Working Class: 100 Years of Hands-On Education


– [Bob] When we say that jobs
are the most important issue, and developing skill levels
so that folks can get those jobs, it’s not simply
about an economic contribution. It’s part of our being. And the dignity of work has always been part of the American story. – [Jake] I’m a big believer
that the things we all unite in, whether you’re Republican, Democrat, whether you’re from
suburban, urban, rural area, is people want good jobs. – [Sandy] Nobody wants to go
to work and just exist, right? You wanna go and spend
your eight hours a day, or ten hours a day, or
however much you’re spending, and you wanna feel like
you’ve made a difference. I think that’s a fundamental human need. We all wanna be able to make a difference. – [Voiceover] Making a
difference in the American story of higher education is one
century-old institution that first earned a national reputation for the economic contribution
it made by connecting skilled men and women with real jobs during the Great Depression. The story of Pennsylvania
College of Technology continues to evolve in
the twenty-first century. On a campus dedicated
to combining education and hands-on experience
that can lead graduates to opportunities for success
in an ever-changing workforce. For one hundred years,
the institution’s leaders, a railroad mechanic with a PhD, a homegrown draftsman, two of the nation’s
youngest college presidents, and a woman committed
to community engagement, have shared a common
mission to offer education that is relevant to real world needs. – [John] Actors, sports
celebrities, the like, newscasters, they’re not necessary. They’re not necessary professions. People who make things are necessary. – [Jennifer] We need
individuals with strong math and science skills. We need individuals that
can operate in a team. And we need individuals
with technical skills. – [Jeffrey] Things are
changing so quickly, that can create a gap. especially if we’re not able
to work closely with academia in order to keep that loop tightly closed. – [Mike] The single biggest
challenge is finding people who are willing to learn
a new and useful trade. That’s the trick. Gap doesn’t close until that happens, and that doesn’t happen until perceptions around work start to change. – [Voiceover] World
War I erupts in Europe. The world’s first assembly
line produces the Model-T Ford. And twentieth century
industrialization begins to change home towns around the world. Home towns like
Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where economic prosperity
harvested from natural resources was disappearing. Pennsylvania topped the
nation in lumber production during the second half
of the 19th century. Williamsport, nestled along
the Susquehanna River, was known as the lumber
capital of the world, and boasted more millionaires per capita than any other American city. By 1914, Williamsport’s
neighboring forests were depleted, and the lumber era began to wane. Replacing the region’s
lumber camps and farms were large-scale commercial enterprises that needed educated and skilled workers. A new Williamsport high school,
dedicated in November, 1914, reflected that need. Tucked in the school basement
was an industrial arts shop, believed to be the first
of its kind in the state. There students received
hands-on instruction in woodworking, and with an eye
toward the future, machining. – [George] Williamsport
had one of the best schools for industrial arts in the state. – [Voiceover] The
Williamsport School District hired Dr. George Parkes in 1920
to teach mechanical drawing. He later became Director of the district’s vocational program. – [Grant] He was an interesting fella. He only stood about five foot two. And he was very direct. He didn’t pull his
punches, but there wasn’t a mean bone in his body. – [Voiceover] Parkes earned a
mechanical engineering degree from Purdue University, and worked on the Pennsylvania railroad. He was also one of the
nation’s first certified vocational education teachers. He put that unique combination
of education and experience to work in Williamport’s
classrooms and shops. – [George] The wood
shops, the pattern shop and the cabinet shop were quite
well-equipped, even in 1920. – [Voiceover] In addition
to their shop work, students over the age of 16 were offered a cooperative work study
program where they could gain experience working
for local companies while still enrolled in school. Carl Simon was a cooperative
education student assigned to work at Williamsport’s
Darling Valve Foundry. The assignment didn’t suit his mother. She complained to Parkes
about her son working in what she considered to be a dirty hole. Parkes convinced her that the experience would benefit her son. He was right. Carl Simon eventually
became Vice President and General Manager of the company
where he worked as a student, and an expert in the
atomic energy valve field. – [Voiceover] Following
World War I came a problem of retraining veterans, the
majority of whom were disabled. This led to the establishment
of the first adult day school on a full-time basis in
the city of Williamsport. Additional shops were set
up in an old building. – [George] They taught,
in there they taught automotive mechanics, pattern
making and cabinet making. And drafting and some related
things, and we adopted the principle that a day
school program, such as existed for high schools, could
not be really successful unless it also incorporated
