Women in History Month: Meet Diana Hume George

By Allison Counasse
e-Communications Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

In recognition of Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to just a few of the dynamic women in Penn State Behrend’s history. Our college has a rich history of leadership and involvement by strong, forward thinking, and generous women. Each Monday in March, we’ll highlight a woman who has made, or is currently making, her mark on the college.

Today, we’d like you to meet Dr. Diana Hume George, Professor Emerita of English and Women’s Studies.

Diana Hume George at JFK International Airport by John Edwards
Diana Hume George at JFK International Airport. Photo by John Edwards.

Diana Hume George taught English and Women’s Studies at Penn State Behrend from 1978 to 2004. She is now a member of the core faculty at Goucher College’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction program, which combines online and on-campus education. She has published ten books of poems, essays, and criticism, including the Pulitzer-nominated Blake and Freud. She also co-directs the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival.

I caught up with her by email to ask her about the importance of women’s studies, why she doesn’t (yes, you read that right!) miss teaching at Behrend, and what she’s been doing lately.

You taught women’s studies at Penn State Behrend. Why is it important for college students to learn about this subject?
Yes, I taught women’s studies and I worked for years on founding what became the women’s studies program at Behrend—I’m so glad it’s still going.

As much progress as women have made in this country and around the world, there’s nothing like genuine equity yet. Women can still be owned, enslaved, beaten, and maimed in many places, including in some parts of this country—and control of women’s bodies is still a primary political aim. Sometimes I am heartened by all the advances—no one’s surprised by women in the so-called professions any more, as doctors or professors or politicians or talking heads on TV, and that progress is genuine. But it’s just as true that in many cultures and countries, there’s still a war against women’s equality that is violent and terrifying.

Without women’s studies, younger women would be even more likely to backslide, to lose touch with all that has gone before, and to become re-enculturated in ways that disable and disenfranchise them—I see it every day. The lack of a feminist awareness among young women scares me deeply and daily and a lot.

What do you miss about teaching at Behrend?
I don’t miss teaching at Behrend, because I took the best of it with me. I’m still in contact with a bunch of my previous students over the years—one became among the best friends of my life, another student-turned-friend I meet up with at the Cleveland Film Festival every year. I visit one in Baltimore regularly, another is getting ready to run the Boston Marathon and makes me great beach-glass earrings, and yet another sends me his wonderful poems. And there’s another fellow writer, and another is a magazine editor—come to think of it, I’m in touch with someone from every generation of my career there.

I also stay in touch with department colleagues—I met up with John Champagne and Sharon Dale in Rome last year and stayed at John’s place in Perugia, and I see George Looney because along with Phil Terman at Clarion, we run the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival together, which is how I also run into Greg Morris as well as newer colleagues like Kim Todd and Tom Noyes. Other writer colleagues from long ago, names current people might not even remember, like Melissa Bender and Ann Pancake, are part of my life, too. And after leaving Behrend, I got to know a couple of colleagues that I never had time to know when I was working constantly—I love and miss Toby Cunningham, whom I barely knew at Behrend, but once we were gone, we ended up in a writers’ group together and my partner John Edwards published his wonderful book.

My son Bernie is back at Behrend finishing up his degree—so put it all together and it’s like I never left.

What have you been working on since leaving Behrend?
Since I left Behrend, I’ve been teaching creative nonfiction in an MFA program at Goucher College in Baltimore. I’ve also been to several colleges and universities as a visiting writer, teaching for a few weeks or even a semester, at places such as Davidson in North Carolina, UNC/Wilmington, and Ohio University.

What do you enjoy about teaching in the MFA program at Goucher College?
I live in Pennsylvania, and work online, going to Baltimore a couple of times a year. I mentor writers who always wanted to write a book. Our program is geared toward helping them write voice-driven narrative—some have been professional journalists all their lives and they haven’t yet gotten to write long-form. It’s great fun and I get to learn as much as I teach, because whatever they’re writing a book about, I’m reading that book as they write it. And we also get doctors and psychologists and professors, as well as people who want to write about their own lives, so I edit memoirs on trauma and on travel, and sometimes that can be the same book.

