The York Junior College 70th anniversary provides an opportunity to celebrate the past and acknowledge current achievements.
Reflecting on the past is a useful way to inform the present and inspire the future. The York College community has much to celebrate this year, including the 70th anniversary of the founding of one of the College’s educational pillars: York Junior College. Join us as we stroll down memory lane, listen to some of the first YJC alumni reminisce, consider the YJC legacy, and see what has been accomplished recently.
Carol Innerst (McCleary) ’57 (York, PA), who wrote the book, York College of Pennsylvania, says, “From 1941 until 1961, YJC occupied a single, albeit architecturally distinctive building, dedicated in 1887, with a six-story tower. It was compact (at times crammed), friendly, and gave students an inexpensive, excellent two-year start toward a bachelor’s degree.”
Students commuted from around the York area. Dottie Kline (Dorothy Jenkins) ’43, a member of the first class to graduate from YJC, and Bill (William) Kline, ’43 (Fort Myers, FL), say they walked to school regularly, and some students took the trolley if they had the five or ten cents to ride it.
Lois Grove (Gilbert) (York, PA) and her brother Paul Gilbert (York, PA) were in the same class as the Klines. She says, “We started the first year with 42 students, but with World War II upon us, so many of our boys left during the first or second year, resulting in our graduating class numbering 19. Even with the loss of so many students to the service, we had a wonderful experience. We had such a fine president [Dr. Lester Johnson] and with the small classes, we were certainly able to communicate well with the teachers. I must say, however,” Grove adds, “they did not cut us any slack as far as homework was concerned.”
Students in 1941 were happily busy with the educational opportunities, the clubs (French and German), activities (boys’ quartet, girls’ sorority, Lambda Sigma Chi, and boys’ Samuel Small Literary Society, plays, recitals, The Tower yearbook, the York Collegian Newspaper), and the Student Government, forerunner of the Student Senate.
The Student Government met once a month to take care of all legislation pertaining to the welfare of the student body with the approval of the faculty board, Lois Grove says. The group also played a big role in arranging social activities such as formal dances.
Grove says, “We had Little Women and The Importance of Being Earnest. Dust of the Road, a one-act fantasy, was the first dramatization to be enacted by the initial class.”
“We had a lot of fun. There was a room with a piano where we students would congregate. Dan Street ’43 (Ashburn, VA) and his buddies would make up and play their many duet versions of ‘Chopsticks.’ At other times some of us would sing silly renditions of popular songs. Wendell White ’43 (York, PA) vividly recalls hearing our exaggerated harmonizations of ‘You Are My Sunshine.’ Fortunately, no one ever complained.”
Grove carried her lunch from home, as did many others. “Tiring of these lunches, some of my friends and I would go next door to the York City Market (a Gothic building with a 140-foot tower), buy all the fixings (and always a big dill pickle that came from a barrel), go back to the cement wall next to the school where we all liked to sit, divide our spoils, and have a change from the usual. How I enjoyed those times.”
According to Grove and the Klines: “Our experience at YJC was one of beginnings — the start of so many traditions that have been carried through to the present.”
York College occupies a 190-acre campus with facilities valued in excess of $300 million. Northside Commons, a 171-unit, five-story residence housing 275 students in single and double bedrooms, opened in the fall of 2011.
Students are from many states, including New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Virginia, in addition to Pennsylvania. Enrollment has increased substantially in the last 70 years and Administrative Services reports 2,590 full-time students live in college-owned housing. There are 50+ undergraduate majors and the most popular are nursing, biology, education, business administration, psychology, sport management, criminal justice and engineering.
York College has 162 full-time faculty. While not as small as YJC’s classes, the average York College classroom size is 22, which still allows students to communicate well with professors.
Like the Class of ’43, today’s students also believe the faculty does not cut them any slack as far as work is concerned. Eryn Mackin ’12, Nursing (Milford, CT), says, “Nursing really pushed me to the edge with the workload. However, in the end I know it will be worth it.”
The Class of ’43 started organizations still in existence at York College, including Student Government, now Student Senate. Echoing the dedication of YJC students, the current president of Student Senate, David F. Gaiteri ’12, Biology and Pre-Med (Dover, PA) says, “Student Senate is the voice of the student body and a dynamic force for change on campus; it is the embodiment of the essential spirit of YCP: service, leadership and professionalism.”