an adult program. And the most significant
early step we took was when we carried the
adult education program into the foreman training program. – [Voiceover] Formanship
training represented Parkes first bold move as the leader of Williamsport’s vocational program. He sent vocational
teachers out of the school and into local factories,
where they taught workers additional skills they needed to advance into supervisory positions. The program established a
lasting bond with industry. – [George] When we started
this foremanship training program, the industry
suddenly discovered that here was a service that would
earn money for them. And from then on we
had no further problems with getting the cooperation of industry. – [Voiceover] Industry
cooperation and the teachers’ commitment to providing
individual attention to students were keys to advancing
Williamsport’s program. Parkes ensured that his
teachers had a vested interest in the students’ success. – [Grant ] He had a very
simple contract with people that he hired, and that was
your graduates get jobs, you keep your job. – [George] We had the
philosophy that every man had a little St. George in him. St. George, of course, made
his great reputation by slaying a dragon. And if you wanna get along with people, put ’em in a position to
slay a dragon every day. – [Voiceover] A dangerous,
the Great Depression, confronted the nation in the 1930’s. Parkes and his faculty felt
the pain in their community, and set out to confront economic
adversity by creating jobs. – [George] I knew numerous
people in those days who raised a family on 25 cents an hour. And I say it was a catastrophe
which stayed with us. And I think it made a mark on all of us. – [Voiceover] Parkes
developed a unique plan to hire unemployed local
residents to begin construction of a new machine shop at the school. – [Pat] And the plan was
to take unemployed men and to put them to work helping
to build what they called Unit Two, the machine shop, and then instead of paying
them in cash, they would get a basket of food, which
was very important, because people suddenly had
no way to feed their families. So the basket of food
was quite an incentive. – [Voiceover] An incentive
for growth of Williamsport’s vocational program came in
the form of a skills gap revealed in a survey of
the local job market. – [Voiceover] In 1930,
the Chamber of Commerce surveyed local industry
and discovered that while unemployment was increasing,
there was a substantial and increasing shortage of
certain skilled tradesmen. The solution was to retrain
men from the unemployed ranks to fill these vacancies. – [Voiceover] The
Williamsport Plan was born. For the next several years,
the school worked with local agencies to
screen, retrain and place unemployed workers in essential jobs. – [Pat] It helped to somewhat solve our unemployment problems because
it took a lot of people who had been displaced,
because they were in business or sales, and weren’t really prepared for any other kinds of jobs. It took them and
retrained them to put them back into the job market. And then beyond that, it served as a model for the entire United States. We were one of the first to
actually have a plan in place to match what was needed work-wise with the available laborers. – [Voiceover] National media, including The Saturday Evening Post,
celebrated Williamsport’s retraining initiative,
and labeled Parkes a hero for the working class. – [Voiceover] What the
depression did to Williamsport was about what it did
to most similarly placed industrial communities. But what Williamsport did
to the depression is a story in the best, though of late,
unofficial American tradition. Graduates were giving a
good account of themselves in every plant in the city. – [Voiceover] Sunday
morning, 7 December, 1941, the skies over Hawaii erupted in a hail of death and destruction. – [Voiceover] Before Japan’s
surprise attack at Pearl Harbor plunges the United
States into World War II, Williamsport’s vocational
program is called to duty to train defense industry workers. Shops operate 24 hours a
day, training men and women to work in plants producing products used by U.S. and allied forces. The school also offers programs
for military personnel. Construction battalions
rely on Williamsport to teach blueprint
reading and mathematics. And Air Force mechanics
trained at the school’s new aviation facility. – [George] We had more students attending the adult programs, oh from about 1940 on, than we had high school students. – [Voiceover] Growth of the
adult training program led to the creation of Williamsport
Technical Institute in 1941. Transforming the former high
school vocational program into a formal institute offering secondary and post-secondary technical education solidified Parkes long-term
advocacy for blending academics with hands-on instruction. – [George] The technical
student, we called it the two-pants suit. He got his vocational
program, and then he got his academic preparation on top of it. This fella would be more
likely to become the leader. – [Voiceover] Students benefiting from the two-pants suit concept
included George Logue. Long before he enrolled
at the newly christened Williamsport Technical
Institute, the future entrepreneur forged an
important connection with one of his neighbors, George Parkes. – [George] I was determined
that I wanna come to Tech, Williamsport Tech, so Doc
Parkes got me in up here to come on Saturdays, and
