A Century of Forest Resources Education at Penn State
Serving Our Forests, Waters, Wildlife, and Wood Industries
Henry D. Gerhold
A Century of Forest Resources Education at Penn State
Serving Our Forests, Waters, Wildlife, and Wood Industries
Henry D. GerholdForestry education in Pennsylvania has a long, proud tradition, having begun earlier than in most other states. By 1897, twenty land-grant colleges, including Penn State, had introduced the subject of forestry, typically in botany courses. Professional forestry education in Pennsylvania originated in 1903, when the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy was founded at Mont Alto, and expanded in 1907 when the baccalaureate degree program started at the Pennsylvania State College.
- Table of Contents
- Sample Chapters
To mark the 100th anniversary of the School of Forest Resources in 2007, A Century of Forest Resources Education at Penn State reviews progress in the School’s academic programs and facilities and examines the accomplishments of some of our more prominent graduates and faculty. The events that led up to the founding are described first, featuring several pioneering men and their sole female peer. The principal developments of the initial fifty years then provide background for the ensuing expansion of the faculty, facilities, administrative organization, and graduates of the last five decades. Fascinating little-known tidbits—such as students hanging officials in effigy, an interloping bear in a classroom, administrative battles, and a tale of the original Nittany Lion—are interspersed among descriptive factual data.
Henry D. Gerhold, Professor of Forest Genetics, has been a faculty member in Penn State's School of Forest Resources since 1956. He is also known for his books Breeding Pest-Resistant Trees (1966), Landscape Tree Factsheets (2001), Our Heritage of Community Trees (2002); and A Forester's Legacy: The Life of Joseph E. Ibberson (2007).
List of Tables
What Fostered Forestry Education?
How Has Forestry Education Influenced the Related Professions?
2. Pennsylvania’s Pioneers in Forestry Education
Joseph Trimble Rothrock
Mira Lloyd Dock
George H. Wirt
Edwin A. Ziegler
Joseph S. Illick
Bernhard E. Fernow
Hugh P. Baker
John A. Ferguson
3. Administrative Evolution of the School of Forest Resources
4. Directors and Department Heads
Biographies of School Directors
Victor A. Beede
Maurice K. Goddard
William C. Bramble
H. Norton Cope
Peter W. Fletcher
Wilber W. Ward
Rex E. Melton
Robert S. Bond
Henry D. Gerhold
Alfred D. Sullivan
Kim C. Steiner
Larry A. Nielsen
Charles H. Strauss
8. Academic Curricula
Subprofessional and Associate Degree Programs
Curriculum in Forest Science
Curriculum in Wood Products
Curriculum in Wildlife and Fisheries Science
Graduate Degree Programs
9. Student Recruitment, Enrollments, Graduation Rates, and Placement
10. Student Organizations
Forest Ecology and Silviculture
Forest Management and Economic Analyses
Forest Genetics and Tree Improvement
Forest Hydrology and Watershed Management
Wood Products Engineering
Wood Products Marketing and Management
Wildlife Ecology and Management
Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
National Park Service
Municipal Tree Restoration Program
The American Chestnut Foundation
12. Extension and Outreach
Activities of Extension Faculty
Current Extension Topics
Wood Products Processing
Managing Wildlife and Fisheries
Environmental Stewardship of Land and Water Resources
Professional Development and Other Outreach
Forums and Lecture Series
Nittany Lion Restored
13. Alumni Relations
14. Accomplishments of Alumni and Faculty—Looking Back
Biographical Sketches of Alumni and Faculty, by Career Field
Wood Technology and Industry
Parks and Recreation
Hydrology and Watershed Management
Wildlife and Fisheries
Academia and Professional Organizations
Professional Impacts of the School of Forest Resources
Government Agencies, Industries, Consultants, and Communities
15. Looking Ahead: Strategic Plan for the Future
Appendix A-1. Faculty of the Department of Forestry (1907–1954), School of Forestry (1954–1965), and School of Forest Resources (1965–present) at Penn State
Appendix A-2. Forestry Faculty at Mont Alto Associated with the School of Forest
Appendix A-3. Wildlife Faculty at DuBois Associated with the School of Forest Resources
Appendix B-1. Undergraduate Degrees Granted Annually
Appendix B-2. Graduate Degrees Granted in Forestry, Forest Resources, Wildlife Management, and Wildlife and Fisheries Science
Forestry education in Pennsylvania has a long, proud tradition, having begun earlier than in most other states. In 1876, on the occasion of the founding of the American Forestry Association in Philadelphia, Burnett Landreth of the nursery firm Landreth and Sons read a paper recommending the start of forestry education. “I wish to start the inquiry,” he said, “whether in our classification of agricultural instruction the time has not come to teach forestry as a science.” He suggested that those landowners who wanted to develop their forests employ an “expert—a class of men in this branch of industry not readily available in this Country.” Landreth later became president of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association.
An act of 1876 created the state Board of Agriculture. Its first annual report stated that the two most important subjects to be brought before the board were forestry and fertilizers. U.S. Commissioner of Forestry Dr. B. F. Hough recommended at the commission’s first meeting in 1877 that the states promote forestry by establishing instruction in forestry and experiment stations for testing new species and showing best methods.
