They included Rev. John Daniszewski, the headmaster of Bradford Central Christian High School; Charles Kuhn, president of Dresser Manufacturing Co.; Robert Cole, administrator of Bradford Hospital; William Branch, president of Producers Bank and Trust; and George Bell, superintendent of Bradford Area Public Schools.

Also Dr. Hugh J. Ryan, mayor of Bradford; Senator James S. Berger of Coudersport, Assemblyman Albert W. Johnson, State Senator Lyle G. Hall of Elk County; Raymond Youngquist, McKean County commissioner; Associate Judge Andrew Kaul III from St. Marys; Robert A. Digel, president of Hamlin Bank, Smethport; and Robert S. Warner, executive vice president of Viko Furniture, Eldred.

The board included Murray Garber, lawyer, president Elk Lick Council, Boy Scouts of America; Richard Gould, vice president, McKean-Potter Federation of Labor Unions; Fred Grow, chairman of the board, Producers Bank & Trust Co. and president McKean County Federal Savings & Loan; and William H. Craven, controller, Zippo Manufacturing Co.

In addition, Howard Herger, president of Pierce Glass Co. in Port Allegany; Tom D. Mallory, L. E. Mallory & Sons, oil producer; Jeremiah “Jerry” Healy, general manager of Quaker State Oil Refining Corp.; Guy McKittrick, G. H. Daggett & Co.; Dr. Edwin J. Medden, physician; and Henry Satterwhite, vice president and publisher, Bradford Publications.

Also on the board were David Scott, Bradford Area Chamber of Commerce; Clarendon Streeter, Streeter & Streeter, oil producer; Hugh A. Grant, oil producer (named vice president to the Advisory Board); James Wolfe, lawyer, Forest Oil Corp.; Glenn R. Yeakey, Bradford plant manager, Corning and executive board, Elk Lick Council, Boy Scouts of America (as was Tom Bromeley); Dr. Howard J. Miller, radiologist; D. Harvey Phillips, oil producer; W. Alfred Ende, manager, Corning Glass Works; Raymond Zoerkler, geologist with Hanley & Bird; and Webster Ericson, general manager, Forest Products Corp.

These key board members and those that have served on the Advisory Board during the last 50 years have helped create the vision of a regional campus that evolved into the university of today.