I come up here and took machine shop in the summertime. And I was transferred
to Williamsport Tech, and I graduated from here. I went here two years. – [Voiceover] Logue’s love
of Caterpillar tractors nearly sidetracked him, if not for some sound advice from Parkes. – [George] Well, when I
come over the first time, I saw the Caterpillar engine, and that’s where I wanted to be, where that Caterpillar engine was. The best advice he ever gave me, he says George, you’re
too mechanical for that. You take machine shop
first, it’s more basic. It’s the only thing that can
reproduce itself in the world that isn’t biological, is a machine shop. – [Voiceover] Logue earned an agricultural engineering degree from Penn State, developed five patents
related to heavy equipment, and created his own
successful construction and machining companies. He also built one of
the largest collections of Caterpillar tractors
and equipment in the world. – [Voiceover] A bruised and
suffering world stirred again to the triumphant strains of victory. For the soldier, it was the proud end of a long and arduous road. – [Voiceover] The end of World
War II ushered in changes at Williamsport Technical Institute. No longer focused on
immediate war production training needs, WTI encouraged long-term career possibilities for students. The secondary program grew
to include school districts outside of Williamsport, and
veterans, taking advantage of the GI Bill, flocked to campus for post-secondary technical education. – [James] Right after the war,
Dr. Parkes was able to get surplus war material of every description. – [William] If I wanted, let’s
say, a particular machine, Dr. Parkes would say, there’s
a military surplus store down in Harrisburg. You may wanna go down and check ’em out. – [Voiceover] Other
surplus items had to be trucked or flown in, such as
bulldozers used to develop a heavy construction equipment program, and the Eager Beaver B17
Bomber, acquired to enhance aviation maintenance instruction. WTI’s founding director was
an established national leader in vocational education when
he was promoted to the position of Superintendent of the
Williamsport School District. Parkes commitment to the working class had matched the institute
with the needs of the individual, community and nation, a legacy his successors could build upon. – Teaching has gotta be experiential, it’s gotta be evolving. – [Jennifer] I think higher education, in order to meet the challenges
of today’s workforce, really does need more real life
experience for the students. – [Voiceover] Following
Parkes at the helm of WTI was one of his former
students, Kenneth Carl, who used his two-pants
suit education to advance from draftsman to
teacher to administrator. – [David] Kenny was a dynamic individual, who loved this place
probably as much or more than Dr. Parkes did, who
was one of the founders. – [James] Dr. Karl, of course, carried on the philosophy of Dr. Parkes. And that philosophy needed
updating, as he will tell you. – [D. Edward] I’d say that
while he was not that much older than we were, he
probably was in his late 20’s at the time, but we respected what he knew because he had been
not only at Penn State, but he had some experience of drafting. – [Voiceover] As a drafting instructor, Carl saw an opportunity
to open his program to students with disabilities. This simple, compassionate
act led the institute to develop a program that
explored the abilities of disabled individuals,
a program that became a national model. – No one seemed to know anything
about training handicapped. And of course, in drafting,
I didn’t see any reason why any handicap would be involved. – [Voiceover] Under Carl’s
leadership, WTI advanced the nation’s first comprehensive
vocational diagnostic program to help men and
women with diabilities navigate career and educational choices. The program had a significant
national impact in the 1950’s, when the United Mine Workers
sent many disabled workers to Williamsport for vocational
assessment and counseling. – [Bill] Many have never
been out of a mine, and the guy would say, I wanna be a heavy equipment operator. So he might put him in heavy equipment. He also thought maybe
he’d make a good draftsman ’cause that won’t affect his lungs. Or maybe he should be in electronics. So he’d put ’em in these different shops. The United Mine Workers were
very happy with the program, particularly if the fellas
got trained, because then they could take ’em off
their retirement rolls, or sick rolls, and these fellas were free. Instead of the Mine Workers
paying a hundred or two hundred dollars disability, they
become productive citizens. – [Voiceover] Maintaining
its focus on addressing emerging workplace needs,
the institute introduced programs related to healthcare
and computer programming in the early 1960’s, while
continuing its emphasis on technical programs. – One day Dr. Carl comes
walking down the hall and taps. And I wanna talk to you. He told me about this plan
that the college has the opportunity to obtain a computer. I said, boy, I said that, Dr. Carl, that’s a wonderful program. He says, umm, now what do
you know about computers? So I had one course. I had one course and my graduate work. He responded very quickly,
you know, that’s more than anybody else in this college has. You’re our man. – [David] People all over the country knew Williamsport Technical
Institute, you know. You couldn’t find aircraft
