2013 marks the 50th anniverary of Penn State Great Valley. "Looking Back" is a special feature highlighting the school's history of academics and professional development.
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In 1991, the first Penn State Great Valley Advisory Board, comprised of 22 leaders from business and education, convenes to advise the campus leaders on issues of academic programming, campus image, and fundraising.
During his visit to Penn State Great Valley in 2000, John Amos (left) was the keynote speaker for the School’s Diversity Action Council’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Amos addressed the teachings and actions of the late civil rights leader whose message included the importance of giving back to the community, the power of the media, and the value of education. Amos is pictured receiving a print from local artist, Dane Tilghman, well-known for his golf art and Negro League Baseball images.
In 1963 Penn State established the Penn State Graduate Center (Penn State Great Valley) in a rented school building in King of Prussia, Penna. Penn State paid $1 annually to the Upper Merion Area School District to lease the Henderson Road School.
In 1989 U.S. Air Force Col. Guion S. “Guy” Bluford, the first black astronaut in space and a Penn State alumnus (1964), spoke to students and community members at the school’s Great Valley campus. In his presentation he urged the audience to get serious about their studies, “I had to work very hard in elementary, junior and high school to go on to Penn State.” He said his biggest controversy surrounding one space mission centered around an electric razor. Apparently an American manufacturer raised strenuous objection’s to Bluford using a foreign-made razor forcing him to take two razors—one domestic and one foreign—on his mission. “They both worked fine,” he said with a laugh. The crowd also heard of his career suggestions about opportunities in aerospace and aeronautics.
Recently we had the opportunity to speak to Tony Plitnik who worked with Rouse and Associates and was part of the driving force to bring Penn State to the Great Valley Corporate Park.
A funny anecdote that Plitnik recalls was at the initial meeting between then-Penn State President Bryce Jordan and the Rouse Associates representatives. “Bryce stood up and said, ‘We were looking at our 100-year plan and decided about the need to move here.’ Well, at that point (and they were both heavy smokers) Rouse coughed, pushed his chair back and said, ‘Your what? Your 100-year plan?’ He was astounded and continued, ‘Every now and then someone asks me about our six-month plan, maybe we’ll talk about next year. I can’t conceive 100 years out.’ President Jordan responded, ‘No, we are the state institution. We’ve got to think in terms of time like that. It’s part of our mantra.’ The whole Rouse team was stunned.”
In 1999, campus advisory board member Dallas Krapf, president of Krapf Bus Companies, and his wife, Di, donated a generous gift to the School to fully furnish and landscape the 19th-century farmhouse situated on the campus grounds. The house was built in 1853 on Swedesford Road and has retained the charm and quaint distinctions of an old farmhouse: deep window sills, two-foot thick stone walls, high ceilings, and a rich walnut staircase railing. Its original wooden shaker roof rests under the existing tin roof, painted blue to match the shutters. Period furniture and prints of Old Main line the interior walls.
The building was not always Penn State property. It was built by the Great Valley Presbyterian Church and was initially used as a parsonage. Ruth Woll McFall, a former resident of the house, recalls in a letter dated spring 1999 how “the pastor would take his horse and buggy [note the horse and buggy by the tree on the far left in the photo] and turn right onto Swedesford Road to his congregation gathering church a mile and a half down the road.” She adds, “I’m grateful to the Krapfs for recognizing and restoring this grand old farmhouse. I loved living [t]here. It provided a rich grassroots nest from which to launch into the world. Know that this was a treasured homestead and enjoy its continued use to nourish and launch others to be ‘at home’ in our world.” She concludes the letter with “I’ll be back.”
The house remained a minister’s residence until 1981 when it was bought by the Chester County Industrial Development Authority. In 1991, it was designated a historical structure by the Chester County Historical Society.