Secret Lives of Staff: Meet Steven Miller, history buff

There’s so much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see them doing on campus. In this occasional series, we take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

Some people make it a goal to visit every state or capitol, but Steven Miller ’06, associate director of Housing and Food Services at Penn State Behrend, is a World War II reenactor and Penn State Behrend history alumnus who is working on a more unique challenge: He has a goal of visiting the private residences of every U.S. president. He’s already been to twenty.

“Visiting presidential homes offers an insight into the private life of individuals who had a profound impact on the formation and development of our country,” Miller said. “The homes and grounds themselves show a progression of architecture and lifestyle through history, from the vast agricultural farmlands of the Founding Fathers to the urban presidents of today.”

It all started with a trip to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s home in Gettysburg, a stop on Miller’s itinerary while visiting Gettysburg National Military Park.

“It evolved into an annual summer trip with my brother, a challenge to visit the private residences of past presidents, with the goal of visiting all forty-five of them,” Miller said.

We chatted with Miller to learn more about his adventures and the homes he’s been most impressed with.

Are presidents’ residences public?

Yes, most presidential private residences belong to the National Park Service and are open to the public for tours. Information on their locations and visiting information can be found on the National Park website at

Do you plan vacations around visiting presidential homes?

I typically plan our itinerary around visiting both presidential sites and museums. Some of the most extensive collections of historical military artifacts are in museums located at the service academies, such as West Point or the United States Naval Academy, and often I will add these into our itineraries. Thirteen presidents have homes in New York, Ohio or Virginia, so from here where we live, creating a travel itinerary that takes you by a president’s home is fairly easy. One of the things we enjoy on these visits is eating at local establishments as much as possible; we try to avoid chain restaurants.

Who is your favorite (or most admired) president and why?

My favorite modern president was Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). He was elected at the height of the Great Depression, and through various public programs, he got the country back on its feet. He then led the nation through four years of World War II and was the only president elected to four terms in office. He also founded the March of Dimes with the goal of finding a vaccine for polio.

What are some of the more famous homes you’ve seen so far?

Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home; Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home; Montpelier, James Monroe’s home; and Springwood, FDR’s home.

Have any the homes surprised you in any way?

It is impressive to see how some of these homes are incredibly preserved with original furnishings and furniture.

What does history mean to you? Why is it important to study and learn about history?

I am always searching for a connection to the past, and visiting historical sites, whether presidential homes or museums, let us see the tangible items that create those links. Visiting these homes is like stepping into the past. It’s amazing to think about walking in the footsteps of some of the most influential people in our country’s history.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Puerto Rico Trip Sheds Light on Island Still Recovering from Hurricane

Andrea Konkol, associate director of admissions at Penn State Behrend, recently returned from Puerto Rico, an island still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Maria, which tore through the Caribbean six months ago. Hurricane Maria was the worst natural disaster to ever hit Puerto Rico and is responsible for at least 112 confirmed deaths. Some people are still missing. The death toll in Puerto Rico is believed to be much higher than reported, possibly more than 1,000. The hurricane wrought catastrophic damage to the island, with much of the housing and infrastructure beyond repair. Total losses from the hurricane are estimated at upwards of $91.61 billion. We asked Konkol to share what she saw while she was in Puerto Rico attending College Week in the Caribbean.

Andrea Konkol web photo.jpg

By Andrea Konkol

Associate director of admissions, Penn State Behrend

College Week in the Caribbean is a weeklong series of high school visits and college fairs coordinated by the Caribbean Counselor Association (CCA), a group of college and school counselors based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I traveled with representatives from twelve other college and universities. This was my twelfth College Week since 2011. Students in Puerto Rico have only a few options for college on the island and many are looking to go to the mainland United States to pursue new and different opportunities.

I was apprehensive about traveling this year because I wondered what the condition of the islands would be like post-Hurricane Maria.

I was surprised by how green everything was when I looked out over the landscape. If you saw pictures of Puerto Rico after the hurricane, you know that the landscape and trees were stripped bare and appeared totally brown. Mother Nature can regenerate at fantastic rate! (Check out this slideshow with then and now photos of Puerto Rico).

There are certainly bruises on the infrastructure, though. Buildings with boarded-up windows, twisted and bent street signs, and the occasional out-of-order street light were all things I witnessed.

For the most part, though, life seems to be back to somewhat normal conditions. People go to work and to school. Life has gone on. As I reflect on my week, I am struck by one thought: the people living on these islands are incredibly resilient!

