Feature Stories

Corps Commitments

Allegheny Alumni Serve the World As Peace Corps Volunteers

By Josh Tysiachney

Since 1961, 162 Allegheny College alumni have served in the Peace Corps, an independent federal agency that places volunteers around the world to work on issues ranging from education and environmental preservation to business development and information technology.

The Peace Corps has historically relied on recent college graduates to fill its ranks—and that continues to be the case today, says Peace Corps recruiter Andrew Burtless. Most of the applications he sees are from people who have graduated from college in the past five years. Not surprisingly, a school like Allegheny—where students performed more than 25,000 hours of community service last year—tends to produce proportionally more Peace Corps volunteers than institutions with less of a focus on service.

“It’s a matter of students developing their own ethic of service and wanting to serve the common good that happens in many contexts here at the College,” says Dave Roncolato ’79, Allegheny’s director of community service and service-learning. And because so many Allegheny alumni, faculty, and staff members have had positive experiences in the Peace Corps, current students see it as an attractive opportunity.

“It’s a huge step to do the Peace Corps,” says Roncolato. “So what gives a student the courage and the tools to do something like that? I don’t think it’s one experience. It’s a matter of them saying, ‘I went out a little bit on a limb and it held me up, so I can go a little farther.’ They eventually learn to fly and say ‘I can do this.'”

By exploring the links below, you can read the personal reflections of Allegheny alumni who have edged out from that limb, changing the lives of others and encountering life-changing experiences of their own through service in the Peace Corps.

This article was featured in the Summer 2007 issue of Allegheny Magazine.


Six Alumni to Enter Hall of Fame

Allegheny College will honor the 2007 class of the Athletic Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Sunday, June 3. This year’s inductees combined to earn 15 All-America honors, 16 all-conference awards, more than 400 wins, a winning percentage of nearly 80 percent, and a dozen NCAA Tournament berths. Inductees include football players Nick Reiser ’97 and Ron Bendekovic ’93 (posthumously), Carolyn Birdsall Padden ’95 (diving), Gia Celularo ’88 (softball), Joe Musgrove ’97 (baseball), and Denise Petrossi Saldana ’90 (soccer).

2006 Sport Wrap-ups


sports-fb The football team improved greatly over its 3-7 record in 2005, finishing at 6-4 for the year. The squad used a balanced offense and an attacking defense to set the tone for a productive season.

The Gators began the year with a 35-10 victory over Westminster before falling to eventual NCAA Tournament qualifier Washington & Jefferson 22- 10. Allegheny then took advantage of its first game on the new Frank B. Fuhrer Field by demolishing Hiram College, scoring 35 second-quarter points in a 45-10 win. The Blue and Gold followed that victory with a 23-6 win over Denison on the road, improving to 3-1.

A trip to Indiana took Allegheny to Wabash College, where the Gators fell 41-27 despite a three-touchdown rally in the third quarter. Quarterback Jimmy Savage completed 38 of 58 passes for 400 yards—single-game school records in all three categories—while also throwing a careerhigh four touchdowns.

The Gators recovered a week later, picking up their fourth victory with a 49-38 shootout win over Kenyon College. Senior running back Mario Tarquinio rushed for 252 yards, just seven short of the single-game school record. The Gators next faced the College of Wooster Fighting Scots in a back-and-forth game. With four seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Scots completed a last-second Hail Mary pass for a touchdown to secure a 27-21 victory over the Gators.

A win in the wind and rain on Homecoming secured at least a .500 season for Allegheny, improving the team to 5-3 before a 39-21 road loss to eventual North Coast Athletic Conference champion Wittenberg University. The squad finished the season with a 35-14 victory over Oberlin College.

Leading the way for the Gators by way of post-season honors was kicker Josh Whiteside, who was named first-team All-Great Lakes Region by D3football.com.

Whiteside and teammates Jason Black and Curt Anderson were each named to the All-NCAC first team, while Mario Tarquinio, offensive tackle Justin Victor, defensive lineman Tom Glamuzina, and linebacker Mateo Villa were each named to the league’s second team. Savage, Dallas Robinson, and Jim Lieb each earned Honorable Mention all-league honors.

Men’s & Women’s Cross Country

sports-cc It’s difficult to improve on a tradition that includes more championships than any other school in the history of the North Coast Athletic Conference, but the Allegheny cross country teams did just that in 2006. The men reached nationals for the first time in school history, and the women continued their trend of national appearances.

The men’s squad easily claimed its sixth NCAC title by placing seven runners in the top 16, including conference runner of the year Marco Dozzi, who finished first overall, and runner-up Ryan Place. At the Mideast Regional Meet, five Gators grabbed all-region honors to secure a second-place finish and an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Championships.

Allegheny closed the most successful season in team history by running its way to third place at the national meet, edging out Cortland State by one point. Both Place and Dozzi garnered All-America honors by finishing 6th and 23rd, respectively. They became the first duo in Allegheny cross country history to earn national honors in the same season.

sports-ccg The Allegheny women were no less impressive in their 2006 season. The Gators finished in the top three at four races this fall, including second place at the NCAA Pre-Regional Meet at Waynesburg College and third place at the Mideast Regional. Allegheny narrowly missed its 11th NCAC title in women’s cross country, finishing just two points behind champion Oberlin. The Gator women closed the year with their 10th appearance at nationals, finishing tied for 25th.

Allegheny benefited from a blend of veteran leadership and young talent this season, including senior Scarlett Graham and first-year student Mia Symoniak. Graham was the team’s top finisher in six of eight races, finishing first at Rochester and earning all-league and all-region accolades with 2nd- and 19th-place showings, respectively. Symoniak was tabbed the NCAC Newcomer of the Year after crossing the line 6th overall before grabbing All-Mideast Region honors by coming in 27th.

Senior Michelle Corkum and junior Eva Weyers gave Allegheny four runners in the top 10 at the conference meet by finishing 8th and 10th, respectively, with Corkum also placing a teambest 110th at nationals and Weyers earning allregion with a 34th-place finish. Several Gators routinely competed for the fifth starting spot, with sophomore Carley Latus emerging as the most consistent. She finished 24th and 43rd at the conference and regional meets, respectively.

Men’s Soccer

sports-soccer The men’s soccer team put together another successful season, reaching the NCAC Tournament finals for the third consecutive year. With an overall record of 11-5-3 and a 5-4-0 conference mark, the Gators finished with a No. 9 ranking in the Great Lakes Region.

Allegheny began the year by marching through its non-league slate with a 6-0-2 record and moving as high as No. 16 in the national rankings. The Gators suffered their first setback of the year to perennial national power Ohio Wesleyan in their conference opener, falling 2-1 despite out-shooting the hosts. Allegheny bounced back to win four of its next five NCAC contests, but the Blue and Gold put the season on the brink by losing a pair of league games to Denison and Hiram.