mechanics or electricians or machinists that you could- anywhere that you could find here. – [Alvin] It had a very strong reputation. You know, there was the
typical attitude problem with some students that
looked down their nose on the kids that were taking
the technical courses, but that was just stupidity. Those guys were very happy
with what they were doing, and they were getting good training. – [Voiceover] WTI’s
hands-on training pleased local businesses and major industries such as the M.W. Kellogg
Company, a firm that placed an advertisement in
the Wall Street Journal praising Williamsport Technical Institute. – [Voiceover] We have found
in Williamsport a reservoir of skilled workmen who have met
the extremely high standards required for this type of work. Many of these men have improved
their natural skills by taking courses at the
Williamsport Technical Institute. – [Voiceover] As workforce
needs grew more complex, Carl wanted to establish a pathway for the Institute’s students to
advance their education beyond a vocational certificate. His doctoral thesis at Penn
State focused on creating such new opportunities
throughout Pennsylvania, whose Governor was a
proponent of the idea. – [Alvin] Bill Scranton was
Governor, and one of his prime interests was establishing
a community college system. – [Voiceover] Inspired
by his graduate work and subsequent research, Carl helped write the 1963 Community College Act. Two years later, Williamsport
Technical Institute became Williamsport
Area Community College, an associate degree granting institution. Williamsport was one of the
first community colleges established in the state, and the only one specializing in technical education. – [Kenneth] While it
wasn’t a four-year degree, it was part way there, and
they could still keep on going if they wanted to. – [Voiceover] Williamsport
Area Community College faced transitional pains. Some, like scarce financial
resources for campus refurbishment and expansion,
traced back decades. Others were fresh. An infusion of liberal arts
faculty to teach core subjects such as English, math and
science, brought a new perspective to campus. – [Bob] There was the
liberal arts faculty, and there was the applied arts faculty. And to be very frank, there
was some friction between- Because things were
changing at the college, and some of the old timers did not endorse some of those changes. – The applied faculty,
technical faculty, thought that everything that was
happening on the other side of the street was a total waste of time. And there was, I mean, constant
bickering back and forth. We’re taking away from what
they need, blah, blah, blah. – [Voiceover] Carl remained
convinced that the long-term benefits as a community college outweighed any shortcomings. – [Kenneth] It took care of
many more students that were interested in other programs,
not technical in nature. – [David] The academic side began to add more academic classes to the
two-year technical programs, and I think that was a plus
for those programs to get a little more well-rounded education than what they were getting before. – [James] Probably the
most important development during the time of our moving
into a community college status was the accreditation process. In other words, how does it
measure up to a given standard for community colleges. And that opened our eyes to the fact that we had a long ways to go. – [Voiceover] The college was
granted accreditation in 1970. By that time the college
acquired the academic building it had shared with
Williamsport High School, opened a new automotive technology center, and received several hundred acres of land from the federal government. There an additional campus
emerged dedicated to forestry, horticulture and other earth sciences. A 1971 study commissioned
by the Pennsylvania Department of Education
validated Carl’s efforts and the new community
college’s unique mission. It found that Williamsport
produced almost as many skilled workers for the
trade and industry fields as all other community
colleges in the state combined. – [Voiceover] I think he
probably had a vision that he saw what the community college
could do for this place, and that maybe it had reached its limits as a technical institute. And with the community college
movement was smart enough to get us in on the ground floor. Great tribute to him that we did. – [Voiceover] Carl’s
21-year leadership tenure bridged idyllic post-war
America in the turbulent 60’s. During that time, he
advanced the school’s mission that originated in humble
vocational shops in 1914, and was molded by his
mentor, George Parkes, during the depths of the Great Depression. – [Grant] It would have been
difficult to find a more qualified successor to George
Parkes than Kenny Carl. He deeply understood
the importance of having vocational education, and
certainly didn’t differentiate and say, well this is
better than that and that. Education is education is education. – What we need to make
sure that community and technical colleges and
higher education focuses on is creating a flexible,
adaptable technical worker. You’re not training them for a job, you’re training them for a career. – [Jeffrey] It’s not
just enough to understand how things work or to
be able to make things, you have to understand
sort of the sociology of how they’ll be used. You have to be able to sell your idea. You have to convince
people that, you know, you’ve got a good approach, and so communication
