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Encyclopedia > Penn State

The Pennsylvania State University


Established 1855
Penn State Celebrating Sesquicentennial (http://www.sesquicentennial.psu.edu/)
School type Public, Land grant
President Graham Spanier
Location University Park, PA

Commonwealth campuses in Abington; Altoona; Reading (Berks); Monaca (Beaver); Media (Delaware County); DuBois; Erie; Uniontown (Fayette); Middletown (Harrisburg); Hazleton; Fogelsville (Lehigh Valley); McKeesport; Mont Alto; Upper Burrell (New Kensington); Schuylkill Haven (Schuylkill); Sharon (Shenango); Lehman (Wilkes-Barre); Dunmore (Worthington-Scranton); and York.

The Hershey Medical Center, where Penn State's medicine program resides, and the Dickinson School of Law located in Carlisle, PA.
Enrollment 41,289 University Park
32,631 Commonwealth Campuses
6,358 PA College of Tech
638 Dickinson School of Law
748 Hershey Medical Center
81,664 Total Enrollment
Faculty 20,817
Operating Budget US $2,560,309,000
Campuses 18,370 acres (74 km˛)
Website www.psu.edu

The Pennsylvania State University (commonly known as Penn State) is a state-related land-grant university in Pennsylvania, with over 80,000 students at 24 campuses throughout the state. Founded in 1855 as an agricultural school, the university became a land grant college in 1863 and now offers over 160 majors and boasts a $1 billion endowment, placing it among the top fifteen public universities in the United States. The university joined the Big Ten Conference in 1990, and should not be confused with the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League university located in Philadelphia.

The Lion Shrine


Old Main, Penn State's first central building

Penn State was founded in February 22, 1855 by act P.L.46, No.50 of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as the Farmers' High School of Pennsylvania. Centre County became the home of the new school when James Irvin of Bellefonte donated 200 acres (809,000 m˛) of land. In 1862, the school's name was changed to The Agricultural College of Pennsylvania, and with the passage of the Morrill Land-Grant Act, Pennsylvania selected the school in 1863 to be the state's sole land grant college. In the following years, enrollment fell as the school tried to balance purely agricultral studies with a more classic eduacation, falling to 64 undergraduates in 1875, a year after the school's name changed once again to The Pennsylvania State College.

George W. Atherton became president of the school in 1882, and began working to broaden the school's curriculum. Shortly after he introduced engineering studies, Penn State became one of the ten largest engineering schools in the nation. Atherton also expanded the liberal arts and agriculture programs, and as a result, was rewarded with regular appropriations from the state beginning in 1887. For this, Atherton is widely credited of saving Penn State from bankruptcy, and is still honored today by the name of a major road in State College and its suburbs, Atherton Street. Atherton's grave rests near Old Main, the University Park campus's central administration building, and is marked by an engraved marble block resting in front of his statue.

In the years that followed, Penn State grew significantly, becoming the state's largest source of baccalaureate degrees and reaching an enrollment of 5,000 in 1936. Around this time, Commonwealth campuses were started by President Ralph Hetzel to give an alternative to Depression-era students who were economically unable to leave home to attend college.

In 1953, President Milton Eisenhower changed the school's name to The Pennsylvania State University, and under his successor, Dr. Eric Walker, the university developed rapidly. Under his leadership, which lasted from 1956-1970, the university added hundreds of acres of surrounding land, and nearly tripled enrollment to 40,000. Additionally, in 1967, the Hershey Medical Center, a college of medicine and hospital, was established with a $50 million gift from Milton S. Hershey.

In the 1970s, The Pennsylvania State University became a state-related institution, like the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, and Lincoln University.

In recent years, Penn State's role as a leader in education in Pennsylvania has become well-defined. In 1989, the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport joined ranks with the University, and in 1997, so did the Dickinson School of Law. Currently, the university is the largest in Pennsylvania, and in 2003, it was credited with having the largest impact on the state economy of any organization, generating over $6 billion for the state on a budget of $2.5 billion. Even so, limited growth in state appropriations to the university have turned the school into the least funded state school in the Big Ten on a per student basis. To make up the difference, the university has turned to philanthropy, with 2003 marking the end of the Grand Destiny campaign – a 7-year effort which raised over $1 billion for the University.