In the final regular season game, Allegheny and Wittenberg netted quick opening goals in the first four minutes then went scoreless for the next 100. Junior Eric Sloan sent the Tigers packing with a game-winning goal in the second overtime, securing the fourth and final NCAC playoff spot for Allegheny.

As the No. 4 seed, the Gators had the unenviable task of drawing top-seed and then-No. 4 Ohio Wesleyan. Reminiscent of its 2004 title run, Allegheny knocked off the Battling Bishops in penalty kicks to set up a finale with Denison. Despite erasing a 2-0 deficit and sending the contest to overtime, the Gators fell short in the bid for their second appearance in the NCAA Tournament, falling 3-2.

Allegheny was rewarded for its efforts by having five members voted to the All-NCAC team and two more landing all-region accolades. Leading the charge were senior Mark Dobish and Sloan, who each earned first-team all-league and thirdteam All-Great Lakes Region honors. Dobish was the offensive leader with 13 points on five goals and three assists, while Sloan chipped in with three goals and one assist while anchoring the defensive unit. Sophomore midfielder Nathaniel Yates earned second-team honors, while seniors Daniel Carik and Chris Fedele garnered honorable mention selections.

Senior Alan Carr finished second to Dobish with five goals and one assist, followed by Jimmy Beyer’s five scores.

Women’s Soccer

sports-soccerg Denied a trip to the NCAC Tournament, the women’s soccer team made its presence felt in the race for the league championship by spoiling not just one team’s chances at the title but two in the final week of the regular season. The Gators posted their 11th consecutive winning season with an overall record of 10-7-1 this fall, including 3-4-1 in the NCAC.

After starting the season with back-to-back losses against steep competition at the Nazareth Tournament, Allegheny reeled off six consecutive wins against non-league competition. The streak came to an unfortunate end with losses in three of the next four contests, including a pair of one-goal losses in overtime to Carnegie Mellon and Kenyon. The Blue and Gold rebounded with dominating wins over Hiram and Earlham, but disappointing losses to Oberlin and Ohio Wesleyan eliminated the team from the postseason.

Despite missing the NCAC Tournament for the second straight year, Allegheny made an impact by keeping Wooster and Wittenberg from capturing the regular season title. The Gators easily disposed of the Fighting Scots on the road before denying the Tigers in their bid for the championship with a 0-0 tie.

All nine of Allegheny’s top scorers were underclassmen, including junior Ashley Hughes and sophomores Christy McShea and Katie Murphy. Both McShea and Murphy landed on the All-NCAC Second Team after finishing first and tied for second on the squad with 21 and 16 points, respectively. Hughes picked up honorable mention accolades with seven goals and two assists. The Gators were 9-0 when McShea scored a goal in 2006.


sports-vb Wins may have been hard to come by in the 2006 season, but the volleyball team gained a wealth of experience going head to head against some of the best teams in the nation. The Gators finished out the year 11-20 overall and 6-10 in the North Coast Athletic Conference, placing sixth in the regular season standings.

The nine non-conference teams to which the Gators fell combined for a final record of 200-95. Out of Allegheny’s 14 non-league foes, eight posted 20 or more wins, including NCAA Division III Tournament participant Capital University (25-9).

Allegheny’s non-conference schedule was just preparation for another competitive season in the NCAC. After starting the season 3-7 in the league, the Gators split their remaining six games with 3-1 wins over Wooster, Ohio Wesleyan, and Earlham. Four of Allegheny’s 10 losses came at the hands of national semifinalist and NCAC regular-season champion Wittenberg and conference-tournament winner Hiram.

Head coach Bridget Sheehan (521-313) relied heavily on a trio of juniors in her 21st season at the helm, including all-league honorees Betsy LaPorte and Annie Schultheis as well as Jenna Hackett. These three led the way offensively, ranking first, second, and third in total kills and kills per game. Schultheis finished with a team-best 326 kills and ranked second on the squad with 344 digs en route to All-NCAC honorable mention accolades. LaPorte posted 267 kills and a teamhigh 137 blocks to notch second-team honors. Hackett tallied 221 kills and 66 total blocks, each third-best for the Gators.

This story was featured in the Winter/Spring 2007 issue of Allegheny Magazine.

Keeping It Green

College is front and center on environmental issues and good business practices

By Doug McInnis

kig1 As the ecology movement came of age more than three decades ago, Allegheny was among the first institutions to recognize that study of the environment should become a major part of its curriculum. Today, it has become a national leader in the quality and scope of its programs , which emphasize that the environmental movement and business must come together to solve global warming and other environmental threats to the planet.

If you were to travel back in time to 1970, the year of the first Earth Day celebration, you would see that the battle lines in the environmental debate were crisply drawn. Environmentalists were on one side, industry on the other.

Thirty-seven years later, the battle lines have largely vanished. On one side are the environmentalists, and on that same side are a growing number of American and foreign industries, a group that includes General Electric, BP Oil, Wal-Mart, and the Ford Motor Company. So it’s not surprising that the environmental curriculum at Allegheny is not about “us versus them.” It’s about solving environmental problems. “Business is an integral part of solving environmental problems in the twenty-first century,” says Terrence Bensel, associate professor of environmental science. “Business has the capital, the brains, and the entrepreneurial spirit. The idea that you will solve environmental problems without business is foolish.”

kig2 For that reason, environmental issues are part of the economics curriculum and economics is part of the environmental curriculum. But Allegheny has gone one step further, incorporating environmental issues into a wide spectrum of disciplines, including biology, geology, art, political science, and English—de facto recognition that it’s impossible to separate any part of our world from the environment in which it operates.

The same thinking applies to Allegheny’s campus, which is beginning to make widespread capital improvements to shift the College firmly into the future. Wind energy now accounts for 10 percent of the College’s power usage—and that figure will soon increase to 15 percent. Leaves and other organic matter are turned into mulch in a high-tech composter. The new North Village apartment-style residences use natural lighting, furniture made of wood from sustainable forests, and a geothermal heating and cooling system. The new carpeting is made of recycled materials and will be recycled in turn when it wears out. New parking lots are being built of porous materials to allow rain and snow to seep into the ground rather than run off into the storm sewer system. The use of chemical sprays to maintain the College’s lawns has been cut 90 percent, and housekeeping is using environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.

kig3 “It’s as different as night and day from when I arrived here sixteen years ago,” says Ken Hanna, the director of Allegheny’s physical plant. “Now we incorporate environmental principles into everything we do.”

These types of changes could not occur without alliances between business and the environmental movement. Without business, the College couldn’t purchase wind power, couldn’t buy wood products from sustainable forests, and couldn’t utilize porous pavement systems. Without business these products and services simply wouldn’t exist.