I should say that our travels did not take us directly into the hardest hit areas that are, by many accounts, still without water or power. I was mostly in the San Juan metro area.

However, we did spend one day traveling southwest of San Juan, to Ponce. The drive took us through the central mountains of the island. It was hard to miss the telltale bright blue FEMA tarps that dotted the hillsides and marked homes damaged by the storm. Again, the greenness of the mountains was astonishing! Both people and nature were hard at work rebuilding.

My hotel appeared to be serving as some kind of logistics center for the island’s power restoration efforts. Early in the morning and late in the evening, the elevators were filled with electrical line workers. I spoke with one gentleman from Con Edison who lived in New Jersey. He had been on the island for more than a month and was also on the island for the month of November. He asked if I was on vacation. I wish! When I told him I was a recruiter for Penn State, he told me he had a 17-year-old looking at colleges. “Keep Penn State in mind!” I said as he exited the elevator. As admissions recruiters we are always working to recruit our next student, even in elevators!

We visited eighteen schools in Puerto Rico and two in St. Thomas during our five days of recruiting. School counselors consistently told us it was a tough year. Maria hit just as students were applying to colleges for fall admission. Yet, they told stories of students and neighbors helping each other. They shared a few scarce Wi-Fi hot spots with friends so they could complete their college applications. Several schools greeted us with cheers when we arrived. Students in Puerto Rico are hungry for college information.

My time in Puerto Rico often reminds me why I love my job. I like to think higher education is the business of changing lives. While I hope some of the students I spoke with will explore Penn State further, perhaps the most important thing they learn from College Week is that a college education is possible and opportunities abound.

PR blog4

Andrea Konkol, right, at the the big public college fair. The other woman in the picture with Konkol is Glendalys Millan, mother of one of our current students Paola Maldonado-Millan.  Konkol said Millan graciously volunteered to help her at the fair because the Penn State table tends to be so busy.

PR Blog 3

Students at Academy San Jose.

PR blog 2

The San Juan skyline.

PR blog1

Oustside the American Military Academy in Puerto Rico.


Secret lives of staff members – Nate Magee, yoga instructor in training

By Heather Cass

Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend

There’s much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.


Nate Magee, research technologist at the Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Community Outreach, Research, and Evaluation (CORE), was stressed out and nursing a mild back injury when he stumbled upon an ancient Indian remedy for what ailed him—yoga.

“Penn State Behrend offers free yoga and Pilates classes for faculty and staff twice a week at lunchtime and I had heard that yoga was good for recovering from injuries and decided to give it a try,” Magee said.

Bearded and a little burly, Magee doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a yoga enthusiast. But he said he was sold from the first downward dog.

“From the very beginning, I enjoyed the peacefulness of the practice,” Magee said. “I learned that I held a lot of stress in my chest and many yoga poses help to open your chest and release it. I also gained flexibility and strength fairly quickly while also noticing a reduction in back pain. It just made me feel great, both physically and mentally.”

Magee found yoga to be so rewarding that he is now studying to be an instructor.

“Practicing yoga is the best thing that I have ever done for myself and I want to be able to share that with others,” he said.


Becoming a certified yoga teacher is not an easy process. Magee has been training through Soma Movement Arts, an Erie yoga studio, twice a week for a year and has attended several intensive training weekends. In addition to putting in plenty of time on the mat, he has had to hit the books, too, studying the philosophy and language of yoga.

“Even though everything has been translated into English, some Sanskrit terms do not have precise translations, so it’s helpful to know more about the original language.” Magee said. “Also, while yoga poses may have several English names depending on the style of yoga or who is teaching, there is usually only one Sanskrit name for each pose so it’s a more consistent language. It is a hard language to learn though.”

He will have a chance to practice his Sanskrit with other yoga devotees at the end of March when he travels to Canada for the Toronto Yoga Show, a conference and expo that draws participants from around the world.

“I’m registered for thirty hours of workshops over the four days I’ll be there,” he said. “I’ll be learning from some of the best and well-known yoga instructors in the world.”

When asked to name his favorite yoga pose, Magee names most of them.


“I enjoy inversions, twists, headstands, and backbends…I guess I like them all,” he said with a laugh. “I’m currently trying to master handstands. Even though many poses look relatively simple, there are a lot of details in each one and it takes every part of your body working together with your mind to master the pose.”