You mentioned in our email exchanges that you have been traveling. Please tell us more.
I have the privilege of shaping my life so that I can do my favorite thing, which is to travel with my friends or my partner, John Edwards. I wrote one travel book and I’m always writing the next one. I try to go to Italy for about a month every other year. Lately I’ve been alternating Italy with the Yucatan peninsula, from which I’m just back right now. I stay on Isla Mujares, an undeveloped island right off Cancun, where I first went with a fellow writer on a retreat back when I was at Behrend. I got hooked on those Caribbean breezes in January.

What are your other interests?
Even more than travel and writing, I want to read. I don’t get to read enough. That’s my goal, lots of good books, the kind where you can throw yourself down on a bed and get lost in an imaginary world.

And I love long-form drama on TV, where a lot of the best storytelling takes place, both comic and tragic—Deadwood, The Sopranos, and Breaking Bad were almost as important to me as literature.

You wrote and edited books on the American poet Anne Sexton. Does her work still resonate with you? How has your relationship with her work changed?
I wrote or edited three books about Anne Sexton, and she was a wondrous enough poet that I never got weary of her writing—but I did get battle fatigue about her psyche. She was a joyful and delightful person, witty, wicked smart, and ironic, but she was also bipolar, and being in the presence of that kind of mind can yank you around. My friend and the co-editor with me of Sexton’s Selected Poems, Diane Wood Middlebrook, lived inside Sexton’s head for a decade, and she said it was nearly too much.

I was attracted to her sense of joy, and I still admire her willingness to also say the depth of her pain—but she couldn’t live, in the end, and I can. So although my affection for her poetry remains, and I think she was tremendously important, and deserves to endure, I am a bit distant from her now.

But if you’re lucky, your old literary loves from early in your life stay with you in some sense throughout, they get internalized and are part of who you are, and all of my early loves became part of me—Sexton and Adrienne Rich and William Blake and Freud.

If someone is unfamiliar with your writing, what might be a good introductory work?
Personal essays I wrote, such as “Wounded Chevy at Wounded Knee” or “The Last of the Raccoon,” still represent my work.

Diana Hume George will do a public reading at Clarion University of Pennsylvania on April 17, 2014. The second edition of her book The Lonely Other: A Woman Watching America will be released in April, with several new essays.


Behrend Reacts: Who’s your pick to win the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament?


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It’s the end of March, which means the madness is well underway.

For weeks, sports fans have meticulously crafted their NCAA Division I men’s basketball bracket selections in search of a winner.

So, who you got?

The Sweet Sixteen begin today, which means that even more brackets are sure to get busted.

We asked Penn State Behrend students who they think will emerge from this year’s field.

Emelie Linder

Emelie Linder, freshman, Marketing and Economics: “I think Kentucky because it’s already been unexpected that they’ve made it this far.”

Kari Mild

Kari Mild, freshman, Elementary Education: “Tennessee because I really like that state and want to move there someday.”

Alexandra Sorce

Alexandra Sorce, freshman, Community and Economic Development: “Louisville because last season, (Louisville player) Kevin Ware had a radical knee injury and you deserve something if you pop your knee out like that.”

Mary Beth Cartier

Mary Beth Cartier, sophomore, Arts Administration: “Kentucky because both of my cousins went there, and they’re usually a really good team.”

Aaron Scheel

Aaron Scheel, junior, Computer Science: “Michigan because it would make my older brother very happy.”

Matt Panetta

Matt Panetta, sophomore, Computer Science: “Florida because I picked them in the ESPN Bracket Challenge.”

Khardiata Mbengue

Khardiata Mbengue, junior, Biology: “UCLA because there’s warm weather there, and their blood will be flowing better.”

Paul Toma

Paul Toma, junior, Finance: “Dayton because I like rooting for the underdogs.”

Brandon Siebauer

Brandon Siebauer, freshman, Plastics Engineering Technology: “Louisville because they’re 31-5.”

Jacob Foglia

Jacob Foglia, freshman, Electrical Engineering: “I’m going to go with Florida because they have Scottie Wilbekin, and I think he’s the strongest player in the tournament.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Steve Orbanek at sco10@psu.edu.

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Female landscaper blooms where she’s been planted for 22 years

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend


Imagine driving 100 miles a day to work. Now imagine doing it for two decades. Patricia “Patty” Blackhurst has been doing just that—commuting from her home in Linesville, fifty-two miles away, for twenty-two years—all to help make Penn State Behrend a more beautiful place.