But the reverse is true as well. Without environmentally conscious customers such as Allegheny, there would be no market for the environmental products that business is rushing to produce. General Electric plans to make money producing green products. Wal-Mart has become a leading seller of organic food and a leader in energy conservation. BP, the British oil giant, is spending billions of dollars to develop solar power systems and other forms of alternative energy. And Ford Motor has become a pioneer in green manufacturing.

One reason business has seized on the opportunities of today’s “green” initiatives is that it makes sense. “Selling environmental products and services will be a major part of the economy,” says Professor of Economics Don Goldstein. “Increasingly, some of the major manufacturers are shifting their product and technology mix to take advantage of that.”

kig4 And when Goldstein heads to the classroom to train future business leaders, the environment is one component of what he teaches. “We’ve tried to incorporate environmental issues throughout our courses,” he says.

The link between the environment and business is but one aspect of Allegheny’s environmental programs, begun in the wake of the first Earth Day. “Allegheny was part of the first group of schools that said, ‘Hey, we need to be teaching about the environment,'” says Eric Pallant, professor of environmental science. “Now we have seven professors just in environmental science and environmental studies. I don’t think you’d find that at any other comparable school in the country.”

The reason for this emphasis is simple: there’s a lot at stake. Many of the worst potential problems weren’t even on the radar screen when the first Earth Day was celebrated. These include the loss of much of the ozone layer, which shields us from harmful solar radiation, and the threat of the planet’s overheating due to the greenhouse effect.

“On September 11, 2001, nearly three thousand people died in America at the hands of terrorists. During the same year, more than seventy thousand Americans died of complications from air pollution,” says Pallant. “Now the Stern Commission in England is talking about the implications of global climate change causing a number of deaths that will dwarf those in World War II, with a concomitant decline in economic productivity of 20 percent. We are altering the face of the planet more quickly and more dramatically than it has been altered at any time in the last million years.”

And that’s why business and environmentalists have come together to solve the problem. If global warming scenarios come to pass, humanity will suffer mightily and business will suffer along with the populace. Farmers and ranchers will face changes in rainfall and rising temperatures that could decimate production. Coastal real estate will become worthless as properties are flooded by rising ocean levels. Insurance companies will watch profits evaporate as they pay out billions of dollars to settle claims for damages from ever more powerful storms and rising seas.

kig5 One way to mitigate long-term effects would be to use less fossil fuel, which is blamed for much of the rise in world temperatures. That means more solar power, more wind power, and power from sources not yet on the market. If these technologies work, they could also head off another problem: ruinous energy bills, which are hurting not only family budgets but the bottom line of energy-intensive corporations.

Fortunately, the transition to a post-fossil fuel future is under way, in efforts large and small. Near Meadville, Acutec Precision Machining is investigating wind power as a potential power source for its aerospace parts manufacturing operation. The company wants to know if it can cut its energy bill with wind power and have excess power available to sell back to the electric grid. The company’s president/owner, Allegheny trustee Rob Smith ’73, has turned to the College for help.

“Environmental science students will measure the wind,” says Goldstein. “Economics students will translate that into dollars and cents to determine if the investment is worthwhile.”

This is a classic example of how an alliance between business and environmentalists can tackle a problem that threatens us all. And it is a classic example of how environmental and economic issues go hand in hand.

If our world can make the transition to a sustainable future based on clean energy, the economy benefits, the environment benefits, and everyone wins. “How well we make this transition will have a major impact on how clean our environment can be and how strong our economy is,” says Goldstein. “This will determine our quality of life.”

This article was featured in the Winter/Spring 2007 issue of Allegheny Magazine.

Raymond P. Shafer: 1917-2006

Raymond P. Shafer, governor of Pennsylvania from 1967 to 1971 and a long-time trustee of the College who served as its president from 1985 to 1986, died on December 12, 2006.

shaferRaymond P. Shafer His funeral service was held at Ford Chapel on December 17, with the eulogy given by the Honorable Hugh Flaherty, former secretary of legislation and public affairs in the Shafer administration. “He was loving, decent, kind, brave, forgiving and highly intelligent,” Flaherty said. “At the core of his character stood respect, integrity, fairness, honor, and courage…The result was a good man, husband, father, friend, student, war hero, and a strong, rare leader of this community, this state, and this nation.”

In many ways and for many people, Governor Shafer epitomized the ideals of public service. As governor, he was unflagging in his commitment to his fellow citizens. His administration has been credited with significant achievements in education, transportation, environmental conservation, fair housing, and long-term budget planning. As he said in an interview in 1992, “Believe me, the only excuse for government is to give service to the people.”

His career at Allegheny College, from which he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, presaged his later accomplishments. He majored in history and political science and was a Rhodes Scholar candidate. He served as his class president for each of his four years at Allegheny and was the student body president as a senior. He also was a member of the Pennsylvania Beta chapter of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and one of the founders of the chapter’s endowment fund.

On the playing field, he won nine varsity letters, four each in basketball and soccer and one in track and field. He was the basketball team’s leading scorer for three seasons and was an all-America halfback in soccer, at a time when division classification did not exist in collegiate athletics. A graduate of the Yale Law School, Governor Shafer began his career in public service as many men of his generation did: in uniform. He served in the U.S. Navy, both in naval intelligence and as the skipper of a P.T. boat in the South Pacific, from 1942 to 1945. More than eighty combat missions, and particularly the heroic rescue of seventeen paratroopers stranded under Japanese fire on Corregidor, earned him the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Commendation for Meritorious Service.

His career in public service continued with two terms as district attorney for Pennsylvania’s Crawford County (1948-56), a term as a Pennsylvania state senator (1959-63), and a term as lieutenant governor under William Scranton (1963-66). As lieutenant governor, he led a bi-partisan committee to promote reforms to the commonwealth’s outdated constitution. His own bid for governor was secured with an overwhelming majority of more than 250,000 votes.

Governor Shafer continued to serve the nation throughout his life. In 1971 he chaired a national commission on marijuana and drug abuse; from 1974 to 1977 he served as special counsel on the staff of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller; and from 1977 to 1988 he was a partner and senior counselor with the accounting firm Cooper and Lybrand, focusing in the area of community service.

An enthusiastic student of China and its culture, he was a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, serving as its chair in the mid-1980s. He was active on numerous boards, including the National Organization on Disability, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, the National Legal Center for the Public Interest, and the Freedoms Foundation. Most recently he had served as counsel to the Washington law firm of Dunaway & Cross.

Governor Shafer’s service to his alma mater was remarkable as well. He had served as a trustee of Allegheny College for more than twenty years when he accepted a one-year appointment to the presidency of the College. At the time he was quoted as saying, “I have always said that my love for Allegheny was behind only my love for my country and my family.” He continued to serve as a trustee of the College until his death.