Magee is currently teaching portions of classes at Soma and will be required to teach some full classes before he can be certified through Yoga Alliance, the professional organization for yoga teachers in the United States.

He encourages people of all ages, body types, and physical ability to try yoga.

“It’s very accessible and there are always modifications for those who need them,” he said. “Yoga will make you feel better physically and mentally. It is great for stress relief, improving focus, and boosting confidence. I really can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from the practice.”

Want to give yoga a try? Penn State Behrend offers free yoga classes for faculty and staff on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Erie Hall at 12:10 p.m. The college also offers yoga as a physical education credit for students. Or check out a class at Magee’s fav studio, Soma Movement Arts, or any one of a dozen other studios in the Erie area. Not in the Erie area? Search online for studios in your area.


Secret Lives of Staff: Dave Lesher—Beekeeper (and much more)

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

There’s much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.


Give me a half hour with anyone and I’ll come away with a story. Every person has one. Some have more than a few. Take Dave Lesher, for example.

This piece was supposed to be about Lesher’s beekeeping hobby, but his activities, interests and talents—his “secret lives”—are many.

In addition to being a police services officer at Penn State Behrend and a beekeeper, Lesher is also a professional photographer, distance trail runner, cyclist, gardener, home brewer, clean-eater, and a website programmer/designer. Oh, and he’s also a veteran, husband, and father.

Clearly, when Lesher is interested in something, he goes all in. But serendipity plays a role in most of his ventures, too.

Twenty-five years ago, when he was working at a grocery store after having completed basic training in the U.S. Army Reserves, a coworker mentioned she was attending a municipal police training academy. Lesher enrolled a week later.

After graduation, he was hired at Behrend. It’s a job he said he has enjoyed since day one.

“I really like the people here,” he said. “In my role, I come in contact with a wide variety of people and I enjoy interacting with everyone from the janitorial staff to the Chancellor.”

He even likes educating students who have gotten themselves into a bit of trouble.

“Often, the student has just been misguided or made a mistake and the incident can be turned into a learning experience,” he said. “I’d say we can do that 95 percent of the time.”


Honey habit leads to hobby

A serious health scare a decade ago inspired Lesher to begin exercising and taking a closer look at the foods he was putting into his body. He eats clean now, avoiding processed foods, meat, caffeine, artificial dyes and additives, and most forms of sugar, with one sweet and all-natural exception—honey.

“It’s expensive, though, and I was eating a lot of it,” he said. “So I started doing some research on beekeeping and got some bee boxes.”

He found his first set of bees on Craigslist.

“This guy was tearing a house down and found the walls were full of honey-bees, so he offered them up to anyone who would come take them,” Lesher said.

“Cut-outs,” as such bee acquisitions are called, are tougher than simply scooping up a homeless swarm and encouraging them into a new home.

“With a cut-out, you’re invading their territory and they will defend it,” Lesher said. “Swarming bees are actually safer to collect. They swarm when they are looking for a new home, so they have nothing to protect and are usually happy to climb right into a bee box.”

Lesher is pleased to offer them a home, and the college’s maintenance and operations staff are just as thrilled to have someone nearby to call when swarms are found on campus.

Except for the occasional replacement queen, Lesher doesn’t buy bees. He prefers to collect native bees since they are used to Erie’s climate.

Lesher has a beekeeper’s hat, but doesn’t wear a full suit because honey-bees are rarely aggressive. He’s been stung only twice.

The average hive makes sixty to eighty pounds of honey a year, which is harvested in the fall. Only a portion of the honey is taken, however, as the bees have to have food for the winter.

“My hives are new this year, so I won’t take any honey,” he said. “I want to keep them happy so they’ll stay and produce more next year and then I can take some.”

From programming to photography to political science 101

A different kind of buzz—talk about the then-new World Wide Web—caught Lesher’s attention twenty-plus years ago. He began reading about, then dabbling in, website programming and design. He soon had paying clients (he still has some today) and a concern about finding adequate photography for their sites.

So he began reading about photography. You see where this is going, right? Today Lesher also works as a professional photographer. He shoots family portraits, senior pictures, and weddings.

Another hat he wears? College student. This fall he’ll complete his degree in General Arts and Sciences with an emphasis in Political Science.

Man in motion

You may wonder where Lesher gets the stamina to keep up all of his hobbies, jobs, and activities. It’s a strength that is, no doubt, hard earned on the trails and roads around Penn State Behrend where he’s logged thousands of miles.

