Penn State Mont Alto graduates 140

May 15, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

MONT ALTO, Pa. - Penn State Mont Alto graduates have attained leading positions in science, government and business, but that is not the purpose of education, an alumnus told the graduating class of 1999 on Saturday.

Dr. Albert M. Kligman, a 1939 graduate of the school who invented Retin-A anti-wrinkle cream, told 140 graduating seniors that a college education is a "visa for rising-up income."

"But it's much more than that," he said. "You don't just come here to be a better breadwinner. You come to be a better citizen."

It was economic concerns that led Kligman to Penn State University Mont Alto. In the midst of the Great Depression in 1935, Kligman said he was unable to find a job.


So, he wrote to the president of the college and asked for a scholarship. To his surprise, he got one.

His parents, who did not attend college, were skeptical.

"College? What is college? What do you do there?" Kligman recalled his parents asking. "For goodness sakes, why don't you go to work? Do something useful."

Kligman, 83, said older people tend to remember their own youth fondly. Many of his peers refer to the early 20th century as the "good old days," he said.

But such reminiscence glosses over the fact that it was a country with no Medicare, no Social Security and no unemployment insurance, Kligman said.

"I want to tell you they were lousy times. They were terrible. There was pessimism in the land," he told the graduates and several hundred well-wishers who packed the Multipurpose Activities Center. "Keep that in mind."

Kligman graduated from Mont Alto with a degree in botany and went on to the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a Ph.D. in botany and a doctorate in medicine.

He serves as emeritus professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and director of the Aging Skin Clinic. He also discovered a test that doctors now use to diagnose fungus diseases on the skin and nails.

But Kligman has maintained close ties with his undergraduate alma mater. In 1997, he and his wife established the Albert and Lorraine Kligman Endowed Scholarship for Returning Students.

Kligman told the graduating students that he has remained fiercely loyal to the school because it gave him a shot at a time when prestigious Ivy League schools discriminated along class, racial and religious lines.

"They were absolutely racist," he said. "These universities were family affairs. The admissions standards were strict social requirements."

But Penn State Mont Alto offered "a chance to get on that ladder," Kligman said.

"I received my application and none of these questions came up," he said. "Penn State never played the religion game or the income game.  We were way ahead of our time."

Kligman said he takes great satisfaction from the fact that Ivy League schools have been forced over the last 50 years to reach out to different racial and socioeconomic groups to maintain their elite status.

He asked the students to remember that as they make their way in the world.

"This university gave you a precious gift called education," he said.

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