Among the many honors that Governor Shafer received was the prestigious Gold Medallion of the Society for the Family of Man, “in recognition of creative leadership and dedicated service.” Allegheny College is one of more than thirty colleges and universities to have awarded him an honorary degree.

President Dwight David Eisenhower once said of the governor, “In a few words, Ray Shafer has brains, integrity, and guts.” The nation was fortunate that Governor Shafer dedicated those qualities to the service of his fellow citizens.

Groundhog Day Survivors Five Students Host Reality Show on Public Television

By Meredith Hutcheson ’06

groundhog Along with papers, finals, and the comp, five Allegheny seniors can add a stint on reality television to their list of accomplishments for the year.

Sarah Grudevich, Janelle Hackman, Brian Lasser, Ryan O’Malley, and Rachel Schaffnit traveled to Punxsutawney this winter as guest hosts of Pennsylvania Public Television’s “Explore PA” series. The centerpiece of the episode? The annual Groundhog Day celebration, where the students were treated to a personal meet-and-greet with Punxsutawney Phil himself. “The people there went nuts!” says O’Malley. “They ate, slept, and breathed groundhog for the entire day.”

Adds Lasser: “I couldn’t believe how seriously everyone took the event. It’s something everybody should experience once.”

Beginning its second season, Explore PA gives viewers the opportunity to explore the state’s cultural and historical resources. Each week, host Elizabeth Jennings travels the state with real-life people as they learn about historic battlegrounds, heritage sites, scenic parks, quaint small towns, museums, and other sites.

Groundhog Day was only one part of the Allegheny group’s itinerary. In three days of taping, the students also participated in several other activities, including carving an ice sculpture, joining in a lumberjack tournament, and visiting the Jimmy Stewart Museum.

“We put in really long days and a lot of the time we had to film outside. It was freezing,” says Grudevich, who was the first to suggest that the friends participate in the show. “But it was wonderful to share this experience with Rachel, Janelle, Brian, and Ryan. We bring out the best in each other, and we were delighted to represent Allegheny College on such a wide-reaching television show.”

The group agrees that the most surprising part of the experience was how unreal “reality television” is. “A lot of what we did was somewhat staged,” says Lasser. “If we said something that the producer liked, she would ask us to say it several times to get the best take.” The show aired this summer, and the students planned to watch it together to see how the finished product compared to their perspectives.

And, true to their Allegheny education, the students used the trip as an opportunity to learn. “Did you know that a groundhog is actually a woodchuck?” says Grudevich with a laugh. “I didn’t know that!”

This article was featured in the Spring/Summer issue of Allegheny Magazine.

"Unusual Combinations" Defines Students—and a College

By Kathy Roos

Katy Proch is perhaps an extreme example of the kind of student Scott Friedhoff has in mind when he talks about “unusual combinations.” As vice president of enrollment, it’s Friedhoff’s job to spread the word about just what Allegheny has to offer students—not just any student, mind you, but students who have what Allegheny calls “unusual combinations of interests, skills, and talents.”

The College’s viewbook says it well: “At Allegheny College, when we talk about unusual combinations, we mean it as a tremendous compliment—a compliment that recognizes the complexity possible in each one of us. At Allegheny, we not only recognize human complexity, we model it, we embrace it.”

With this message to prospective students, Allegheny puts into words what alumni have known all along: Allegheny College is a place where students with unusual combinations of interests, skills and talents excel.

Katy Proch lives the concept. A neuroscience major and German minor who is studying in Cologne this fall, Proch has a demanding schedule of classes and a sharp focus on her pre-med studies, yet that doesn’t stop her from pursuing a variety of interests—and finding venues for a remarkable range of talents.

katyService, Corsets, and Gummy Brains

Proch, who is a junior this year, is a member of Allegheny’s equestrian team. A violinist for twelve years, she serves as associate concertmaster of the College’s Civic Symphony. She also belongs to the neuroscience club, which last year publicized Brain Awareness Week by handing out gummy brains in the Campus Center.

She’s participated in Make A Difference Day, Senior Citizen Recognition Day, an Emerging Leaders retreat, and the Collegiate Leadership Conference. She also serves as a writing consultant in the College’s Learning Commons and is a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority.

Unusual combinations—or just a highly motivated student who personifies what a liberal arts education is all about? Maybe both—but the combination becomes more unusual when you take into account that this neuroscience major also researches and sews her own Renaissance-era costumes, with the painstaking attention to detail that you would expect from a student who spends hours each week in Allegheny’s science labs.

For Christmas one year, Proch even sewed corsets as gifts for her College roommates. Even by Allegheny standards, Proch’s interests, skills, and talents are unusual.

“When I first got here, I was incredibly undecided about what my academic focus would be,” she says. “Instead of coming to Allegheny, I almost went to music school. I spent most of my freshman year here aghast at the number of choices I had. But then I spent my first summer here doing research and loved it.”

Diversity, Adaptability Are Key

Although it’s not impossible for students at Allegheny to focus like a laser beam on preparation for a chosen career, Allegheny doesn’t make it easy. We’re one of the few liberal arts colleges in the country that ask students to choose a minor as well as a major—and that minor has to be outside the division of the major.

Although the laser-beam approach to preparing for a career has its advocates, the evidence is that a liberal arts education—and the unique extension of the liberal arts that Allegheny calls “unusual combinations”—is a more effective means of reaching career goals, especially in a world where jobs often evolve beyond our ability to predict what skills we’ll need to fill them. Diversity—of interests, skills, and talents—is the key.

“Labor trends point to the increasing importance of adaptability,” says a recent article in FastCompany magazine. “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds 10 different jobs before hitting age 40. Job tenures now hover around four years. Forrester Research’s Claire Schooley predicts these numbers will only get more extreme, anticipating that today’s youngest workers will hold 12 to 15 jobs in their lifetimes.”

Not only that, but with the fast pace of technology, the job you prepare for today may not even exist twenty years from now. On the flip side, jobs and new careers may open up for which you may not have overtly prepared but for which your liberal arts education and unusual combinations have formed a framework on which to build.

Jim Fitch, associate director of career services at Allegheny, has good news for students and alumni at liberal arts colleges. “A survey conducted by AT&T found that employees with a liberal arts education advance more quickly to middle and senior management positions than their colleagues who pursued other fields of study,” he says. What’s behind the trend? Fitch says that employers have come to realize that “students with a broad liberal arts background excel at problem solving, critical thinking, and learning to learn.”

The liberal arts are becoming even more relevant in the twenty-first century, says Roberts S. Jones in the Spring 2005 issue of Liberal Education. “Virtually all occupational endeavors require a working appreciation of the historical, cultural, ethical, and global environments that surround the application of skilled work,” he writes. “As knowledge, technology, and global impacts escalate at dizzying rates, so too will the value and significance of the liberal education increase.”

