They say you can learn a lot about the future by being familiar with the past. This statement has never rung more true to me than when I attended a reunion of Williamsport Technical Institute over summer break. (WTI is a forerunner of Pennsylvania College of Technology). I met many awesome alumni whose anecdotes described incredible perseverance, triumph, character and dedication stemming from their alma mater. Their stories proved that I chose the right path by attending Penn College.
A notable story of perseverance is that of Wallace Centi, a 1960 carpentry graduate. His father emigrated to the United States from Italy at the age of 17, establishing a living as a coal worker. To fund his education, Centi took classes during the day and worked at J.K. Rishel Furniture Co. during evenings. Centi and other WTI students attended classes all year round. Because of his determination, he became not only the first member of his family to graduate from college, but he was also the first to finish high school. His triumph served as a guiding light within his family, encouraging his son and son-in-law to pursue successful careers in construction.
Triumph can be achieved through many circumstances. The story of friends George Brown and William Lewis proved that the lasting connection of friendship they forged at WTI could overcome the test of time and distance. As students, the men commuted together to WTI from the southern tier of New York. Both majored in mechanical drafting and shared an apartment.
Following graduation in 1963, they somehow lost contact. With both friends looking to reunite, Penn College's Alumni Relations Office served as the liaison, and they found they lived only 30 minutes from each other. They have attended the reunion together for the past four years.
The mere presence of the many veterans who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars showed undeniable triumph at the reunion. Gary Inch, Joseph Stryker and Bill Curry were among this group of veterans. The skills they learned and developed through WTI directly contributed to their duties in serving our country. Today, Bill Curry continues to give back by participating in charity bike rides with his wife, Jean.
Bill was not the only alumnus at the reunion to speak about selfless acts of helping others. Earl Gates discussed how he and his wife, Joyce, actively scour the country collecting Barbie dolls, clothing and accessories for care packages shipped to Nicaraguan children. John Hertel, a 1949 welding graduate, arranges breakfast for union members each month.
Each of these men exude great character and the will to influence others.
A belief that every attendee I spoke with shared was that pursuing an education through WTI was a life-changing experience. WTI set their foundations, helped them accomplish goals and taught them to express individual ideas through their skills.
Those same qualities continue to be passed down to Penn College students today. Not only does the college provide degrees that work, it also instills enduring impressions and values that positively shape the personalities of its students. Those life-shaping lessons add value to the education Penn College provides.