skills are absolutely key. – [Voiceover] Across the
nation and in Williamsport, social unrest and economic
uncertainty followed the 1960’s. – [Dan] The college had gone through a very difficult time financially. There was an economic downturn. There was a drop in
anticipated enrollment. There was a shortfall in the budget of significant proportions for that time. It was also reflecting the
tone of the college dynamic changing and who were part of the college. – [Voiceover] The philosophical
barrier separating liberal arts and applied arts faculty continued to shape that dynamic. – [Voiceover] Much of that tension
probably reflected society, in that vocational education was viewed as working class related,
and academic education was viewed as middle class. – [Voiceover] But the two
camps would soon unite. Faculty reported for
the Fall, 1973 semester with an expired contract. Two months later, they went on strike. Technical and liberal
arts teachers became one on the picket line. – [Dan] Let’s say you have two gangs, and you wanna bring ’em together. It’s not just to get
them to know each other. It’s to deal with a common problem. And we all were dealing
with a common problem. That is, our contract,
our salary, our rights, our benefits, etc., and
the future of the college. – [Voiceover] After three
weeks, the administration settled with the faculty
union, and classes resumed. The agreement established
parity between teaching loads for lab and lecture-based instruction, and increased salary and benefits. Perhaps most importantly,
the experience and fight formed a bond among the teachers. – [Bob] For the first time,
we weren’t applied arts and liberal arts. We were a faculty, a faculty
that had to be reckoned with. – It was a pivotal point for the college. – [Voiceover] Following the
strike, Williamsport Area Community College hired a new President, William Feddersen. The 33-year-old became one
of the nation’s youngest college presidents when he
accepted the top post in 1974. – [William] I knew it
was a very solid college. Maybe they were going
through some tough times, but you know, tough
times don’t last forever. And I knew, you know, they
were obviously looking for new leadership. – [Voiceover] The new President
faced a $600,000 dollar budget deficit, a strained
relationship between faculty and the administration, and
a decaying physical plant. – [Bob] He really viewed all these things not as problems, which
they certainly were, but he viewed them as opportunities. And he felt he could make
a difference, and he did. – I made major changes in the budget in two weeks. Reorganized the college in two weeks. – [Voiceover] Feddersen
clustered departments into what are now known as academic schools, and addressed the college’s
heavily used, but substandard facilities in the new long-range plan. – [William] The facilities
were poor, but they were former industrial
facilities, and sometimes we couldn’t find time to clean
the rooms for the custodians. We were running a secondary
program in the morning, post-secondary in the
afternoon where there were some duplicate programs,
and we had adult education and part-time students in the evening, and we had some programs
for industry after midnight. – [Voiceover] Feddersen
secured approval for the construction of three
buildings dedicated to a library and hands-on instruction. He addressed workforce
needs with new majors, like dental hygiene, and established the developmental studies
program to assess and assist students deficient in math or English. – [Bob] I would say under
Bill Feddersen’s leadership we really began to become a true academic, comprehensive community college. – [Voiceover] A college
serving not only those seeking technical careers,
but also students hoping to establish the foundation
for further education. Students like Tom Marino. – I was fortunate enough to
live in the city that had the premiere school that I
needed at that particular time in my life. – [Voiceover] A former factory
worker, Marino grew tired of being passed over
for promotions because he didn’t have a college degree. At the age of 30, he
enrolled at Williamsport Area Community College, eyeing a legal career. – It was probably the best
move I’ve made in my life. – [Voiceover] After earning
his associates degree in general studies, Marino
obtained his bachelors degree and graduated from law school. He was elected Lycoming
County District Attorney, and eventually appointed U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. He went on to become a
United States Representative, serving the Tenth District
of Pennsylvania in Congress. – [Tom] I would not be where
I’m at today if it were not for Williamsport Area Community
College, that college. That’s where I got the
basics of my education. – An education is the
key to anybody’s future, and the community colleges open that door widely to everyone. – [Voiceover] Feddersen carried
that philosophy with him when he became president of
a California college in 1980. The self-described
ambitious change agent left Williamsport Area Community
College with an enrollment on the upswing, an $800,000
dollar budget surplus, and construction projects under way. – The past is important,
and history is important. But you have to always have an
eye on what’s going on today and what you’re building for
tomorrow, for the future. – Where before you could
live a whole generation and still use the technology, now you’re lucky if you