An Unusual Message Is Born

Back to Scott Friedhoff, who sees day in and day out how the “unusual combinations” message resonates with students who want college to broaden their interests, not narrow them.

“Our Unusual Combinations message makes it clear that Allegheny isn’t for everyone,” he says, “but it’s ideal for students who have a variety of interests and students who may want to discover or uncover new skills or interests they did not know they had. These are the kinds of students who should fit best at an Allegheny-type institution and who have traditionally looked at Allegheny. They are students who understand and value the traditional liberal arts experience.

“I think the real value of this fit recognition is best seen in our freshman-to-sophomore retention. While we are very proud of a fifty percent increase in applications in a three-year period, I think we should be most proud of our record retention rate. This is the best evidence of a message truly working. We are attracting students who want to be here and who work hard to stay here.”

Friedhoff, who has been with the College since 2002, remembers precisely when he first realized what it was that sets Allegheny apart from so many other liberal arts colleges with a rigorous curriculum and dedicated, caring faculty.

“After a number of months of meetings when I first came here,” he recalls, “I met a student in Schultz dining hall. The conversation started as many did: ‘What are you studying?’ The response: ‘Math…and English.’ I was stunned. In twenty-five years in the profession, I had never heard of that combination. My response to her was one of amazement: ‘Math and English? That’s wonderful! In 25 years of doing this business I’ve never heard of a student with that combination of majors—that’s…’

“And before I could get the word ‘unusual’ out, she interrupted me by saying, ‘That’s Allegheny.'”

This article was featured in the Spring/Summer 2006 issue of Allegheny Magazine.

Two Allegheny Grads Both Make the Grade As Michigan Teacher of the Year Candidates

by Abby Collier ’03

The last thing Sherry Ransford ’70 and Anne Bowser ’84 wanted to do once they graduated from Allegheny was teach. Neither could predict at the time that a change of heart would lead them both to be nominated for the prestigious 2005-2006 Michigan Teacher of the Year award.

“I was too stubborn to see that I would love teaching,” Ransford admits, a sentiment echoed by Bowser. “I just didn’t see it as a career option,” Bowser says.

While they may have graduated in different classes and pledged their allegiance to rival sororities on campus (Ransford was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma; Bowser, of Kappa Alpha Theta), similarities between the two go far in explaining the success they share today.

Both Ransford and Bowser were English majors at Allegheny, and both had an interest in law. After attending the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, Bowser, a Michigan native, had second thoughts about pursuing a law career. Before long, Bowser says she found her calling back in the classroom.

“I think if you can return to what you have loved, and what has provided joy and opportunity for personal growth, then that’s where you should work,” Bowser says. “I wasn’t really fulfilled in any professional capacity until I made that decision and went back to school.”

Bowser ended up teaching English courses at Kalamazoo Central in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she and Ransford coached the high school’s mock trial team to victory at both the state and national level. Bowser eventually returned to Kalamazoo’s Loy Norrix High School, her alma mater, where Ransford also taught before transferring to Kalamazoo Central.

“I fell into it by accident, and I loved it,” Ransford says of teaching. Nearly thirty years ago, when she worked with her daughter’s preschool class during the day and taught courses at Allegheny County Community College at night, she decided she wanted to better prepare the students she encountered at the college level.

Today, Ransford and Bowser are both English department chairs at their schools. Their work is a particular challenge, they say, because of the great diversity in the Kalamazoo Public School District, where students come from a wide range of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

Perhaps the greatest similarity Ransford and Bowser share is their passion for learning and their unflinching dedication to their students. “I really love the moment when they catch on and I can watch them learn,” Ransford says. “That is the coolest thing. Those ‘aha’ moments that kids have.”

Ransford recalls a particularly rewarding time when she was working with several high school students who participated in a twelve-week reading pilot. They enrolled in the program reading at the level of Cat in the Hat and left with the ability to read books like The Scarlet Pimpernel.

“I think the students know that I truly value them and what they bring to class,” Ransford says. “I really have a passion for teaching, for literature, for writing. I love what I’m doing, and that ends up being contagious.”

It appears that Ransford and Bowser’s passion for learning is indeed contagious, a phenomenon they both attribute to their experience at Allegheny. “I think the way Sherry and I teach is very different than some of our colleagues teach, and that has everything to do with Allegheny,” Bowser says. “We look at learning with a different eye.”

The two teachers also boast a lineage of Allegheny graduates: both of Ransford’s parents, Trustee Emeritus Herbert Ransford Jr. ’38 and Cora Kraus Ransford ’40, graduated from Allegheny, as did Bowser’s father, William E. Bowser ’56. Ransford’s daughter-in-law, Sarah Lindsay Frink ’96, is also an Allegheny grad.

While it may be ironic, it certainly isn’t surprising that Ransford and Bowser were the only two teachers from the same district to be among the fourteen finalists for the Michigan Teacher of the Year award. After Bowser made the semi-finals, Ransford went on to be one of the final five candidates for the award.

Although neither teacher won, both say they would much rather stay in the classroom to continue what they do best, as the winner is required to work outside of his or her district for one year, representing teachers across the state, interacting with policymakers, and raising awareness on the importance of teachers.

They’re also not ones to rest on their laurels. Ransford is an adviser for the National Honors Society, leader of the Liberal Arts School, and a mentor coach for interns and new teachers. She still coaches the school’s mock trial team, ex-officia, while Bowser is heading a district initiative for a professional development protocol for teachers.

“We’re each other’s biggest fan,” Ransford says. “Anne works so hard and gives so much. She’s very inventive about what her kids do, and she’s behind her kids one hundred percent.”

Bowser is just as quick to praise Ransford. “She’s a phenomenal person. She lives and breathes teaching. She’s so dedicated and so highly regarded and respected by the administrators, by colleagues, by parents. She is a top-notch teacher. I would like to be like her someday.”

This article was featured in the Winter 2002 Issue of Allegheny College Magazine.

Pioneers in the Fight Against Polio Thomas Francis Jr. '21 and William Hammon '32

by Erin Lukehart ’00

When Thomas Francis Jr. ’21 made his historic announcement at the University of Michigan on April 12, 1955 that the Salk polio vaccine had proven “safe, effective, and potent,” the world was watching. From the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth, communities braced for the annual polio epidemics that struck each summer, infecting tens of thousands of victims—many of whom were children, often left paralyzed. Francis’s announcement meant the first major step toward eradication of the disease.

What many don’t know is that another Alleghenian, William Hammon ’32, also played an important role in polio prevention.

