Recommended gift ideas from faculty members

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

In need of some last-minute holiday gift ideas for the young ones in your life? How about something that’s fun and educational at the same time?

We asked Penn State Behrend faculty members to give us a few suggestions.


School of Science

Ideas provided by Tracy Halmi, senior lecturer in chemistry

  • Science of the Month Club. Inspire the next generation of scientists by having hands-on science delivered to your door each month! For just $24.99 a month, you get everything you need to conduct exciting experiments.
  • Sunlight, Skyscrapers, and Soda Pop: The Wherever-You-Look Science Book. This fun book helps children learn the science behind simple, everyday activities. $9.95
  • Yahn Planetarium Gift Certificates. Have you heard? Penn State Behrend now has its very own planetarium. Help someone see worlds beyond their reach by purchasing a gift certificate, available in any denomination. For more information, contact planetarium director Jim Gavio ( or 814-898-7268).
  • Star Wars Lightsaber Thumb Wrestling. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that a new Star Wars film is hitting theaters next year. Celebrate by picking up this fun game. May the thumb be with you… $12.99


School of Business

Ideas provided by Eric Robbins, lecturer in finance

  • Board games. Life and Monopoly are two timeless classics. The fast-paced, rummy-like game Five Crowns is another great option. $9.99 to $24.99
  • Go Venture. This is a series of business simulation and financial literacy computer games that are good for kids of all ages. $495
  • Kano. This is the perfect gift for those with really innovative minds. Kano provides a kit kids can use to build their own computers, in a form similar to LEGOs, then play games on what they just built. $149.99


School of Humanities and Social Science

Ideas provided by Dr. Tom Noyes, associate professor of English and creative writing

  • Books! Some gift ideas never get old, and that’s the case here. In particular, Tom suggests using NPR’s Book Concierge app to find the perfect book for those on your shopping list.
  • Art supply sets. Participation in the visual arts helps children develop an imagination and sharpen their eye for detail. $13.99 and up


School of Engineering

Ideas provided by Dr. Matthew White, assistant professor of game development

  • Amiibos. Action figures + video games = tons of fun. $12.99
  • Pokémon. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Pokémon video games have been one of the hottest-selling video games for years, and that’s true in 2014 as well. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire qualify as two of the most popular games this season. $39.99
  • Xbox One. It’s one of the top game systems in the world, and for a limited time, it can be had at a lower price ($349) than normal.

Far from Home: First snowfall leaves favorable impression on Craig Miranda


Far from Home is an occasional series in which we document a year in the life of international students at Penn State Behrend.

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

“Beep-beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep-beep!”

When Craig Miranda’s alarm went off at 6 a.m. last Thursday, he awoke with a feeling of eagerness. His friends warned him it was coming, but some things need to be seen to be believed.

“I was skeptical,” says Miranda, a first-year computer science major at Penn State Behrend. “When I looked outside, it was completely white. I immediately ran downstairs and I was the only person outside in shorts.”

Craig Miranda had never seen snow until last week when the Erie region received more than foot of precipitation in 24 hours.

The Kuwait native had never seen snow before last week when the Erie region received nearly a foot in the span of 24 hours. In Kuwait, summer temperatures can exceed 120 degrees. Even in winter, average daytime temperatures rarely fall below 60 degrees.

Miranda says he longed for snow and cooler temperatures when he decided to come to college in the United States, so last week’s storm was a welcome sight.

“It was just unbelievable,” he says. “After my exam that morning, I had a snowball fight with friends who also live in Niagara Hall. I don’t know how to make a snowball, but I’m getting there.”

As the day went on, more snow began to accumulate. Overall, Erie received 12.6 inches of snow, the earliest occurrence of a snowfall of this magnitude for the region.

The heavy snowfall might have been a  burden for others, but Miranda remained enamored with every flake that fell. He even shared his happiness with his family back home.

“I Skyped with my parents and took them on a tour around campus,” he says. “It was awesome because they have never seen snow either. They were so thrilled and just wanted to be here, too.”

For Miranda, the snowfall helped paint a picture of the holiday season, which he had only ever seen on television before.

“I’ve always pictured Christmas as caroling with snow falling from the sky, but I’ve never seen it until now,” Miranda says.

Given that he chose to attend college in America’s snowbelt, last week was probably only the beginning of the fun for Miranda; last year, Erie recorded 138.4 inches of snow fall and earned the honor of America’s snowiest city.

His friends have warned him that he might eventually tire of the snow, but he’s not buying it.

“I doubt I’ll ever get bored of snow,” Miranda says. “Coming from Kuwait, where it barely ever even rains, snow is just marvelous.”


Story behind the Hanging of the Greens (the college’s oldest tradition)

Hanging the Greens

By Robb Frederick
Public Information Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

In December 1948 – just two months after the dedication of what was then called the Behrend Center – T. Reed Ferguson, the administrator of the new campus, placed a wreath on the doors of a small chapel in Wintergreen Gorge Cemetery.

That was a favor to Mary Behrend, who had donated her family’s Erie farm property to Penn State. She had moved to Connecticut and was unable to visit the chapel, as she had in years past. She asked Ferguson to hang the wreath in honor of her husband and son, who were interred inside.

Every year since, a small group of students, faculty members, staff and alumni has returned to the chapel. Holding candles, they sing Christmas carols and give thanks to the family that made Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, possible.

A reading

This year’s program will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6. Shuttle service will be offered from the Reed Union Building.

“It’s a very different feeling, when you gather in there,” said Ken Miller, senior director for campus planning and student affairs. “You’re singing Christmas carols. Everybody’s holding a candle. It’s special.”


The program honors Ernst and Mary Behrend, whose 400-acre farm property is now a four-year college with 4,350 students. It also pays tribute to their son Warren, who died on Dec. 19, 1929, while driving to South Carolina for a family holiday. He had swerved to avoid a school bus, which a 16-year-old student was driving.

No one on the bus was hurt.

Warren’s death devastated the Behrends. “They say Ernst never got over it,” Miller said.

Mary Behrend spent less time at the farm, choosing instead to live at the family’s home in Connecticut. In the spring of 1948, while returning from a cross-country trip, she stopped at the property. From a window, she noticed two men walking. She went out to talk and learned they were scouting land for a new Penn State campus. Within six months, they would have it.

Entering the chapel