As a groundskeeper in the Glenhill area (one of several landscaping “zones” on campus), Blackhurst and the coworkers on her crew are responsible for maintaining, improving, and caring for the grounds and walkways on lower campus from Kochel Center to the science buildings.

Blackhurst is also responsible for maintaining and caring for the indoor plants across campus.

“When I started, there were just thirteen plants in Reed,” She said. “They added more to the other buildings and asked me to propagate some new ones.”

She did, growing them right on the windowsill in the maintenance and operations office, nurturing cuttings into large plants. “I think we’re up to seventy-five plants now.”

Blackhurst’s interest in landscaping bloomed in high school, when she attended what was then a forestry program at Crawford County Vocational-Technical School. After graduation, she dabbled in property and retail management before taking a job with a Meadville landscaping company.

When an advertisement appeared in the newspaper for a position at Penn State Behrend, Blackhurst applied with plenty of experience in landscaping and running the equipment associated with it. She landed the job at Behrend and has continued to commute five days a week ever since.

While there have been other women on the groundskeeping crew over the years, Blackhurst is currently the only one. It doesn’t seem to faze her.

“I can’t say I’ve ever really thought about it,” she says with a laugh. “I love my job, and I really enjoy working outside with whoever is in my crew, men or women.”

She says the only time anyone expresses surprise at a woman working on the grounds crew is when she’s driving big equipment like the vent-track lawn mower or a backhoe.

In the winter, Blackhurst and her fellow grounds crew workers are responsible for keeping the sidewalks and paths clear. Asked if this harsh winter has ever made her wish she had a desk job indoors where it’s nice and warm, she laughs and says, “Never. I could never sit at a desk all day. It’s just not for me.”

Lucky for Penn State Behrend.

About Patty

Family: She and her husband, Richard, have a son, 29, and a daughter, 33.

Residence: Linesville

Favorite tree on campus: Japanese umbrella tree by the Glenhill pool and the giant sequoia tree near the Glenhill Farmhouse. “I planted that tree (the sequoia) when Dr. Ed Masteller (professor of biology emeritus) started the arboretum at Behrend several years ago,” she says. “He took me under his wing, showed me what to do, and asked me to keep an eye on the trees for him. Unfortunately, the sequoia took a beating this winter. I hope it survives.”

Worst thing about her job: Snakes

Hobbies: Gardening, of course! Blackhurst volunteers at Conneaut Lake Park,where she does landscaping work. She also enjoys working in her own yard where she has two gardens with waterfalls.

Spreading sunshine: Blackhurst has a small greenhouse where she grows her own annuals. If she has too many, she’ll bring some to Behrend and scatter them in beds around campus. “I enjoy sprinkling them here and there around campus,” she says. “I always plant some in front of the M&O office to give the women who work in the office there something nice to look at when they come to work in the morning.”

Favorite sport to watch: Football, particularly Penn State, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Seattle Seahawks.

Favorite TV shows: Law & Order and The Voice

Pet peeves: Negativity

What she wishes for students: “I wish they would look up now and then and see what they have growing around them,” she says. “They walk around campus staring at their phones with their ear buds in. They’re so closed off. They miss so much of nature.”

Women in History Month: Meet Jane Ingold

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

In recognition of Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to just a few of the dynamic women in Penn State Behrend’s history.  Our college has a rich history of leadership and involvement by strong, forward thinking, and generous women. Each Monday in March, we’ll highlight a woman who has made, or is currently making, her mark on the college.

Today, we’d like you to meet Jane Ingold, a reference librarian in the John M. Lilley Library.


It’s not believed that any member of the Behrend family still lives in the Erie area, but Mary Behrend’s grandsons might beg to differ.

“The grandsons (Dick and Bill Sayre) have told me I’m an adopted Behrend,” Penn State Behrend reference librarian Jane Ingold said.

Given Ingold’s knowledge of the Behrend family history, it’s an appropriate remark.

Since 1999, she has worked as a librarian at the John M. Lilley Library. On a typical day, Ingold might be helping a student with a research project or reorganizing library materials, but there’s a good chance that she’ll be working in the archives, located on the bottom floor of the library.