Although graduating eleven years apart, Hammon and Francis had much in common. Both were raised in western Pennsylvania—Francis graduating from New Castle High School and Hammon from Schenley High School in Pittsburgh—and each would go on to pursue groundbreaking research in newly formed schools of public health.

Both served leadership roles in the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB), which was established to bring together civilian scientists and their military counterparts for research purposes. The first director of the AFEB’s Commission on Influenza, Francis was later named board president from 1958 to 1960. Hammon served on the AFEB Commission on Virus Diseases from 1956 to 1965 before being instated as a full board member in 1965.

Most important, both men would forge a relationship with Jonas Salk, who ultimately developed the first successful polio vaccine. But the nature of each relationship was quite different—Francis in the role of Salk’s mentor and Hammon in the role of Salk’s research rival. Those relationships not only affected the development of the polio vaccine but also shaped the future of public health.

In a paragraph under his senior year photograph in Allegheny’s 1921 Kaldron, Francis is described as a “bundle of energy, a favorite with the ladies.” Noting Francis’s budding interest in medicine, the writer predicts that “his smile will bring the suffering ones back to health.”

Francis earned his medical degree from Yale in 1925 before launching his research career with the Rockefeller Institute, where he became the first American to isolate human flu virus. He continued influenza research as a bacteriology professor in the School of Medicine at New York University, where he mentored a young student named Jonas Salk.

Francis developed a strong reputation in his field—in the same year he was asked to head the AFEB’s Commission on Influenza, he was also recruited to join the faculty at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and Medical School. At the university’s Department of Epidemiology, Francis built a virus laboratory and crossed paths again with Salk, who had come to Michigan to pursue postgraduate studies.

Commissioned by the AFEB, Francis and Salk worked together to create and test what was ultimately a successful vaccine for influenza. Francis’s use of the “killed virus” model for vaccination proved influential when Salk began to develop a vaccine for polio years later.

After finishing his degree and completing a short teaching stint at Michigan, Salk was recruited to join the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. When the university opened a new school of public health in 1948, Salk was eager to take on the chairmanship for the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology. To Salk’s chagrin, however, the position was awarded to William Hammon.

Although Hammon’s photograph is missing from Allegheny’s 1932 Kaldron, the yearbook indicates he was a member of the Allegheny Singers, the band, and also the Thoburn Club, a religious organization. He was an ordained Methodist minister, briefly serving as a missionary to the Belgian Congo after graduating from Allegheny.

Hammon received not only a medical degree from Harvard but also a master’s degree in public health in 1938 and a Ph.D. in 1939. While studying there, he was mentored by the well-regarded bacteriologist and epidemiologist Hans Zinsser, and he worked with future Nobel Prize winner John Enders to develop the first vaccine for feline panleukopenia. He was soon recruited to teach at the University of California at Berkeley.

By the time Hammon joined the University of Pittsburgh faculty in 1948, Salk had already begun his historic polio research. Salk’s efforts were supported by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), an organization established by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937 that would later become the March of Dimes.

Shortly after arriving in Pittsburgh, Hammon announced his own plans to research polio prevention. Hammon favored “passive immunization,” in which blood gamma globulins are injected into the body to transfer antibodies to fight the virus. Rather than preventing actual infection, this method aims to keep the virus from taking hold of the nervous system and producing the disease’s dreaded symptoms once an outbreak has already occurred. Hammon believed that live or killed virus vaccines were too risky, based upon earlier research in which some subjects had developed illness or experienced serious allergic reactions.

Hammon’s initial attempts to gain support for a field trial had failed—the NFIP was not convinced that his method was viable (it is noteworthy that one of those NFIP-affiliated detractors was Jonas Salk). But after another year of animal and human studies, Hammon was given approval to begin field trials in 1951. He led what is considered to be the first large-scale double-blind placebo-controlled trials, in which neither the patients nor the health workers knew which injections were real or placebo. Francis later employed this method for the Salk vaccine field trials.

Based upon Hammon’s field trials, gamma globulin was found to be reasonably successful in preventing polio’s symptoms— or at the very least, helped to reduce the severity of the virus’s effects on the body. The press and medical community hailed Hammon for his findings, but the praise was short-lived.

Hammon’s trials had depleted much of the nation’s gamma globulin supply already, and since he was largely relying upon donated blood, there simply wouldn’t be enough for large-scale usage. The equipment was costly, and ultimately immunity was not permanent—a new injection would be required during each polio outbreak.

Hammon conceded that gamma globulin would be most effective for small groups of people in specific locations when outbreaks occurred and that a permanent vaccine would be a better option. Indeed, the medical community was beginning to take notice of Salk’s research by the spring of 1953, and in that same year he approached Francis to implement the nationwide field trials of the vaccine.

This year marked the fiftieth anniversary of Francis’s announcement of the vaccine’s effectiveness. In honor of his many contributions to public health, the University of Michigan presented its first Thomas Francis Jr. Medal in Global Public Health to William Foege. Foege, who pioneered a successful strategy to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s, is the former chief of the Centers for Disease Control and director of the Carter Center.

Beyond his connection to Salk’s polio research, Francis continued a brilliant career in epidemiology until his death in 1969. These later efforts include the “Tecumseh Study,” in which Francis studied chronic diseases in terms of geography, history, and local culture in order to understand ways in which scientists might predict how these diseases develop.

Although Hammon’s polio research has long since been overshadowed by the work of Salk and, later, Alfred Sabin, his contributions are enduring. Gamma globulin is still used today for passive immunity against infectious diseases like measles, hepatitis A and B, and rabies, among others. Hammon died in 1989.

As predicted by the anonymous writer in the Kaldron so many years ago, Francis—and Hammon, as well—contributed a lasting legacy in efforts to “bring the suffering ones back to health.”

This article can be found in the Summer 2005 issue of Allegheny Magazine.

Through All the Years New History Illuminates Allegheny's People, Places, and Spirit

by Doug McInnis

aldenCollege Historian and Professor Emeritus of History Jonathan Helmreich recently completed the first history of Allegheny in nearly a century. It is a richly detailed portrait of a school whose alumni have done much to shape the nation. The story that follows, which chooses a few key time periods in Allegheny’s history, is drawn largely from the book and an interview with its author.

In 1815 a middle-aged minister arrived in Meadville with the unwavering conviction that he could found a college to serve up a traditional classical education of Latin and Greek in a region populated by farmers.

Nor was this the limit of the Reverend Timothy Alden’s ambitions. He wanted an institution with a first-rate library housed in a grand main building at a time when other frontier institutions made do with log cabins and rudimentary book collections. His dream was, on the face of it, preposterous, and to make matters worse, Alden had little money for his new college.

But Alden was a man of enormous determination. By force of will, he did manage to open his frontier college. But few of the region’s young men were attracted to its classical curriculum, and his grand plan for a great main building remained only a grand plan. For years, what was to become Bentley Hall sat unfinished while Alden scraped up construction funds.