Last summer, he did his first ultra run, the Megatransect, a formidable thirty-mile race up, on, and around Bald Eagle Mountain, just south of Lock Haven—with former Behrend engineering professor and trail-runner Dr. Chris Colston.

“The funny thing is that when I was in the Army, I hated running,” he said. “I never thought I’d start doing it competitively. But then I got interested in it and ended up buying the gear and doing some races and… you know, how it goes.”

Yes, with Lesher, we do know how it goes now—all the way.


8 fun honey-bee facts

  1. Honey-bees are not native to the United States. They were imported by European settlers.
  2. Honey-bees, while instinctual, aren’t very smart. “I have to have different landing strips on my hives or the bees will go in the wrong hive and be killed as invaders,” Lesher said.
  3. Honey-bees use dances to communicate. For example, when honey-bees find food, they do a choreographed “waggle” dance that instructs the rest of the hive where to find a food source.
  4. Honey-bees keep each other warm and fed over winter. Honey-bees keep the hive at about 92 degrees in winter, feasting on the honey they have collected all summer.
  5. Honey is harvested in the fall. Hives typically contain about sixty to eighty pounds of honey; some must be left for the bees to eat.
  6. Unhappy honey-bees will leave. If conditions in the hive are not suitable, the queen will call for a swarm and they’ll swarm and depart.
  7. The honey-bee queen is the sole reproductive female in the colony. She lays 1,000-to-3,000 eggs per day. Female worker bees perform all other colony duties. Male drones exist only to mate with a virgin queen.
  8. Drones are dead before winter. Drones are a liability to the wintering hive and are not allowed in after fall, so they die outside.


Collecting a swarm

Lesher provided this video of a swarm he collected:


Behrend Reacts: What are you thankful for?


By Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

Studies have shown that being grateful has a significant impact on lives; it reduces stress levels and can even increase our life expectancy. In honor of the upcoming holiday, we asked Behrend students, faculty, and staff:  What are you most thankful for?



Casey LaBuda, sophomore, Nursing, from Pittsburgh: “My mom. I always call her in the middle of the night when I’m having a breakdown about nursing.”


Nancy Study

Dr. Nancy Study, lecturer in engineering: “In answer to the question about what I’m thankful for this year, I would say it’s the same things I’m thankful for every day: my family and friends, and the privilege of having a job I enjoy. Of course I’m also thankful for the creature comforts in my life like a nice house to live in, an all-wheel drive vehicle to get around in the snow, a steady supply of caffeine via coffee and Twining’s English Breakfast Tea, and sturdy snow boots, but I’ve learned over the years that material things and money mean very little if you don’t have your loved ones and/or spend 40+ hours a week in a job that makes you miserable.”



Morgan Corle, first-year student, Communication, from Avella: “I’m thankful for all the people that I’ve met here and become close with.”


Dorothy Kurylo

Dorothy Kurylo, campus coordinator for nursing programs and lecturer in nursing: “I am thankful especially for my family and friends. I am also thankful to be a faculty member of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. As a newcomer to Erie, I have become very thankful for my boots and my snowbrush. Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!”



Amy Neal, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Erie: “The cold, so I’m able to appreciate the weather when it’s warm!”



Mallory Carson, first-year student, Political Science, from Erie: “I’m thankful for black lipstick.”


Kristen Comstock Headshot

Kristen Comstock, assistant director of alumni relations: “I am thankful to work for my lovely alma mater. Every day I get to interact with many of our fantastic 35,000 alumni. Plus working at Behrend means I get to enjoy, more often than most alumni, the delicious Bruno’s chicken wraps! And I cannot forget I am grateful for friends, family, health, happiness, and shoes!”


Mary-Ellen Madigan

Dr. Mary-Ellen Madigan, senior director of enrollment management: “I am thankful for my kids—now grown.  They both have good jobs and live independently.  Along with them, I am thankful for my three beautiful and fun granddaughters.  I’m especially thankful that they live nearby and I get to spend time with them.”


Don Birx's first Behrend portrait. Taken May 2010 by John Fontecchio

Dr. Don Birx, Chancellor:

“Thankful – Yes; for being in Erie and especially at Behrend.

Yes it is cold,

but I have found hearts here are warm and friendships deep.

Yes there is lots of snow,

but it makes the days so much brighter – with a glint from the winter sun.

Sunsets are stunning, the hills full of grapes,

and the land slopes down to a great and beautiful lake.