can get through the year. – You need to have a fundamental
understanding of technology. You can’t approach technology fearfully. And so the more people who
train and stem at any level, right, any level, the more
people who have that sort of basic vocabulary and skill
set are better equipped to do anything in society. – [Voiceover] The early
1980’s marked the beginning of a revolution, a digital revolution. Personal computers flood the marketplace. Industrial robots enhance
the manufacturing sector. And Williamsport Area Community
College prepares to address the seismic change in technology
under a new president, Dr. Robert Brueder. – He was a brilliant guy,
and he was just exactly the right man during those years. – [Voiceover] The Queens
native began his career teaching junior high in New York. Later he earned a PhD in
higher education administration and served as a key official
at a Florida community college. At age 36, he was one of the
youngest college presidents, just like William Feddersen before him. However, Brueder’s management
style was different that his predecessor’s. – I was impatient. I knew where we needed to go. I wanted to get there quickly. I expected people to
run as hard and as fast as I was willing to run. – And so he stepped on many
toes in his determination to get things accomplished. – Even those who disagreed
with him over the years, I think, have to admit he was
a man of tremendous vision. He could see opportunity
where sometimes the rest of us might have feared the risk,
he saw the opportunity, and he was willing to take it. – [Robert] It had a great
reputation in vocational and technical education. I mean, I don’t know that
it had any competition equal to it in the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. So that was certainly
something to build off of. – [Voiceover] Before building,
there was much to tear down when it came to the
college’s physical plant. – [Robert] I’ve never seen
anything quite like it, even until this day. I can go back and remember
that first walk on campus, and the three buildings that were, for all intents and purposes, condemned. – As Bob Brueder would
characterize it, this place has no, zero, curb appeal. And he was right. – [Voiceover] Brueder began
dismantling dilapidated buildings and replacing them
with facilities that addressed emerging high tech education
and training needs. The Unit Six building
topped his demolition list. Erected in 1913, it housed classrooms and administrative offices. – It was a huge brick
building which was the former trolley barn of the city of Williamsport. When Dr. Brueder came aboard,
he wasn’t there too long and he was gonna tear down Unit
Six come hell or high water. – [Voiceover] While the
community college focused on improving campus
facilities, relations with sponsoring school districts deteriorated. – [Robert] You have to
have a local taxing body provide one-third of the
tuition of the residents of that taxing body area. In our case, we had the 20
school districts in 10 counties that we had to go out and
ask for budget approval, even though they contributed
less than 15 percent of the operating budget. – [Gene] It was a nightmare. Twenty school districts,
there’s nine members on each school board, so that’s 180 people that you had to take the budget. – [Robert] Eventually by
1985, just before then, they didn’t wanna continue sponsorship. They were on hard times
financially, didn’t wanna support grades 13 and 14 anymore, and
we got that and understood it. So we eventually would have
to find another parent, so to speak. I think we were right on the
edge on more than one occasion, and it was really the twelth hour when the city of Williamsport stepped up. – [Voiceover] Williamsport
agreed to become a temporary sponsor to
keep the college afloat. However, only city residents
received the tuition discount previously available to students from the 20 school districts. – [Robert] When that happened,
we took a tremendous dive in our enrollment, and of
course with that, revenue. So that was the most critical year. We almost hemorrhaged and
bled to death that year because we lost significiant enrollment because of the change in sponsorship. – [Voiceover] In the midst
of the sponsorship crisis, Brueder made a daring
decision that would define his presidency and shape
the college’s future. He championed the construction
of an Advanced Technology and Health Sciences
Center to prepare students for technical career opportunities beyond the twentieth century. – [Bob] Robotics, laser
technology, plastics, polymers, automated
manufacturing, fiber optics. These were all in his head. – It wasn’t the building, but
it was what it represented. We wanted this to be a
first class institution with technology as its reason for being. – [Robert] When we were
looking to build it, we needed money. I went then to Lycoming
County and asked them for five billion dollars. I thought they would choke. At the same time, we
were in the throes of the sponsorship crisis, and
we were talking literally about the possibility of
Williamsport Area Community College going out of business. So I’m sure there were
people in the community who looked at me and said,
who is this guy, he’s crazy. – Now on one hard we’re
talking about the college is gonna close, and on the
other hand we’re building this 150,000 square foot building. – [Alvin] Well Bob is so
dedicated to making the college what it’s become that a little thing like sponsorship wasn’t gonna stand in his way. – [Robert] The Lycoming