By 1828, with Bentley Hall still uncompleted, Alden’s vision was in ruins. In more than a decade of trying, the school had but a scant dozen of graduates. There was only one faculty member, Alden himself. More problematic was the shortage of students—there were none. Two years later the College closed its doors.

If Allegheny had been a run-of-the-mill startup, it would have stayed shuttered. But Alden’s vision had taken seed in western Pennsylvania. The steps he had taken, however absurd they may have seemed at the time, provided the foundation for an institution that would rise again with help from the Methodist Church and produce graduates who would help shape the young nation.

This is the tale that unfolds in Jonathan Helmreich’s new history, Through All the Years, which was drawn from numerous sources, including mountainous stacks of archival documents. Helmreich has produced a book that steers clear of the slick public relations approach that taints some college histories in favor of an honest book that presents Allegheny in both moments of greatness and moments that many would rather forget.

mckinleyHere, in more than 550 fact-packed pages, he describes an institution often beset by financial difficulties but always finding a way to overcome them; an institution whose students, faculty, and administration were deeply involved in the great national issues that have shaped the country.

darrowWhen the nation split in the Civil War, Allegheny students rushed to join the side of the Union. When the nation rose to world power status by defeating Spain in the Spanish American War, it was an Alleghenian, President William McKinley, who led it. When the contentious issue of evolutionary theory was thrust before the public, it was an Alleghenian, attorney Clarence Darrow, who eloquently took up Darwin’s cause in the famed Scopes Monkey trial. More recently, when the first fully implantable artificial heart was placed in a human patient, it was an Alleghenian, Robert Dowling, who performed the surgery.

The Nineteenth Century

Allegheny was founded at a time when the average American was poor, and creature comforts, by and large, didn’t exist. Often, students walked from their hometowns to the College because they couldn’t afford a horse or stagecoach fare. It wasn’t unusual for students to walk from Pittsburgh, and sometimes much farther. Alden’s nephew, for example, walked from Cape Cod to Meadville.

Once they got to Allegheny, they usually had to work to make ends meet, often taking jobs as day laborers at local farms and businesses. “For years, classes started at 8 a.m. and they tried to finish classes by noon when many students were off to their job,” said Helmreich. “They were farm kids. They were so used to milking cows in the early morning that they got up at 4 a.m. and then they started studying. When night fell, they went to bed. Candles were expensive.”

Back then, any amount of higher education was a ticket to advancement. Few Americans completed the course of instruction at academies, and of those who did only a tiny fraction went to college. Many of those enrolled never graduated. “Many of them didn’t expect to stay for the full four years,” Helmreich said. “They couldn’t afford it.”

Yet even a year or two at Allegheny was enough to change young lives. William McKinley, with just a year at Allegheny, became president. Clarence Darrow’s abbreviated time at the College’s preparatory school in the early 1870s helped open the way to a distinguished law career in which he championed the cause of the underprivileged and the underdog. Graduates Charles Kingsley and James Mills Thoburn were but two of the scores of�Methodists�inspired at Allegheny who went forth�to�all corners of the globe, carrying not only the influence of Christianity but of the United States as well.

The Great Depression

tolleyWhile other college presidents simply sought to keep their institutions afloat in the economic riptide of the Great Depression, Allegheny’s new president held the odd notion that the down-and-out 1930s were as good a time as any to take the College to the next level. William Tolley was a confident man, with a vision to match his list of academic honors. By the time he arrived in Meadville in the summer of 1931, he was Phi Beta Kappa at Syracuse and held a divinity degree from Drew University, as well as a master’s and Ph.D. from Columbia University. Tolley was thirty years old, the youngest college president in the country.

His youth might have counted against him; he was, after all, less than half the age of the most senior faculty. But, as Helmreich writes, Tolley possessed the skills to win others over. He had charm and a sense of humor and was willing to poke fun at himself. He had the ability to make each person with whom he spoke feel as if he or she were the sole focus of his attention.

He also had no end of problems. Enrollment was falling, faculty salaries had to be slashed, and the endowment was down 90 percent. One telling sign of the times was the fall in value of Allegheny’s holdings in American Shipbuilding; the share price had fallen from $110 in 1927 to $1 by March 1930.

Allegheny also sagged under expenses it could no longer afford, among them a big-time athletic program. Tolley soon scrapped athletic scholarships and then countered his critics with his own vision of what Allegheny would be. “We are a small college with a reputation for scholastic excellence,” he said. “Our ambition is to make the college famous for the quality of its faculty and students. Big-time football distorts this image.”

His strategy for improving Allegheny was audacious. He instructed the College’s admissions representatives to go to the top high schools in Pennsylvania and Ohio and dangle scholarships in front of the best students. In the Great Depression, this was a powerful incentive indeed.

As time passed, the shift in emphasis produced startling results. At the beginning of Tolley’s presidency, the College ranked 144th among 500 institutions in student quality, according to tests given by the American Council on Education. Soon, the quality of the entering class jumped to 72nd, then 64th, 32nd, 17th, and in the last year the test was given, Allegheny placed 6th. Tolley had done the unthinkable.

Tolley also perfected the art of fund-raising, a necessary skill in the Depression years. He did it so well that Allegheny was able to add new buildings and gradually upgrade others during the twentieth century’s worst economic downturn.

Even so, there was never enough cash. Termites gnawed at Ruter and Alden Halls, Ford Chapel, and Montgomery Gym. Meanwhile, Allegheny’s two great book collections—the original volumes collected during Alden’s time and journalist Ida Tarbell’s collection of materials she used in her famed biography of Abraham Lincoln—needed special facilities to protect them, but there was no money to build them.

Then one day Tolley received a call from the librarian. A young man was proposing to buy little-used volumes for ten dollars each, money Allegheny could clearly use. When Tolley went to investigate, he found the man holding books from Alden’s era worth thousands of dollars, including John Elliot’s Indian Bible, the first Bible published in America. Tolley threw the shyster off campus. Before the Depression ended, the Alden and Tarbell collections had rooms of their own.

An Institution of Influence

It may take another hundred years before historians assess Allegheny’s impact on the new century. But the verdict is already in on many of the contributions Allegheny alumni made to the 20th century. Alleghenians helped discover a chemical element, performed ground-breaking surgery, won five Oscars, helped pioneer the cable television industry, wrote best-selling books for children, and headed some of the nation’s largest corporations.

But perhaps the biggest impact came from President McKinley and journalist Ida Tarbell, class of 1880. The pair made their marks between 1896 and 1906, and their actions did much to shape the country we know today.