The archives at Penn State Behrend are comprised of three permanent collections: the Behrend Family Collection, the Hammermill Paper Company Collection, and the Penn State Behrend Collection. Since 2006, Ingold has worked to organize and categorize the collections, and she’s become something of an expert when it comes to Behrend history.

Ingold has a great knowledge for every detail surrounding Behrend’s history, dating back to when Mary Behrend donated her family’s Glenhill Farm estate to Penn State in 1948.

Through the years, Ingold has received countless relics and souvenirs that somehow tie into the Behrend family, the college, or the Hammermill Paper Company, the company owned by Mary Behrend’s husband Ernst as well as his brothers, Otto and Bernard, and their father, Moritz.

Ingold has made a meticulous effort to carefully keep track of everything she’s found or been given since she first came to Behrend. She’s viewed as the historical expert on campus, and the archives even earned the Local History Award in July 2011 from the Erie County Historical Society.

Ingold said she has seen plenty of interesting artifacts in the archives, but there’s one particular item that stands out above the rest.

“It’s the letters that Mrs. Behrend wrote to her son Warren right before he died in a car accident in 1929.” Ingold said. “It made me cry.”

Because of her knowledge, Ingold has become a great resource, both to students and former Hammermill employees. Many of the Hammermill retirees recognize the importance of the archives, and they help to contribute and spread the word.

This is especially true of Harry Hahn, a 104-year-old Hammermill retiree. Hahn communicates frequently with Ingold, and he’s always doing what he can to help grow the archives.

“He’s one of the joys of my life,” Ingold said.


In a newspaper story discussing his impending open-heart surgery at age 101, Hahn even encouraged former employees to donate materials to the archives.

For all the work that Ingold does with the archives, her main passion remains the Penn State Behrend students.

“My favorite part of the job is helping students. It’s like a treasure hunt when you’re looking for something for someone, and they’re always so grateful,” Ingold said.

This was true a few years back when a student came to Ingold in the eleventh hour for help with a program on Behrend’s history.  Ben Lane, the former director of admissions and author of Behrend Remembered, had been scheduled to make a presentation on Behrend’s history, but he had to cancel. Ingold quickly gathered up all the information she could and stepped in to replace Lane.

“It tickled me,” Ingold said. “It made me feel very helpful.”


In the future, Ingold said she would like to possibly update Lane’s book.

Considering her wealth of knowledge, that seems like a realistic goal.

About Jane Ingold

Birthplace: Cranesville, Pa.

Education: B.A. in English from Gannon University, M.S. in library and information science from the University of Texas at Austin

Family/pets: “I spend a lot of time being what Elizabeth Gilbert terms a “sparent” or spare parent to my nieces and their children. I have a brown tabby, Tye, who was adopted from a local shelter.”

Favorite thing about Behrend: “The resources we have to help students are great. We have access to almost anything in the world that a student would need.”

Advice for today’s students: “Having a librarian in your corner can make a big difference in your academic career. Befriend one.”

Favorite hobbies: “Reading (now there’s a surprise), organizing anything from papers to events, genealogy.”

Last book read:  Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson

Three books that everyone should read: The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and Getting Things Done by David Allen

Why is it important that we preserve history?:  “This series that you and your colleagues are writing on Women of Behrend wouldn’t be possible if we hadn’t chosen to preserve our history.”

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Behrend Reacts: How do you leave a strong impression at a career fair?


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

They say first impressions are everything, and attendees at Thursday’s Spring Career and Internship Fair at Penn State Behrend would probably agree.

Hundreds of Penn State Behrend students lined up to mingle with more than 150 employers at the career fair. They were dressed to impress from head to toe, and they all shared a similar goal: land an internship or job.

We asked some students how they set out to make a strong impression at career fairs.

Robert Surrena

Robert Surrena, senior, Mechanical Engineering: “It’s just one of those things I was taught as a little kid. Step one, you walk up, look the employer in the eye, and then shake his or her hand.”

Ryan Price

Ryan Price, senior, Electrical Engineering: “It’s important to just be confident and do your prep work.”

Michael Cochran

Michael Cochran, sophomore, Broadcast Journalism: “Just try to be unique. I tried to connect with them on a personal level and see what they have to offer.”

Zachary Naples

Zachary Naples, sophomore, Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering: “I just try to make good eye contact, have a firm handshake, and ask good questions.”