County commissioners gave me the five million dollars. So we took the five
million, plus money we had, and some money from the
state, and we built the Advanced Technology and
Health Sciences Center. We put in that building
flagship programs that we could bring people in,
show them what we were doing, what we were capable of
doing, and that would again continue to garner the support we needed to continue to build out. – [Voiceover] The new facility impressed industry giants like IBM. The company praised the
college’s commitment to a high tech future in
its Viewpoint magazine. – [Voiceover] North central
Pennsylvania’s allure for major new employers
was feeble, at best. Only the International
Little League Championship regularly kept Williamsport
in the public eye. The faculty and administration
of the Williamsport Area Community College are
changing the scenario. And they’re doing it in
an innovative way that marries a rich appreciation
of tradition to a visionary commitment
to a high-tech future. – [Voiceover] The college’s
high tech commitment proved essential after
the City of Williamsport sent notice that it could no
longer afford sponsorship. – [Bob] People in the local
community, nor many people at the college realized
how very close we came to closing this institution. – We were fighting time
and trying to find somebody that could see the same
vision we could see. – [Voiceover] While
serving on a local bank’s board of directors, Brueder
became intrigued with mergers, which were prevalent in
the banking industry. He wondered if merging with
another educational institution could offer a permanent
solution to the college’s perpetual sponsorship dilemma. – [Robert] If you’re
gonna get a deal done, and you’re gonna merge,
then merge with someone who can bring something to the table. Who can bring something
to then Williamsport Area Community College. So where else but Penn State University? – [Voiceover] Brueder dispatched
a team of local legislators to float the merger idea
with Penn State executives. – [Alvin] They weren’t really
that interested in what we were talking about. Well finally, we were trying to explain, we weren’t in any financial trouble, we didn’t want their money. We were perfectly capable
of taking care of ourselves. Their whole attitude changed. Just it was almost like a miracle. They sort of sat up in their
seats, began to ask questions, and to make a long story
short, that was the beginning of serious discussions. – [Voiceover] Those
discussions prompted Penn State officials to visit Williamsport
Area Community College and its new centerpiece,
the Advanced Technology and Health Sciences Center. – [Voiceover] They came. They were impressed. We had equipment and
processes they didn’t have at Penn State. – [Robert] That was the
beginning of when they went back and they said, this is a
deal we oughta be doing. The one thing we wanted,
though, was to maintain our independence or individuality. We didn’t wanna be absorbed inside the framework of Penn State. We didn’t wanna become a branch campus, or the college of technology
inside Penn State. – [Voiceover] If they wanted
us to be an agent that could react quickly to the needs
of the State of Pennsylvania, then we had to maintain our
curriculum and its process. – Penn State’s the mothership. We’re these little fighters
that can get out there and move around. – [Voiceover] On July 1st,
1989, Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey signed legislation creating Pennsylvania College of
Technology as a special mission affiliate of Penn
State, with its own curriculum, board of directors and president. – It was a rebirth of the college. It gave us our second chance, and I believe would lead to great things. – [Voiceover] The affiliation
led to baccalaureate degrees, and on-campus student housing,
making applied technology education more attractive to
traditional college prospects. – [Bob] Without Bob
Brueder, we would have never been a candidate for consideration. I mean, can you imagine
what it’d been like if these people from Penn
State had come here in 1981? They would have said, we want
no part of this disaster, just looking at the physical plant. So Bob Brueder enabled the
discussion to take place. – [Voiceover] Transforming
the college while maintaining its fundamental commitment
to hand-on education secured Brueder’s legacy long
before he left Williamsport in 1997 and assumed the
presidency of an Illinois college. – It really was the love of my life. It really was a young man
getting an opportunity to paint a canvas. And I was fortunate to
have had 17 years to try to paint that canvas that
was never gonna be done. No canvas, no painting is ever done. So when I left, there was
still work to be done. – [John] CEOs across the
country sing the same tune. They’re very afraid of the
lack of skilled workers. – [Mike] The whole
thing is so upside down. You got a trillion
dollars in student debt. You got kids starting their
careers 60 grand in the hole, trained for jobs that don’t exist. Madness. Pointing that out resonates with parents. It resonates with kids. – [Jennifer] I do
believe that our nation’s community and technical
schools sit at the heart of solving the skills gap problem. – [Voiceover] The
information technology era encapsulates the late 1990’s. The internet grows at an exponential rate. Industry is driven more by