Thankful – Yes, and for so much more……for all of you.”


Dawn Blasko (2)

Dr. Dawn Blasko, interim associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor of psychology:

“What am I thankful for this year?  Like everyone else I’ve seen today I’m supposed to be thankful that three feet of snow did not fall on Erie today, but went north instead. But, to be honest, a little part of me is disappointed. I’m invigorated by this crazy cold, slap in the face, start to winter. I had to buy new warmer clothes-even find some gloves and boots. My office is always freezing, so my family bought me an alpaca sweater-no wonder alpacas can hang out in the Andes-much better than polar fleece.

The first snow to me is always exciting. I know it sounds crazy to you snow haters, but to me growing up in the Poconos, the first snow was pure gold. It opened up a wealth of new fun activities. Best of all, was the ultimate prize- THE SNOW DAY!

Even though we don’t have snow days at Behrend, (I guess we’re too tough for that), as a kid I clearly remember being snowed in with the whole family for days at a time. Mom, in her fox-furred hood, riding the toboggan, and Dad wobbly on his snow shoes walking the yard to measuring the snow in the deepest drift with his yard stick. There was no work, and no school. Time stopped, we pitched in to shovel the driveway then we were off into the untouched whiteness.  A soft fluffy blanket of white erasing all the ugly reality underneath.

Kids made trails around the neighborhood as we called all our friends out to play. We built snow forts to defend our territories and stored up snowballs for battle. We dug out the sleds from the basements and garages and went sleigh riding down the middle of the street. We held toboggan races—that were our own Olympic games.  Then there were the accidents, tremendous rolling crashes into banks of snow and sometimes into each other.

Who could forget the feeling of dragging yourself home, bruised, exhausted and soaking wet with numb feet and hands? We’d have some warm soup, put on dry gloves and go out again until the lack of light and parents calling us for supper ended the fun. The perfect snow was short-lived, in a few days the plow trucks and cinders would ruin our hill, school and work would start again, and we would be back to the usual routine.

This might be a long winter, and by February, if not before, even us diehard northerners will be tired of it. But, In the meantime, if the snow is just right, break the routine and make a new memory. The yard behind my office in Glenhill Farmhouse sure looks like some prime territory to defend.”



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 Nicole Krahe at

Like Us:

Follow Us:

Tweet Us:

Watch Us:

Behrend Reacts: Who is your favorite professor?

BehrendReactslogolargeBy Nicole Krahe
Marketing Communication Student Assistant, Penn State Behrend

Author William A. Ward once said; “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

With so many dedicated professors on our campus, we asked Behrend students, who is their favorite and why?


Samantha Raible, senior, Biology, from Pittsburgh: “I would have to say my favorite professor is Dr. Pam Silver, Professor of Biology. She was tough but always took the time to help students. She made things interesting enough to keep us awake at an 8:00 A.M class.”


Cat Hensley, first-year student, Geography, from Michigan: “Dr. Michael Naber, lecturer in geosciences. He’s easygoing, funny, and has Harry Potter glasses.”


Cassie Peters, sophomore, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, from Erie: “I would say Ms. Luciana Aronne,  lecturer in chemistry. She is supportive, motivational and keeps class interesting.”


Ronnie Cox, sophomore, Physics, from Erie: “My favorite professor would have to be Mr. Adam Combs, lecturer in mathematics. He is not going to take it easy on you but will take the time to go over things you don’t understand.”


Lindsey Chase, first-year student, Kinesiology, from Randolph, N.Y: “Mr. Scott Rispin, lecturer in art. He makes things fun and interesting, and is very personable. You can tell he cares about his students.”


Pat Kress, sophomore, Finance, from Erie: “I would say my management professor, Dr. Ryan Vogel, assistant professor of management. He is enthusiastic and relates concepts to college students well. He makes an 8:00 A.M class bearable.”


Matthew Moreau, senior, Biology, from Massachusetts: “Dr. Michael Campbell, a professor of biology. He engages you and makes things interesting. If you pay attention in class, it’s really rewarding.”


Katie Powers, first-year student, Biology, from Clearfield: “I would say Mr. Scott Simpson, lecturer in chemistry. He’s young and you can tell he’s excited about teaching. He also does experiments every day which is really cool.”


Mary Bradley, first-year student, Division of Undergraduate Studies, from Erie: “My favorite professor is Dr. Angela Rood, lecturer in psychology.  She breaks the class down to make it easier to understand and does activities every day to keep things fun and interesting.”