Joseph T. Rothrock, who has fittingly been called the “Father of Pennsylvania Forestry,” delivered the first of his Michaux Forestry Lectures in 1877. Elsewhere, some of the first college lectures about technical forestry were delivered in 1881 at the University of Michigan and in 1894 by Bernhard Fernow in Massachusetts. By 1897 twenty land grant colleges, including Penn State, had introduced the subject of forestry, typically in botany courses.
Between 1878 and 1890 various reports, papers, lectures, and meetings brought forestry and forestry education to the attention of Pennsylvanians. Rothrock pointed out the lack of a means to study forestry in our country when the Pennsylvania Forestry Association was organized in 1886. The first issue of its journal, Forest Leaves, argued that forestry should become an important branch of a general collegiate course of study, and the March 1890 issue laid out a suggested curriculum. Efforts to implement a course of instruction in forestry met with some resistance and are described in the biography of J. T. Rothrock that appears in Chapter 2.
Professional forestry education in Pennsylvania began officially in 1903, when the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy was founded at Mont Alto, and was expanded in 1907 when the baccalaureate degree program started at the Pennsylvania State College. The U.S. Forest Service had just been created in 1905. Only three professional forestry curricula had been taught in America before 1903—at Cornell University and the Biltmore School in North Carolina, both initiated in 1898, and at Yale University beginning in 1900. These were soon followed by the Forest Academy at Mont Alto and forestry programs at the University of Maine, the University of Michigan, Michigan State College, and the University of Minnesota. By 1907 there were thirteen forestry education programs in existence in eleven states.
<Comp: Insert Figs. 1 and 2 (maps) about here>
When Penn State’s Department of Forestry was founded in 1907, what was the campus like in the small rural village of State College? There were few streets and no main highways (see Figs. 1 and 2), but a train did come to the end of the line at a railway station on the campus. Cars were a novelty among the still popular horse-drawn carriages and wagons. The Farmers’ High School had been founded just fifty-two years earlier, and in 1861 became the Pennsylvania State College, the first American institution to confer baccalaureate degrees in agriculture. Old Botany, the second-oldest building now on campus, was built in 1887. The Nittany Lion, “the fiercest beast of them all,” became Penn State’s mascot in 1904. Edwin Erle Sparks was the new president of Pennsylvania State College in 1907, and he saw enrollment grow to more than three thousand during his thirteen-year tenure. A view from the original Forestry Building took in the Carnegie Building, the Armory, Schwab Auditorium, and an earlier Old Main. In 1929 Old Main was demolished and replaced by the current structure at the same location, and two years later the Nittany Lion Inn opened for business during the Great Depression. Near the Forestry Building was an orchard, a tree nursery, and a sawmill; Mt. Nittany was visible in the distance. All in all, the scene was rather tranquil compared to the hustle and bustle of today’s campus.
<Comp: Figs. 3 and 4 about here>
In 1929 the Forest Academy at Mont Alto, which had been renamed the Pennsylvania State Forest School in 1920, became part of the Pennsylvania State College. Thus their histories are entwined. Mont Alto students were adamantly opposed to the merger and in protest hanged two state officials in effigy. Many disgruntled students followed former professor Julius V. Hoffmann to North Carolina State College, and a few transferred to other institutions. Over the years the hard feelings mellowed, and subsequent students who started as freshmen at Mont Alto and then completed their degree at State College/University Park feel a strong bond of loyalty to both campuses. Now together in the university, WE ARE PENN STATE!
More than 8,300 students will have received degrees from Penn State’s School of Forest Resources in its first hundred years. Very few of the professional exploits of these graduates in forestry, wildlife, and wood products have been documented, and those only by scattered articles. Their cumulative effect on their professions and on our natural resources can never be known, though we have heard many of their stories. If you are one of our alumni, these biographies should be especially meaningful, add to your appreciation, and keep you “Penn State proud.”
So, as the hundredth anniversary of the School of Forest Resources in 2007 approaches, it is timely to update Forestry Education in Pennsylvania (1957), the book that Henry Clepper edited for the fiftieth anniversary. Besides reviewing progress in the School’s academic programs and facilities, we’ll take a look at the accomplishments of some of our more interesting and prominent graduates and faculty. These took place at a time when dramatic changes were occurring in the United States. In the twentieth century, life expectancy climbed from forty-seven to seventy-seven years, agricultural workers fell from 35 to 2.5 percent of the workforce, and ownership of autos exploded from 1 percent to 91 percent of the population. Forestry also experienced revolutionary changes that are interrelated with our history. The very meaning of the word “forestry,” which was very broad when the profession started in our country, has been amplified to “forest resources,” to indicate the inclusion of wood products, water, wildlife, and other benefits associated with forests.
<1> What Fostered Forestry Education?
