By Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Charles Cable
When I began teaching at Allegheny in 1969, Harold State had already been on the faculty for thirty-two years, Fred Steen for twenty-seven. Aside from their seniority on the faculty, I came to respect both men, and to see them as role models, for their passionate commitment to the liberal arts, to Allegheny, and, most especially, to their students.
Dr. State, who taught chemistry and served as chair of the chemistry department for many years, joined the faculty in 1937 and retired in 1975. Dr. Steen joined the faculty in 1942 and retired in 1977, and for much of that time—twenty-seven years, in fact—he was chair of the College’s mathematics department.
Fred and Harold were colleagues for most of their time on campus, and even today they make a point of getting together twice a month to have lunch at the Wendy’s in downtown Meadville. It can be hard to get them to talk about themselves—each is unassumingly modest—but in September they graciously agreed to forgo lunch at Wendy’s for burgers and coffee, and a little reminiscing, at my house.
Both men have been slowed by age—Dr. State is ninety-three, and Dr. Steen is ninety-six—but they enjoy contact with their families, listening to music, and, of course, hearing from former students.
Both Dr. State and Dr. Steen enjoyed tremendously their contact with students—both in the classroom and outside the classroom—during their long teaching careers. They note that they still hear from alumni from time to time and deeply appreciate every contact.
“We all notice that students leave en masse—at graduation,” says Dr. Steen. “They’re not always stimulated to say goodbye. So it’s always surprising and gratifying to have them say, maybe ten years later, ‘I really enjoyed that course.’”
“Of course,” he adds with a laugh, “I’m sure there are others who have different opinions!”
It would be hard to imagine an Allegheny without these two wonderful teachers and mentors in the decades between the late 1930s and the 1970s—and I think it would be hard for them to imagine their lives without Allegheny. Both men speak of the school and its students with unabashed affection, recalling the camaraderie among colleagues and the beauty of the campus, especially on those evenings when the Singers would continue raising their voices in song as they left Ford Chapel and made their way across campus after rehearsals with Morten Luvaas.
They also recall, with a little less affection, their first encounters with Meadville weather. “When I first came to Meadville, I thought it was the wettest spot on earth,” Dr. State remembers. “I’d never seen so much rain as in those first seven or ten days.”
Dr. Steen adds, “When my wife, Marian, and I first came to Meadville, the weather was so bad that Marian said, ‘Well, we won’t be staying here long!’” The rest, as they say, is history.
In my view, these two men were eminent faculty figures—the likes of which are seldom seen. I feel honored to know them and to have served on the faculty with them.
Editor’s note: Any former students of Dr. State’s or Dr. Steen’s who would like to get in touch with them are welcome to contact Kathy Roos at Allegheny magazine (firstname.lastname@example.org; 814-332-6755). She’ll be delighted to forward all comments received to Dr. State or Dr. Steen.
This article was featured in the Fall/Winter 2003 Issue of Allegheny College Magazine.