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President buzzes into Mont Alto campus for visit

May 15, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

MONT ALTO, Pa. - Although he wasn't necessarily expecting to set a speed record, Penn State University's systemwide president gave it the college try anyway when cross-cutting a log Monday evening.

Graham B. Spanier crouched into position and sliced through the wood with a member of the Mont Alto campus's Woodsmen team.

Spanier, who said he gets to the campus once a year, arrived at the school on his "Road Scholars" bus trip and is scheduled to depart this morning.

"This is as beautiful as the campus has ever looked," Spanier said. "We're just very proud of what's happening here."

His day started Monday with history and outreach discussions at the university's main campus, then moved to the state capital in Harrisburg, Pa. There, he toured both chambers of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and those of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

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Two Penn State faculty members who are Civil War enthusiasts spoke to Spanier about the battles while he visited Gettysburg, Pa.

Spanier said his trips to Mont Alto remind him of the intimate ambiance that he feels is conducive to learning.

"When I encourage students to come to Mont Alto, I know I'm doing a good thing," said Spanier, who was appointed the university system's 16th president in 1995.

Spanier was welcomed to the Mont Alto campus with a spread of artfully displayed finger foods and a demonstration by the Woodsmen.

Students threw axes, chopped stumps, demonstrated the "underhand chop" and cross-cut logs while being timed.

The team, which is sponsored by Stihl, competes in four competitions annually, including those in Canada and North Carolina.

"We've got the mid-Atlantic trophy. ... We won that three years in a row, so we're the defending champs," team member Andrew Baker said.

Baker is a forestry major, but said the team has had members from the nursing program as well. Members practice daily in the weeks leading up to a meet, he said.

The skills don't really translate into everyday life, Baker said.

"It's more of a tradition. The cross-cut saw and axe go back to the 1880s," he said.

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