By the time they arrived on the national stage, the United States was emerging as the industrial powerhouse of the western world; its entrepreneurs had built great enterprises in steel, aluminum, and oil and given the world the telephone and the light bulb. Pioneering work in mass production, the automobile, and aviation was on the horizon.

But the rest of the world didn’t fully comprehend the power of the upstart United States until McKinley took the nation to war against Spain in 1898. In that conflict, America didn’t just beat Spain, it pulverized it—in Cuba, where Teddy Roosevelt made his famous charge up San Juan Hill, and in the harbors of Santiago and Manila, where U.S. warships left the Spanish fleet in ruins.

tarbellMcKinley’s legacy might have ended there if he had picked a lesser man than Teddy Roosevelt as his second-term running mate. When McKinley was slain by an assassin’s bullet early in his second term, Roosevelt seized the presidency with his legendary energy and began to reshape the county. Roosevelt laid the groundwork for completion of the Panama Canal, which sped the globalization of trade, and he helped spur the emerging environmental movement by adding 250 million acres to the national forest system. Roosevelt also spurred the passage of federal laws to rein in the abuses of big businesses, such as John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company.

The nation wanted action—in large part because of revelations by a crusading group of young writers that included Ida Tarbell, whose two-volume History of the Standard Oil Company focused the nation’s attention on the world’s most powerful oil company.

The influence of Tarbell’s work has lasted more than a century. When the New York Times assessed the great nonfiction work of the twentieth century, it ranked Tarbell’s classic as the fifth most important, in the company of Silent Spring.

Tarbell helped set in motion three lasting trends. First, her work helped legitimize the idea that legal boundaries for business had to be set. Second, she helped shape twentieth-century journalism. Pick up the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times and reporters today use the same investigative techniques that Tarbell employed so effectively a century ago. Finally, she was one of the first women to shatter the glass ceiling in what had been a man’s occupation, the hard-bitten field of journalism.

A Vision Realized

Throughout much of its history, Allegheny was in or on the verge of crisis. Money was always tight. Without a large endowment, downward swings in the economy hit Allegheny harder than many of its wealthier peers.

But if you look at Allegheny from a distance, the appearance of hard times is deceptive. Timothy Alden struggled to open a college with a handful of courses, even as he scrambled to find cash for a single building. Today, it would take an afternoon to read Allegheny’s catalogue of courses and many lifetimes to take them all. Alden’s grand building, Bentley Hall, is surrounded in every direction by other grand buildings, and the complement of campus structures now numbers in the scores.

Many other things have changed, in particular the emphasis of an Allegheny education. “In Alden’s day and for the first decade the school was open, the emphasis was on classics, memorization, and learning languages,” said Helmreich. “After the Civil War, there was much more emphasis on scientific analysis and on learning to ask questions.”

Today, the College’s president, Richard Cook, is a chemist whose work helped spur a cleanup of the infamous Love Canal toxic waste site in New York. Cook’s specialty did not even appear in the courses of Alden’s era.

But the differences in educational philosophy don’t reflect a change in the school’s mission. As Allegheny approaches its bicentennial, that mission remains unchanged. Then as now, the goal was to bring the best students to Allegheny, give them the tools they need for a lifetime of learning, and send them into the world to make their mark.

Jonathan Helmreich’s Through All the Years (500 pages with almost 900 illustrations), is available through the College’s bookstore at $45 per copy (including tax). Shipping/handling is an additional $4.95 per copy. To order, visit https://www.allegheny.edu/administration/bookstore/ or call (814) 332-5369.

This article was featured in the Summer 2005 issue of Allegheny Magazine.

Videoconferencing Class Brings Hollywood to Allegheny …and a Renewed Appreciation for the Value of the Liberal Arts

by Ishita Sinha Roy, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts

To many TV addicts, Lloyd Segan is a name that is synonymous with the hit television series Dead Zone on the USA network. To Gators, Mr. Segan is an alumnus (Class of 1980, B.A. in History) who, like many Allegheny graduates, majored in one field and made his name in another. Yes, we do follow a tradition of pursuing “unusual combinations.”

When Lloyd was visiting this campus during the “Celebration of the Liberal Arts” weekend in fall 2002, I had the pleasure of engaging in a dialogue with him about classes during his time at Allegheny and how technology has made the entire classroom experience virtually experiential. The conversation led to a discussion about the videoconferencing seminar room at Allegheny, and all of a sudden the two of us were shaking hands over the exciting prospect of co-teaching a class on Television Studies, even though we’d be thousands of miles apart.

videoIn fall 2004, this dream came true. An upper-class seminar of thirteen Allegheny students gathered in the videoconference room, to join Lloyd and Hollywood prof- essionals each week to learn about the different factors that inform the political and practical aspects of the television business. Academic course material and lectures supplement- ed these experiential learning sessions, and the magic of this collaboration was that it connected so strongly the learning we do in the classroom with its practical applications in the working world.

Again and again, the students heard talent agency representatives, filmmakers, script-writers, producers, and network executives stress the importance of critical thinking, reading, and writing – the three core components that we emphasize as part of our liberal arts curriculum. It was also heartening for students (and for this instructor) to hear industry people emphasize that you don’t need a specialized degree at the undergraduate level in order to succeed in the “real” world. Too often, I think, students undervalue a liberal arts education because they fear they will not receive the training that will get them into lucrative corporate positions. What my students took away from these mediated conversations was how fortunate they are to be receiving an interdisciplinary education that makes them better-rounded and more interesting candidates in the job market than their university counterparts.

One of our communication students expressed this realization in a note to Lloyd at the end of the class: “I just wanted to thank you for taking the time out to participate in our Communication Arts 275 class. It has been an invaluable experience … I have learned so much from this class that I know I couldn’t have learned any other way! You’ve been a wonderful professor. At least I know if that whole ‘producing’ thing doesn’t work out, I have something to fall back on …”

A chemistry major reflected on how Lloyd’s insights added a new appreciation to what he had until then regarded as simply entertainment: “Again, this is an opportunity that I never thought I would have. Not that I’m trying to break into the business, but this whole class has literally changed the way I watch television.”

I watched the students during the video conferencing sessions gain new confidence and begin to ask difficult questions of Lloyd and his guests. As a faculty member, I found this partnership with an alumnus especially invigorating, as it prompted me to invest new energy into my teaching, and Lloyd’s comments brought a fresh perspective to the table. We are especially fortunate that Lloyd enjoyed the experience too. In one heartfelt note after a particularly productive class, he wrote, “People: this is why it’s worth the hard work all of us put into our daily endeavors …”

Lloyd has found a new way of staying connected to learning and to his alma mater – this time as an educator. This class thanks him for being a committed educator and mentor, and at Allegheny we look forward to many more classroom experiences with him in the upcoming years.

This article was featured in the Spring 2005 issue of Allegheny Magazine.