Hannah Kelly

Hannah Kelly, sophomore, Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering: “I make sure that I dress professionally. When I walk up to employers, I smile, shake their hand, and look like I’m interested in their company.”

Kristine Campbell

Kristine Campbell, junior, Chemistry: “I think it’s important to dress professionally. Another good thing is to have copies of your résumé and make sure they’re accurate.”

Brian Wilking

Brian Wilking, junior, Accounting: “The key is being able to come across as a professional but also showing that I am different from everyone else and can be an asset to their team.”

Michael Boadu

Michael Boadu, senior, Political Science: “I always believe that your first impression makes the difference. Rather than reading from a book about what you have to do, it’s better to just be natural.”

Sarah Green

Sarah Green, sophomore, Mechanical Engineering: “It’s important to introduce yourself, say what your talents are, and ask questions instead of just having them ask you questions.”

Gillian Groff

Gillian Groff, senior, Management Information Systems: “It’s important to be confident in yourself when you go up to employers and make sure they know what you’re looking for. Experience also really does help.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Steve Orbanek at sco10@psu.edu.

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Women in History Month: Meet Mildred Doherty

By Chris Palattella Public relations coordinator, Penn State Behrend

In recognition of Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to just a few of the dynamic women in Penn State Behrend’s history.  Our college has a rich history of leadership and involvement by strong, forward thinking, and generous women. Each Monday in March, we’ll highlight a woman who has made, or is currently making, her mark on the college.

Today, we’d like you to meet Mildred Doherty, our first female engineering faculty member.  

Mildred 1963

Mildred Doherty, 1963

The first female member of Penn State Behrend’s engineering faculty is remembered as a gregarious Renaissance woman with many interests, chief among them a deep affection for her Irish heritage.

In 1960, Mildred Doherty—“Mid” to her friends— arrived on a campus so thinly staffed that the infirmary nurse doubled as the bookstore manager. Doherty brought a unique skill set for a woman of her generation, having worked as a technical writer, a civilian supervisor for the U.S. Air Force, and as head of the U.S. Signal Corps’ examination and evaluation section for radar operations. But gender wasn’t an issue, according to a faculty colleague. “No one was concerned that she was a woman teaching engineering, because Mid laid down the law for her students,” Ed Masteller, professor of biology emeritus, said. “I think that was her military background. She had specific expectations about the way things should be done.”

Doherty’s all-business comportment must have been contained within Otto Behrend Science, because among her contemporaries she is universally remembered for her infectious sense of merriment, passion for travel and genealogy, and can-do attitude.  “My husband and I loved her because she was a fun girl, a really fun girl,” says retired physical education instructor Irene Edwards. “She was so interesting, and just a delight to be around.”

Although Doherty lived in a small Behrend family-era cabin near what is now Lilley Library during the week, she entertained at her home in Centerville, a farmhouse originally owned by her Irish grandparents. Masteller and his wife, Marianna, would make the trip to Crawford County for picnics, potlucks, and book clubs; Mary Turner, a distant cousin of Doherty’s, says she vividly remembers a summer party that ended in fireworks.

Doherty’s annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration would start with Mass at Immaculate Conception Church of Mageetown. (Doherty’s mother’s family, the Magees, had founded both the church and community.) After that came the ‘tin band,’ a boisterous parade of revelers who walked back to Doherty’s home for dinner and Irish coffee. “We’d march with kettles and spoons, banging and making noise and having a great time,” Edwards says.

After her retirement, Doherty’s passions were traveling to visit family and friends and researching the genealogy of the Doherty and Magee families. She created a small museum space within Immaculate Conception to display artifacts related to the area’s early Irish Roman Catholic settlers and  cataloged and mapped the graves in the church’s cemetery, where she was buried following her death in April  1985.

More About Mildred

Born: October 7, 1909, in Franklin.

Education: 1926 graduate of Oil City High School; 1932 graduate of Saint Xavier College (now University) in Chicago with a B.S. in mathematics and minors in chemistry and physics.

According to Irene Edwards, Doherty said she was able to attend college only because of significant scholarship support. “She would take the bus back and forth from Oil City to Chicago. I remember her very funny stories about that. It was always an adventure, but then she was an adventurous critter.”