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 Nicole Krahe at

Like Us:

Follow Us:

Tweet Us:

Watch Us:

Behrend faculty and staff recommended reading – Part II

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator,
Penn State Behrend


Did you get through all those titles I gave you last week? No? Slacker! (Just kidding, of course). Break out your to-read list because I’ve got some more suggestions for you straight from lips, er, keyboards of the book-loving faculty and staff members at Penn State Behrend.

Without further ado, recommended summer reading part two:

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is one of the shortest and most powerful books I’ve ever read.  It was published fifty years ago, and I read it as a teenager and reread it five years ago.  It is nonfiction and tells how the author, through medication and dye, transformed himself into a black man to experience what it was like to be black in the south in the 1950s. It’s hard to believe how recent this history is.” — Dr. Eric Corty, associate director of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and professor of psychology

“I’ll second Black Like Me. I read it several years ago and it really sticks with you. I use Ann Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down in class, and every time I read it I’m stuck by how well she captures both the culture clash of the new Hmong refugee and the western medical model’s failing. For fun, I’m reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. It consists of eight historical novels written about the Scottish Jacobite upraising and those who eventually immigrated to America. I’ve heard there is a TV series about it being filmed in Scotland now.” — Dr. Dawn Blasko, interim associate dean for Academic Affairs and associate professor of psychology

I recommend House of Breath , Come, The Restorer and Arcadio, all by William Goyen, who is considered in Europe to be one of the greatest writers America has ever produced. Ironically, he’s little known here. All his stories and novels are wonderful, but the books recommended are, in my opinion, his best three novels. The House of Breath was his first novel and Arcadio was his last (published posthumously). Enjoy. — George Looney, professor of English and creative writing

I would recommend The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein. Not only is he one of the best science fiction writers ever and not only did he receive his fourth Hugo Award for this novel, but this book is really imaginative and captivating. Heinlein depicts an entire society on the moon (and its rebellion against Earth) several years before we had even step foot there. This novel is science fiction at its best. — Dr. Amy Carney, assistant professor of history

I found The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy to be inspiring. It’s about how current and former presidents have cooperated through time to accomplish great things.  For fiction, I recommend Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. It’s a great story about “life, death, and hope in the Mumbai undercity.” — Dr. Greg Filbeck, professor of finance

I’ll recommend One Summer: America in 1927 by Bill Bryson. Bryson is a classic storyteller known for his bestsellers such as A Walk in the Woods and A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, but One Summer is the book we all should have all read in some high school or college history class. It consists of juicy and amazingly true stories of Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Henry Ford, Calvin Coolidge (who seems to have been the worst President ever), and many others of that era. It’s fun and kind of makes you feel intellectually thin for not knowing more history. — Dr. Darren Williams, professor of physics and astronomy

I recently discovered that British author Mary Stewart (The Crystal Cave, among many others) died this year at age 97. Her suspense and romance novels featured independent females in exotic locales and they enthralled me as a teenager. I’ve been picking them up at yard sales for years and want to re-read them this summer. She also wrote several Arthurian novels that were very popular. — Jane Ingold, associate librarian at Lilley Library

I just finished Delivering Happiness a Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh who is the CEO of Zappos. I had heard that Zappos was a tremendous company, and I like inspirational books. It was good for me to read something out of my field, too. It caused me to do a lot thinking outside of the (shoe) box. — Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology

Mr. Spaceman by Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler is an intensely clever, funny, and poignant book.  The prose is spare and lovely.  The plot weaves historical events from the flight of the Kitty Hawk through the Vietnam War into a larger, compelling story about Desi, the spaceman of the title, his wife, Edna Bradshaw, their cat, and a bus of twelve people he abducts. — Ruth Pflueger, director of the Learning Resource Center and lecturer in English

The Atomic Chef by Steven Casey contains true stories of human error and things that go really wrong and why, from switching embryos to getting locked in an ATM room. I actually use this as a textbook in my upper-level human factors psychology classes. The Zen of Zombie Better Living Through the Undead by Scott Kenemore is a fun and easy read. It is kind of like Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff but from a zombie’s point of view. The Sword of Truth is the first in a large fantasy series by Terry Goodkind. And, finally, 1408 by Stephen King is an interesting, shorter horror-type story. They made it into a movie a few years ago, but it didn’t do the book justice. — Dr. Heather Lum, research associate in psychology




In need of a new read? Check out these titles recommended by Behrend faculty and staff members – Part I


By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator,
Penn State Behrend

Ah…summer. Time to kick back with a good book. We asked some of the faculty and staff members at Penn State Behrend to share their suggestions for summer reading.