information and computerization, and less by labor. Pennsylvania College of
Technology embraces this change with a new president,
Dr. Davie Jane Gilmore, the first woman to lead the institution. – [Davie] I grew up believing
that the best person gets the job. The person who has the
best skills and abilities. And I’ve never seen
gender in that respect. And so, you know, I respect
the fact that it’s a milestone for women that I became
the first woman president, but I became the President. – [Voiceover] Gilmore was
the first faculty member hired for the college’s new
dental hygiene program in 1977. She steadily advanced
in administrative roles before assuming the presidency in 1998. – [James] She brings an understanding of every aspect of the institution
to play as President. I say we’ll be hard pressed
to find somebody in the future that will have that understanding. – Davie focused on making
us part of the community and restoring a focus
on the human element. – She communicates very
well with all segements of this community. Her involvement in the
community organizations has brought a great deal of
reputation to the college. – [Voiceover] Gilmore served
on the Pennsylvania Governor’s advisory commission on
post-secondary education, recommending strategies
for ensuring the state’s education system is capable of meeting contemporary workplace needs. – [Davie] The only way
that this institution, from its very beginning
’til today, has been able to be responsive to business and industry, responsive to community
needs, responsive to workforce needs, is to be agile. – [Voiceover] Penn College
remains agile through the development of new associate
and bachelor degree programs that meet emerging career needs
in a wide range of fields. From automotive restoration
to engineering technologies, and web and interactive
media, to computer gaming and simulation. – [Davie] Not only do you
have a fancy, whiz bang automotive lab or collision
repair lab or welding lab, but we really believe that
the key to your education is your general education foundation, and critical thinking, problem
solving, mathematical skills. And so we have to live up to that. – [Voiceover] A state-of-the-art
library reflects the college’s commitment to addressing the information driven reality
of the 21st century. And the transformation
of a furniture factory into a technology-infused
instructional facility provides opportunity for
growth in advanced programs. And the former Williamsport
High School building might resemble its 1914
appearance on the outside, but a refurbished interior
provides a rich learning environment for general
education classes that prepare students for success in an
ever changing workplace. In recent years the
college has moved swiftly to become a national leader,
offering training initiatives for the natural gas industry
when a vast reservoir of natural gas was
discovered in Pennsylvania. – Penn College is at the central part of this whole development,
and we responded very rapidly to the requests from the industry. – We have a responsibility
to make sure that this great natural resource
we have is done right, and managed correctly. So how better to do that than to provide the safety training and
the educational foundation for the workforce? – [Gene] Our entire focus
is training and workforce. So I think that we always
need to have people out there that know what’s going on in industry, and be able to orient our
programs towards that field. And I think as long as we
do that, this institution will be very successful. – [Robert] We used to say
we wanna be the premier college of Pennsylvania,
you know, the premier technical institute. Well, I think we oughta
think more nationally. There aren’t many Penn
Colleges in this country who do the work we do. – [Davie] I think I would
say that my pride comes from our responsiveness
and our agility again, to meet the needs of the
Commonwealth, meet the needs of business and industry, meet
the needs of the workplace, and meet the needs of the nation. We have different challenges
and different opportunities, but this place will go on forever. And there’ll be new
leaders, and there will be new marks of distinction,
and there will be new significant accomplishments, and we haven’t even thought of them yet. – [Mike] You know, work is
great, but meaningful work. That’s the thing that
people really aspire to. – [Jennifer] I think higher
education is at the front end of change here in this country. And in fact, it’s recognized
that it’s not just theory-based learning,
but it’s in fact hands-on learning and how you apply
that theory in practice. – And Penn College’s is one
of the keys to open that locked door, the door behind
which is an economic future that has its foundation
in a high skill level. – [Jake] Using the academia
to create the curriculum that matches the workforce
that’s needed now in the economy. And I think that’s what
it does, and it’s critical to the future of the
Commonwealth and the country. – [Robert] We can look forward
to the next hundred years, but literally, though, in the next- We won’t have to wait
a hundred year to see the value, the importance, the necessity of having institutions like Penn College.

2 thoughts on “Working Class: 100 Years of Hands-On Education”

  1. Class of '85. Great school. Proud to have started my education there and proud to have worked there after graduation as well. What a great story.

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