Continuing education: Also studied at St. Louis University, Grove City College, Clarion University, and the University of Houston.

Career detour: Doherty left the U.S. Signal Corps to care for her aging parents. During that time she worked as the librarian at Titusville High School.

A word from her niece: “Aunt Mid was the one person—and I’ve never met another person like her—who never said anything bad about anybody,” says Nancy Cotter, daughter of Mildred’s sister Margaret. “Never negative. No gossip. That was something I really admired about her.”

A warm send-off: For her retirement in 1970, Doherty’s Behrend colleagues bought her Centerville home’s first furnace. She threw a furnace-warming party and had all the guests sign their name on the unit.

Behrend student returns to regional Science Olympiad as a judge


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

One of the Science Olympiad’s stated goals is “to create a passion for learning science.” If the organization is looking for an ambassador, it need not look any further than Gary Fye.

Fye, a first-year Biomedical Engineering major at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, was a volunteer judge at the regional Science Olympiad held at Behrend this March.

More than 400 students from thirty-three area school districts competed in forty-six science-related events. Among the participating schools was North Clarion High School, which happens to be Fye’s high school alma mater.

From grades seven through twelve, Fye participated in the Science Olympiad. In fact, he took first place in at least one event every year but ninth grade.

“The time just never seemed to last long enough,” Fye said. “It was something I really, really enjoyed.”

That enjoyment is still present today. Although Fye was at home in Leeper, Pa., for spring break, he traveled on a bus with his former high school just so he could volunteer his time at the Science Olympiad.

Experimental Design, the event Fye judged, had participants experiment with a springboard and then propose a hypothesis based on that experiment. Experiments like this are what helped pique Fye’s interest in science and engineering years ago.

“It broadens your horizons. You really get a feel for lab work,” he said.

After attending his first Science Olympiad, Fye’s interest in science only grew. In middle school and early high school, he was appropriately nicknamed “Gary Fye the Science Guy.” The name referred to Fye’s love of science, but it was also a word play on Bill Nye, who was the host of the popular PBS children’s show “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” Fye also happened to be a big fan of Nye, which made the nickname an even better fit.

The Science Olympiad influenced Fye in another way as well. The event exposed him to Penn State Behrend.

“I would actually put that as one of the number one reasons as to why I’m here at Behrend,” Fye said. “It definitely introduced me to engineering concepts.”

So far, Behrend has been a good fit.

Earlier this winter, Nye visited Behrend as part of the college’s Speaker Series. Given his natural love of science and interest in the Science Guy, Fye was more than a little excited when he heard the news.

“I sat in the front row,” he said with a smile.


THON 2014 leaves lasting impression on Behrend participants


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

After attending the last two THONs as a spectator, Wes Dorrenbacher thought he had a good idea of what to expect when he was selected as a dancer for this year’s event.

That all changed around hour thirty-four.

“It was probably around 3:00 a.m. on early Sunday morning,” Dorrenbacher said. “It was finally real to me. I was just so humbled and thankful for this experience. For the next twenty minutes, I drew on a towel ‘Thank you’ and just started walking around the Bryce Jordan Center.”

More than 15,000 students participate each year in the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON), a 46-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping event that has raised more than $114 million since 1977 for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. The fund pays for counselors, social workers, music therapists, and other specialists whose work with children fighting cancer often is not covered by insurance.

Dorrenbacher, a senior psychology major at Penn State Behrend, was one of 708 dancers at this year’s THON, which was held February 21-23 at University Park. He was joined by two other Behrend dancers, senior mechanical engineering major Nick Hirsch and freshman kinesiology major Rachael Hazen.


During the dance marathon, participants are assigned a “moraler” who encourages them to keep going. The support this person provides is essential as the dancers’ battle to stay awake is as much mental as it is physical.

Hirsch learned this the hard way Sunday morning.

“I got to Sunday morning, and I thought it was later than it actually was,” Hirsch said. “When my brain realized it wasn’t as late as I thought it was, my body just shut down.”

Thankfully, Hirsch’s moraler was there and managed to feed him some apples and bananas to help restore his energy. Frequent eating is one of the keys to getting through the marathon.

Of course, there are other methods. Spectators and kids patrol the Bryce Jordan Center with squirt guns filled with ice-cold water. Hirsch will be the first to admit that a splash to the face never felt so good.

