50 years and going strong: IUP-Punxsy celebrates milestone anniversary

PUNXSUTAWNEY — In 1960, committees representing the Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce and the Punxsutawney Area School Board met to assess interest in pursuing the establishment of a college campus in Punxsutawney.

The construction of the new West End Elementary School had vacated the former elementary building and invited the enthusiastic prospect of hosting a regional post-secondary education institution.

In 1961, Chairman Glenn Henry named a college selection committee and charged it with assessing regional college and university interest in establishing a Punxsutawney campus.

After diligent inquiry, Indiana State College and Clarion State College were identified as interested and viable partners.

In February 1962, the original 12 members of the strategic planning team adopted the name "Punxsutawney Area College Trust."

A vote selected Indiana State College, and President Willis Pratt and the Indiana State College of Trustees sealed the IUP-Punxsutawney partnership.

The first class at the IUP-Punxsutawney regional campus comprised 54 students, most of whom commuted from their homes. Its purpose was to offer the first two years of a fully accredited academic program, which would enable the students to be considered for transfer to the main campus.

Terry Appolonia, dean of IUP Punxsutawney, welcomed the alumni back to the campus on its 50th anniversary with a program that was held in a large tent adjacent to Punxsy’s main campus building.

"We remain very much the same in mission and purpose and the success we still enjoy," Appolonia said, adding that he wanted to thank the alumni and the families of the alumni who were in attendance.Appolonia said of the faculty and staff at IUP-Punxsy that he has never worked so collaboratively with a group as he has at Punxsy.

"They selflessly serve students in an educational capacity," he said.

David Osikowicz, IUP Council of Trustees, said he wondered what the original members of the college trust would think if they took a walk around the campus and saw the way it looks today.

"They would revel in the glory, as we are now," Osikowicz said, adding that 14 years ago, he was approached to serve one term on the Council of Trustees, which got him into the IUP College Trust.

"Bill Falger, who was president and CEO of County National Bank in Clearfield, was a friend of mine, and I knew he had graduated from IUP, but I didn't realize that he had started his education at the Punxsy Campus in one of the first years that it was here," he said. "Hank Pliske and Dr. Valerie Trimarchi, dean, held a meeting in the building that is no longer here and was a grade school before it became Old Main of the Punxsy campus.

"We were in the library, and before we made a presentation, I asked Bill why he was so uneasy." Osikowicz said. "Bill said that the library was where his kindergarten class was held when he went to elementary school at the old West End School. But when I was a freshman at IUP-Punxsy, this was the library, as it is now.

"Now, I'm representing the bank, and I just thought, 'What a transition, and what an example of what this campus has been able to do in terms of a first-year campus, and what great leaders it has produced for this community, state and country,'" Osikokwicz said. "It was just a very interesting story that I've never forgotten."

State Rep. Sam Smith, speaker of the House of Representatives and the IUP Council of Trustees, said if you read through the history of the campus it puts a lot of things into perspective.

"It is a great challenge to look beyond the next day," Smith said, adding that the world we live in, especially Wall Street, doesn't look beyond the next six months or year, he said.

"We wouldn't have anything here if some people wouldn't have looked ahead and went through some challenges," he said. "As we celebrate, not only do we recognize it was the vision of people a long time ago, but we need to continue to do so today.

"Congratulations, to IUP and the Punxsy campus on its 50th anniversary. Let's continue to build on what we have here so we have something more to celebrate on the 100th anniversary."

Dr. J. Thomas Frantz, president of the IUP College Trust and former Punxsutawney Area School District superintendent, said he remembered attending second grade in the old West End School and then attending science class at IUP in what used to be the second-grade room.

"When they asked me to speak, I said, 'I can't believe it has been 50 years since the college was formed,'" he said. "I'll always remember how the decisions need to be made for the college by remembering how Ralph Roberts and Tom Barletta, who were on the College Trust, made them and let them guide me in the decisions I make based on their good judgement back when IUP-Punxsy was first formed."

William Speidel, vice president for University Advancement, said IUP has a real gem in IUP-Punxsy, where students can have a more intimate relationship with their instructors than at the larger campus.

Speidel announced that there will be another addition constructed at the Punxsy campus, a new room for dance and exercise activities, which should fill a niche for many years to come.

Appolonia honored the 2012 Punxsutawney Alumni Leaders who began their studies at the Punxsutawney Regional Campus and attained outstanding success in their professional and personal lives:

• Thomas M. Curra, 1984

• Mark C. Johnson, 1984

• Barbara A. Zdravecky, 1974

• Dr. J. Thomas Frantz, 1973, 1977 and 2000.

The program concluded inside with the cutting of the anniversary cake in the cafeteria.