If, like me, you always forget which books you want to read in the future, try one of these strategies.

1. Make a list using the “note” feature on your smart phone or tablet, and you’ll always have your list with you when you’re browsing at the Lilley Library or out shopping.


2. Create a wish list at an online bookseller (I use Amazon) and add titles to your “to read” list when friends recommend them. It’s a convenient and easily-accessible way to keep track of books you want to read. (Tip: See if you can borrow the book through the Lilley Library before you purchase. I’m linking the books below to Amazon just so you can see the covers and read customer reviews, if you wish.)

OK….get your pencil/mouse/smartphone ready because you’re going to want to add a lot of these books to your list. I’m going to give you half the list today & the other half next Thursday, July 3).

I am finishing Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. A bit too much description of the sometimes drug-addled state of the protagonist, but a good summer read. Also discovered a very talented Sardinian writer, Michela Murgia. Her best known work, Accabadora, is translated into an excellent English version and is just haunting. — Dr. Sharon Dale, associate professor of art history

Life, Animated:  A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism by Ron Suskind is on my summer reading list. I’ve heard that it is a wonderful story that provides a unique perspective into the growing population of people diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Oh, and it includes Disney references, so I’m happy. — Dr. Carrie Payne, coordinator for strategic proposal development.

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham is an interesting look at what might possibly have led to humans being who we are today. Much evidence is given through prior anthropological work and cases. There’s not too much jargon and it’s easy to read. Also, Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. It’s a very sarcastic and witty tale of a typical nature-loving protagonist versus an environmental destructive antagonist. — Dr. Mike Naber, lecturer in geosciences

I am reading The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us by social psychologist W. Pennebaker this summer.  This is a very insightful book on how “words… are like fingerprints… windows into people’s personalities.” — Dr. Carol Wilson, assistant professor of psychology

As one of Behrend’s resident sport fanatics, I’ll recommend Play Their Hearts Out by Sports Illustrated writer and Pulitzer Prize winner George Dohrmann. The non-fiction title chronicles Dohrmann’s eight years spent covering the grassroots AAU Basketball scene and the seedy nature of the sport. In the book, he details how coaches almost view their players as investments and reveals the questionable role that sneaker companies play in youth basketball. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, this tale of corruption, greed, and power makes for a must-read. — Steve Orbanek, marketing communications specialist.

Anything by Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers). He is one of the most popular storytellers who brings a different flavor to social trends. Drive and A Whole New Mind are two of my favorites by author, Daniel Pink. I’d also recommend Emotional Intelligence and Focus by Daniel Goleman, who is a psychologist who has an amazing talent for explaining today’s wicked issues with psychological theories. Creativity, Inc., written by Pixar CEO Ed Catmull is an amazing book. And, finally, The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane is a must-read for everyone. — Dr. Pelin Bicen, assistant professor of marketing

Redeployment by Phil Klay has received great reviews. It’s is a book of short stories by a former Marine who served in Iraq. Each story is written from the point of view of a different narrator – foot soldier, chaplain, foreign service officer, to name a few. The stories are compelling as they provide insight into the challenges and suffering of war from different perspectives. — Dr. Rick Hart, director, Lilley Library, who reminds us to “Think of the Lilley Library’s ‘Browsing Collection’ for your summer reading needs!”

I just finished The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book about a 13-year-old boy who miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother and is abandoned by his father, only to be taken in by the family of a wealthy friend.  Don’t let the book’s bulk (2.1 pounds in hardcover) scare you off – The plot flies. — Chris Palattella, marketing communications coordinator

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman.  This is a non-fiction book about Huguette Clark, an heiress to a huge fortune amassed by her father. Of course, all this money led to lots of family drama. Huguette lived the last twenty years of her life in a hospital while her two New York City luxury apartments, her mansion on the coast of California, and her country home in Connecticut sat empty, except for the property caretakers. Interestingly, I just read an NPR story that said many of Huguette’s belongings will soon be going to auction. — Dr. Mary-Ellen Madigan, senior director of enrollment management

That should get you through the week. 😉 I’ll post more next week — Thursday, July 3!


