100 years of forest studies recognized

May 14, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

MONT ALTO, Pa. - A historical marker depicting the 100th anniversary of Penn State University's Mont Alto campus was unveiled Tuesday near the bridge over the East Branch of Antietam Creek that leads into the campus.

A crowd of nearly 100 gathered for the event.

The school opened in 1903 as Pennsylvania's forestry school, the first in the state and the third in the country.

That was the year the Wright Brothers first flew, Teddy Roosevelt opened the first national park and the first Harley-Davidson motorcycles were built, said David Gnage, CEO at Mont Alto.

The campus stayed the state's forestry school until 1963, when it became a commonwealth campus and went co-ed.

It began by offering the first one or two years of study toward most Penn State majors. Today, the Mont Alto campus offers four - and soon to be five - four-year degrees and eight two-year associate degrees.


"If the founders returned today, they would be impressed with the faculty and staff," Gnage said.

James Grace, state forester for Pennsylvania, said the opening of the school a century ago was a significant event for the state and the country.

The school opened with four students. Each had to own a horse and take care of it. That's how they got around.

"The students lived off the land," Grace said.

For its first 60 years, the school turned out foresters, not only for Pennsylvania, but for other states, the federal government and private industry.

"Many of the nation's early leading conservationists began their education here at Mont Alto," Gnage said.

A founder of the school was Joseph T. Rothrock, a medical doctor, Arctic explorer and botanist.

His great-grandson, Joseph T. Rothrock III, of Davidsville, Md., was present Tuesday for the marker's unveiling.

He said his great-grandfather died before he was born.

"It's awesome to be here in the same spot where my great-grandfather could have been standing," Rothrock said.

Sponsors of the historical marker, one of more than 1,900 in Pennsylvania, were the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Society of American Foresters, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, the Penn State Mont Alto Centennial Committee and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

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