“As soon as you get hit with that water, your brain just resets. The pain goes away, and your mind stops thinking about being tired,” Hirsch said.

However, even with the food, moralers, and squirt guns, participants inevitably struggle as they dance and force their minds and bodies to stay awake.

When a person’s body and mind gets pushed to such limits, emotions are inevitable. That’s exactly what Dorrenbacher felt early Sunday morning, but he feels that’s one of the draws of participating in THON.

“The delirium brings out the emotions you normally would not want to show,” Dorrenbacher said. “But that’s the point of the weekend — to bring out those weaknesses and show how much we care for this cause.”

When the event finally ended Sunday evening, an exhausted Dorrenbacher, Hirsch, and Hazen headed to Berkery Creamery for ice cream. It’s a tradition for Behrend participants to go to the creamery after THON.

Dorrenbacher said the emotion he experienced during that weekend was unparalleled to anything else he has felt in his life. In fact, the emotion stayed with him, even days after the event.

Both “Good Morning America” and ABC News World News covered THON in the days that followed the event. The Behrend dancers were even pictured briefly in the segments.

Dorrenbacher admitted that he started to tear up at just seeing a teaser for the segments. His emotion is indicative of the THON weekend and the profound effect it had on his life.

“THON was honestly the best weekend of my life to date,” Dorrenbacher said. “There’s nothing quite like fighting for a cause that is bigger than yourself.”


Women in History Month: Meet Mary Beth McCarthy

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

In recognition of Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to just a few of the dynamic women in Penn State Behrend’s history.  Our college has a rich history of leadership and involvement by strong, forward thinking, and generous women. Each Monday in March, we’ll highlight a woman who has made, or is currently making, her mark on the college.

Today, we’d like you to meet Mary Beth McCarthy, one of Behrend’s first female administrators.


Not much has stayed the same during Mary Beth McCarthy’s thirty-four years at Penn State Behrend. In fact, the only constant has been change.

“Behrend is just so exciting. It’s been growing and evolving since I got here in 1980,” said McCarthy, director of the college’s Academic and Career Planning Center (ACPC).

McCarthy was hired at the college in 1980 as the financial aid and placement coordinator. At the time, Student Affairs and Admissions were all in one office with a very small staff, and McCarthy assisted all students with their financial aid and also worked to help students find jobs after college.

For McCarthy, Behrend was an opportunity. She never expected that opportunity to turn into a career.

‘A blip on my radar’

A Pittsburgh native, McCarthy ended up in Erie after earning an undergraduate degree in psychology at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in counseling at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.

She worked as an admissions counselor at Villa Maria College before accepting a position at Behrend. She never expected to stay in Erie for long, but that quickly changed.

“I thought I was just passing through. Erie was just a blip on my radar,” McCarthy recalled. “One of the reasons I stayed was because this place was always evolving. It’s just been so rewarding to be a part of such long-term positive growth.”

McCarthy has seen growth not only in the college, but also in the student body.

Over the years, she has offered career counseling to thousands of students, and she always revels in their success.

“It’s been wonderful to see students and the college embrace the idea of career and life planning rather than focusing simply on ‘placement’ into the first job.” McCarthy said.

MB McCarthy

Mary Beth McCarthy (1983)

A Behrend pioneer

When McCarthy joined the college in 1980, the environment was vastly different from that of today.

She was one of the only female administrators at the college, and Behrend was still very much a man’s world.

At lunch, there was a table for male staff members and a separate table for females. It was also strongly suggested that women follow a strict dress code of business suits with skirts. No pants were allowed.

However, the biggest sign of the times may have been a club that McCarthy was encouraged to join. Faculty Women and Wives was an organization composed entirely of Behrend female staff members and the wives of male staff and faculty members. They would take part in various activities such as fund-raising, and hosting social events.

Eventually, the group was disbanded, but it is reflective of the college environment at time McCarthy was hired.

As one of the college’s first female leaders, McCarthy might be described as a pioneer, but she’s hesitant to embrace that term.

“I think I happened to be the first at a time when things were changing anyway,” McCarthy said. “So I don’t really see myself as a pioneer.”

‘It was like the whole campus was pregnant’

Throughout her time at Behrend, McCarthy said she has always been able to count on a friendly work environment. That was probably most evident in 1983 when she was pregnant with her first child.

