Behrend student wins essay contest; participates in Jewish history panel discussion


By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Danielle Ropp sat quietly toward the center of the table as her legs shook under the tablecloth, hidden from the audience seated in front. Her quiet demeanor, indicative of her anxiousness, would soon subside.

After all, every living thing thrives in its natural habitat, and that’s exactly where Ropp was once the panel discussion got underway.

“I’ve just always loved history. Whenever I hear an interesting fact, I commit it to memory,” said Ropp, a junior History major at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

Ropp displayed the depth of her historical knowledge by participating in a panel discussion of the WQLN documentary Perspective: Jewish History, Parts I and II at Mercyhurst University in Erie on April 22.

The Folsom, California, native earned a spot on the panel as well as $500 after winning first place in WQLN and Mercyhurst University’s “Story of the Jews” college essay contest. The prompt for the contest was: “How has history shaped the modern perception of Jews?”

Other panel participants included: Dr. Joshua Ezra Burns, assistant professor of theology at Marquette University; Rabbi John Bush, Temple Anshe Hesed; Dr. Randall Howarth, professor of ancient history at Mercyhurst University; Dr. Olena Surzhko-Harned, assistant professor of political science at Mercyhurst University; and Dr. Robert von Thaden, Jr., associate professor of religious studies at Mercyhurst University. The panel was moderated by Kim Young, instructor in journalism at Penn State Behrend.

Ropp’s essay was titled “The Crucifixion Shaping Modern Jewish Perceptions,” and it discussed how Jewish individuals are still viewed negatively because of their perceived participation in the crucifixion. Ropp said her own perception was vividly changed through her research.

Ropp found edicts from past Popes that absolve blame for the crucifixion away from Jewish people, but she said that message has not permeated within the general public.

“The fundamental core of Christianity is that Jesus had to die. These people were blamed for this, but it wasn’t their fault,” Ropp said. “Today’s Jews are also different from the Jews back then. You cannot blame people for actions that happened 2,000 years ago.”

While Ropp thoroughly enjoyed writing the essay, she said she was surprised she won.

“This is definitely one of the biggest things I’ve ever accomplished,” Ropp said. “The fact that I won just makes me want to do it again.”

Given Ropp’s career aspirations, it’s likely the essay was just the beginning. Ropp plans to pursue a master’s degree in secondary education upon graduation in 2015 and then plans to attain a doctorate in history. Her ultimate goal is to spread her knowledge as a college professor.

“I can’t imagine myself doing anything but history,” Ropp said.


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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