In 2004, Penn State started celebrating its 150th anniversary, since 2005 marks the University's sesquicentennial.

Campuses and colleges

University Park

The largest of Penn State's 22 campuses, University Park, is found in State College, just east of the geographic center of the state. The campus has over 41,000 students, even though most first-year students (over 60%) begin at one of Penn State's other campus locations.

List of campuses and colleges at Penn State (http://www.psu.edu/ur/cmpcoll.html)


Penn State is among the top research universities in the country, known for its breadth of strong programs in engineering, business and the sciences. In 2003 the university devoted $545 million to research, ranking it 12th in the nation [1] (http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind04/append/c5/at05-04.pdf), and its researchers received nearly $400 million in outside grants toward their projects. Over 10,000 students are enrolled in the university's graduate school, and over 70,000 degrees have been awarded since the school was founded in 1922 [2] (http://www.gradsch.psu.edu/aboutus/).

The Forum Building, a classroom building with eight 300+ person classrooms

The student to faculty ratio at Penn State campuses is 17, and when the medical school, college of technology, and law school are included, the ratio is 15. Many freshman level classes at University Park are composed of 300+ students, but classes are much smaller for upperclassmen and at other campuses.

The university library system began with a modest 1500 book library in Old Main, which has grown to its current 4.8 million volumes, in addition to nearly 500,000 maps, over 5 million microforms, and nearly 160,000 films and videos. [3] (http://www.libraries.psu.edu/pubinfo/statslibraries.html)

According to U.S. News in 2005 [4] (http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/rankindex_brief.php), Penn State nationally ranks [5] (http://www.psu.edu/ur/rankings/index.html):

  • 15th among public doctoral universities
  • 20th among undergraduate business programs, and 5th in Supply Chain Management/Logistics
  • 16th among undergraduate engineering programs, and 4th in industrial/manufacturing engineering
  • 45th among graduate business schools, and 9th in Supply Chain Management/Logistics
  • 21st among graduate engineering programs, and 4th in industrial/manufacturing engineering, 6th in agricultural engineering, 7th in materials engineer, and 9th in nuclear engineering
  • 28th among schools of education, and 2nd in vocational/technical education and 3rd in higher education administration

Penn State was the first university in the United States to [6] (http://www.psu.edu/ur/about/firsts/firsts.html):

  • award baccalaureate and graduate degrees in agriculture (1861 and 1863)
  • offer an industrial engineering baccalaureate degree program (1909)
  • offer a baccalaureate degree in fuel science (1932)
  • operate a nuclear reactor capable of nuclear fission (1955)
  • found a graduate program for to help Native Americans develop leadership skills that will allow them to return to their communities as role models (1970)

Student life

Student activities at Penn State are numerous and diverse. Hundreds of student clubs exist, as well as many fraternities and sororities. Every February, thousands of students participate in the Penn State Dance Marathon, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Dancers dance for 48 hours straight, raising millions of dollars for pediatric cancer care and research.


Rec Hall

Penn State's mascot is the Nittany Lion. It participates in the NCAA Division I-A and in the Big Ten Conference. Penn State has a large football following and attracts tens of thousands of visitors to its campus, the area around which is also known as "Happy Valley," for tailgating and games on autumn Saturdays in Beaver Stadium.

Famous alumni


  • Harold Gehman, Former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Joint Forces Command and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic
  • Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania senator


  • Herman Fisher, co-founder of Fisher-Price toy company
  • William Schreyer, chairman emeritus and former CEO of Merrill Lynch & Co
  • Frank Smeal, financier




Alumni and Friends (http://www.psu.edu/ur/alumni.html)

Notable professors and coaches

External links


  • Short History of Penn State (http://www.psu.edu/ur/about/history/historyshort.html)
  • An Illustrated History of Penn State (http://www.libraries.psu.edu/speccolls/psua/psgeneralhistory/bezillapshistory/index.htm)
  • 2003 University Endowment statistics (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0112636.html)

  Results from FactBites:
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