What exactly was it that sparked the interest in forestry education in Pennsylvania? In colonial times people undoubtedly had ambivalent feelings about forests—seemingly endless trees that presented obstacles yet were also utilitarian, beautiful, and inspirational. The European colonists were confronted nearly everywhere with vast forests that harbored wild animals and “savages,” as they struggled to clear trees for agriculture. But these same forests provided fuel, timber for buildings and all sorts of wooden implements, pure water, and certain kinds of food and clothing derived from trees and wild game. These forest resources appeared to be inexhaustible. So there was no obvious reason to be concerned about protecting or managing forests until well into the nineteenth century, and therefore no need for educating professional foresters. To be sure, as early as 1681 William Penn advocated the planting of trees and the preservation of woodlands. But Penn’s admonition was not widely heeded beyond Philadelphia. His desire and plans for trees in his “Greene Countrie Towne” did foreshadow the advent of forest stewardship, urban forestry, and open-space planning three centuries later.
During the 1800s and early 1900s timber barons cut over nearly all of Pennsylvania’s forests, joined in this pursuit by the charcoal industry, which fueled iron making. The devastating effects of the chestnut blight, after it was discovered in 1904, were just beginning to be recognized when forestry education started. From 1900 to 1932 annual lumber production declined sharply, from 2,200 million board feet to 73 million board feet. Wildfires followed in the wake of logging, clogging waterways with sediment and ashes. Agricultural historian S. W. Fletcher wrote, “There is no more shocking example of greed and utter disregard of public welfare than the ruthless devastation of the forests of Pennsylvania by the lumber companies between 1840 and 1900” (1955, 11). And yet the lumber was needed by our rapidly expanding young nation.
On the national scene, forestry was in its infancy a century ago, as it was in Pennsylvania. In 1905 a group of people from all over the country gathered in Washington, D.C., for the first American Forest Congress, which led to the creation of the U.S. Forest Service. President Theodore Roosevelt addressed the first congress about daunting challenges that were not obvious to everyone. Roosevelt spoke of forests in trouble, of timber profiteers whose only idea was “to skin the country and go somewhere else.” He spoke of a possible timber famine, but he also spoke of hope. He challenged the delegates to figure out how they could continue using the nation’s resources without destroying them. The delegates in 1905 set the stage for generations of Americans from all walks of life to practice conservation, both in their professional careers and in their personal habits.
Within the past hundred years the forests of Pennsylvania have regenerated and matured remarkably well. In 2002 they contained approximately 86 billion board feet of lumber. The state had a $15 billion forest products industry that employed about one hundred thousand workers. The state’s 17 million acres of restored forests now also protect watersheds, provide habitat for diverse flora and fauna, and offer recreational opportunities that are vital to the tourism industry. What happened to bring about this recovery?
A pronounced change in public attitudes toward forests became evident during the late 1800s and early 1900s, as people began to realize the destructive impact of widespread logging and its aftereffects. Logging in the United States peaked about 1906 at 46 billion board feet. By then half of the nation’s original forest cover had been removed, and practically all of Pennsylvania’s forests had been cut over at least once. The reaction against the extensive logging, followed by wildfires and soil erosion, resulted in the urgent realization that forests and watersheds ought to be protected and managed. But this awakening to the need for conservation did not arise spontaneously. Pioneers in forestry education had to convince the people, and also public officials, that a forestry crisis required prompt attention and action. There were hardly any trained forestry professionals at that time, so a means of educating them also was needed.
During the transition from deforestation to reforestation, forestry education was born in the Commonwealth and contributed to the recovery of forests in many ways.
<1> How Has Forestry Education Influenced the Related Professions?
To comprehend how forestry education at Penn State has influenced the professions related to forestry and uses of the forest, in the state and in the nation, one must first understand the components and delivery of educational programs by the School of Forest Resources, and then examine accomplishments of alumni and faculty. This is the story that follows. But a thorough, quantitative evaluation of Penn State’s role is beyond the scope of this book. Nor could an evaluation be unbiased unless it were to be done by a panel of impartial experts.
So our story is more limited in its purpose. To place in perspective the history of Penn State’s School of Forest Resources, the events that led to its founding are described first. Several pioneering men and one woman deserve the most credit for this feat, and through their biographies we see how forestry education was started in the Commonwealth. Next, the principal developments of the subsequent years are reviewed through the biographies of the School’s directors, followed by an account of the ensuing expansion in administrative organization, faculty, facilities, curricula, graduates, research, and outreach during the past five decades. Each of these topics is covered separately, to show how they developed over time. Fascinating little-known anecdotes, such as students hanging officials in effigy, an interloping bear in a classroom, administrative struggles, and the tale of the original Nittany Lion, are interwoven with descriptive factual data. Then come biographical sketches of several exemplary graduates and faculty that offer insights into what their experience at Penn State meant to them, and the ways in which they have contributed to their professions.
The final chapters review the story of Penn State’s School of Forest Resources and sum up what it has meant to forestry and related professions, and to the people and agencies that take an interest in our forests. Plans for the future are outlined briefly. The educational, research, and outreach activities of the School are summarized and synthesized with the accomplishments of alumni and faculty, pointing to significant contributions to forestry. Readers can use this information to learn about the School of Forest Resources, or simply to reminisce about the past, understand what is going on currently, and imagine what may happen in the future.
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