“It was like the whole campus was pregnant,” McCarthy said.

The idea of a staff member having a baby seemed brand new to Behrend, and McCarthy’s colleagues showered her with support. Bob Schenker, who was the college registrar at the time, would clean the snow from her car each evening before she went home.  She had two baby showers, one sponsored by the entire campus, and another hosted by a group of students.  Carolyn Lane, wife of Ben Lane, director of admissions, made a quilt for McCarthy’s baby-to-be.

This kindness set the tone for her as she advanced in her career. She says she has tried to replicate that kindness when she deals with staff members and students.

“I had this wonderful relationship with everyone because we were so small,” McCarthy said. “I was a young professional at the time, and I learned that the strong relationships were why the college was successful. Since my basic nature is to be friendly and open, I felt like I could be that person and still help to make my office successful.”

Start of a new chapter

This fall, McCarthy will close the book on the Behrend chapter of her life. She will retire in September, but her definition of retirement is a tad unconventional.

“For me, I want to learn as much more as I can, about everything I don’t know,” McCarthy said. “I’m also thinking about doing some leisure life coaching where I help other people transition to a new life after the work world.  Retirement isn’t about leaving the work world for me. It just means that it’s time to do something new.”

 lake erie lifestyle pics 021

About Mary Beth McCarthy

Children: Two sons: Robin (30) and Cory (26)

Hobbies: “Juggling parenthood and family-life took a lot of my free time early on. Gardening has been a life-long passion and I was lucky enough to become involved with the Erie chapter of the Penn State Master Gardeners about ten years ago. I have also become a late-in-life rails-to-trails bicycler and a day hiker!”

Favorite thing about Penn State Behrend: “All of the great people that I have met along the way.  Many of my life-long friends, including my best friend of twenty-five years as well as my partner are here on this campus.  In addition, I love the Arboretum and have been known to give group tours throughout the years.  Since I’m a big fan of the arts, I try not to miss the Logan Series and Rhythm of Life concerts.”

Best advice for today’s students: “Choose what you love. Years ago, choosing a college major was viewed as a way to decide what to do with the rest of your life. Today, it’s much more about what to do first, with many life-time possibilities ahead!”

Behrend Reacts: What are your plans for spring break?


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Don’t look now, but spring is right around the corner. Can’t you tell?

Despite the wintery weather, Penn State students will be on spring break next week.

Spring is usually associated with warmer weather and flowers, but here in Erie, it seems unlikely that we’ll escape this polar vortex anytime soon.

Of course, spring break allows students the perfect opportunity to escape the cold… at least for a little while.

We asked some Penn State Behrend students what their plans are for the break:

Shayleana Randle

Shayleana Randle, sophomore, Art Administration: “I’m going to Rhode Island to visit my grandmother.”

Sean Dalton

Sean Dalton, freshman, Chemistry: “I will mostly just be at home taking care of my daughter.”

Cassie Cristea

Cassie Cristea, freshman, Business: “I am going home to Warren to visit family and friends.”

Jeremy Maurer

Jeremy Maurer, junior, Psychology: “I’ll be going home to DuBois to spend time with my family.”

Alan Buckel

Alan Buckel, senior, Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering Studies: “I’m going to Colorado to snowboard.”

Matt Vipond

Matt Vipond, freshman, Mechanical Engineering: “I’ll be working on a service project in Erie.”

Justin Corwin

Justin Corwin, junior, Letters, Arts, & Sciences: “I’ll be working construction.”

Kara Wenzel

Kara Wenzel, sophomore, Math: “I’ll be doing nothing but homework.”

Josh Wilkins

Josh Wilkins, sophomore, Chemistry: “I’m staying in Erie and will just be relaxing and spending time with my girlfriend.”

Jen Gibson

Jen Gibson, sophomore, Marketing: “I’m going to Florida to visit my friend.”

Tyreck Green

Tyreck Green, freshman, undecided: “I won’t be doing anything exciting; just chilling.”

Behrend Reacts is a regular Thursday feature at the Behrend Blog that tries to get the campus pulse on a current topic, whether it’s serious or trivial. If you have a question to suggest for Behrend Reacts, please email Steve Orbanek at sco10@psu.edu.

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