Secret Lives of Staff: Doug Lee

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

There’s much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.


If you’ve ever played or watched sports, you know how emotionally charged the singing of the National Anthem can be. It’s not uncommon to see players and fans moved to tears by The Star Spangled Banner.

Doug Lee, a groundskeeper at Penn State Behrend, is one of those vocalists who can make big, strong ballplayers weep. Lee, who has a bass voice, has sung the National Anthem before several Erie SeaWolves games over the last few years. And, after his Penn State Behrend colleagues found out about his hidden talent, he was asked to sing at a few events on campus, too, including a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association softball tournament.

Lee grew up in a musical household. In fact, his father graduated from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music as a classical pianist.

“There was always music playing at the house,” Lee said. “I was in the church choir and youth choirs from the time I was a boy.”

Lee’s father never pursued music as a career though, choosing instead to work at the family business — a golf course in Hermitage, Pennsylvania.

It was at that course that Lee’s landscaping career took root. He enjoys working outside and has been known to sing a little on the job at Behrend.

“I sing to my headphones a lot,” he says with a laugh.

He also sings to the congregation at Fairview Presbyterian church every Sunday as a member of the church choir.

Asked to recall the first record he ever owned (and, yes, it was all vinyl back then, kids), Lee smiles and says that it was a Grand Funk Railroad 45 rpm record, given to him by his grandparents, who had bought him a “fold-down record player.”

“I think the song was ‘American Band,’” he said. “They had no idea what they were buying. The guy at the record store told them it was popular.”

Today, Lee, who is a husband and father of three (24, 19 and 14), says he likes nearly all genres of music, but prefers alternative or new-age rock. He has an affinity for Matthew Good, a Canadian rock musician, and Mike Oldfield, an English musician who blends progressive rock with world, folk, classical, electronic, ambient, new-age sounds.

But, when he sings, Lee said he sticks to folk music, hymns and, of course, the Star Spangled Banner. “I don’t have a very contemporary voice,” he explains.

While Lee’s voice may not be contemporary, it sure is impressive. Have a listen for yourself – check out his 2011 Erie SeaWolves National Anthem performance:



Penn State Behrend “STAND UP” campaign concludes with pig roast and concert


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Patty Pasky McMahon learned years ago that change doesn’t happen overnight, especially when it comes to affecting systematic problems such as dating violence or bullying.

“If you want culture change, it can’t just be hit-and-run,” said McMahon, director of the Health and Wellness Center at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. “Dating violence, bullying, it’s been going on forever and a day. We can’t just accept that things are staying the same.”

That was the thinking behind “STAND UP,” a yearlong campus-engagement campaign promoting integrity, respect, tolerance and diversity at Penn State Behrend that concluded last week. The campaign, sponsored by the Health and Wellness Center and the Janet Neff Sample Center for Manners and Civility, addressed the health-and-wellness issues that most threaten college students, including drug use, relationship violence, stalking and sexual assault.

A number of student organizations joined in to support the efforts throughout the year, including the Lion Entertainment Board, the Behrend Beacon, BVZ Radio, Reality Check, Student Government Association, Gamma Sigma Sigma, Delta Chi, the Student Activities Fee Committee, the Multi-Cultural Council, the Student Athletic Advisory Board, Theta Phi Alpha and Alpha Sigma Alpha.

“STAND UP” kicked off in September 2013 with a concert by the Romantic Era, followed by a fireworks display. Each subsequent month featured an event, including a movie in Junker Center, a Penn State tailgate party, a chili stand and a pool party. “STAND UP” concluded Friday, April 4, with a pig roast and concert by the M-80s.

One of the keys to the programs’ success was making sure that each event was unique, McMahon said.

“That ensured that we would be targeting a different segment of the campus community each month,” McMahon said.

Finding unique events is easier said than done, but Vee Butler, a junior arts administration major and executive director of the Lion Entertainment Board, was satisfied with the selections for “STAND UP.”

“Coming from the programming board, we know how hard it is to find events that peak interest in students and also send a positive message,” Butler said. “‘STAND UP’ did an amazing job of choosing events. The chili stand was brand new and everyone talked about it, and the fireworks show definitely brought out some new faces.”

The events were fun, but they were also effective in promoting the positive message; students had the opportunity to speak out against numerous health-and-wellness issues at the events.

Student attendance was also strong throughout the year. That was true at the campaign’s conclusion with nearly 150 students present at the pig roast.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.