The YJC school spirit continues. “S.P.A.R.T.A. is a new club [Students Promoting Athletics and Recreation Through Action] that is working toward bringing spirit and pride to our campus,” according to Daniel Camillo ’12, Sport Management (Clarksburg, MD), S.P.A.R.T.A. vice president. “Through game promotions and special events, we hope to increase York College’s school spirit.”
And the school paper also continues. “The Spartan is just about the only campus publication that is weekly and created completely by the students,” says Leah Pekofsky ’13, Public Relations Major, Spanish and Speech Communications Minor (Columbia, MD), co-editor-in-chief of The Spartan.
There are 90+ student clubs and organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Hillel, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), The College Chorale, Music, Theater & Co., and Symphony Orchestra, plus 14 Greek life organizations and club sports such as the Equestrian Club and Frisbee Club.
Theatre continues to draw students’ interest and participation. Students in the Theatre Program have access to many opportunities on and offstage in the Collegiate Performing Arts Center (CPAC).
“The York College Theatre Program is an amazing network of extremely talented peers and dedicated faculty that put on 10 programs a year,” says Katie Lamb ’14, Public Relations and Speech Communications Major, Theatre Minor (Coudersport, PA). “The thing I love most about it is that anyone can participate and be involved in a variety of ways.” Future performances include A Christmas Carol, Antigone and Anything Goes.
York College students do not need to pack their own lunches. They can choose to eat at the Johnson Dining Hall, a snack shop in Spart’s Den, Campbell Coffee Café, Pura Vida Café and Little Run Commissary.
There was a girls’ and boys’ basketball team at YJC, Grove says, “Dottie, Bill and I remember the opportunities we had each semester being involved with different challenges for gym class with learning and playing golf, classes in swimming — all with professional teachers. My favorite was being a part of the badminton tournaments and playing on the volleyball team.”
One day, according to Grove, “with much snow on the ground, quite a group of us cut a class. It was Bible class, so we did feel bad about that!” They went to Zoe Fulton’s home. “She crawled in a window where she got a toboggan, and we went to the Reservoir Hill (across from the present YCP) and had a wonderful afternoon.”
York College has 22 NCAA Division III sports teams, and is a member of the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC). The state-of-the-art 170,000-square foot Grumbacher Sport and Fitness Center features the Charles Wolf Gymnasium, a natatorium with 12 swimming lanes, a three-court field house, 7,600-square foot fitness center, a 32-foot climbing wall, racquetball court and cyber café. The Class of ’43 will be happy to know that there are basketball, golf, swimming and volleyball teams.
Current students have opportunities to be physically active in more than 25 intramurals and some 10 club sports.
The competitive spirit remains strong: “The York College Spartan mentality is to excel and constantly push the pace. This year, Spartan wrestling plans to push such a pace that will bring us to the elite top 10 nationally,” says wrestler George Saliba ’12, Public Relations (Pennington, NJ).
Although there is no official toboggan team (yet), tobogganing, or sledding, as students call it today, continues.
“One of the things that everyone has to do during their time at York College, is go sledding on Reservoir Hill. After I graduate this May, it is one tradition I will definitely miss during the winter,” says Jasmine Cruz ’12, Sport Management (Havre de Grace, MD).
Carol Innerst says all but 10 of the male students departed during the spring of 1942 to serve in the armed forces after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. War production and activities created a pressing need for trained personnel in manufacturing and medical fields, and YJC adapted to meet this need. By 1957, Korean War veterans had helped boost the enrollment to 500 and space was at a premium.
There are currently 138 students using Veteran’s Educational Plan benefits at the College. According to militaryfriendlyschools.com, York College is listed among “the top 15 percent of colleges, universities, and trade schools, which are doing the most to embrace America’s veterans as students.”
Former Marine, Bill Balmer, a 1975 graduate of York College, is the XGI Scholarship Fund founder, which is named in honor of his college fraternity, Chi Gamma Iota (represented by the Greek letters XGI). When Balmer attended the College, the fraternity was largely made up of military service members, many of whom were Vietnam War veterans. XGI fraternity members have donated to the Scholarship Fund, which helps support current York College students who are veterans. BAE Systems in York has also made a substantial contribution to the Fund.
According to Carol Innerst, “It was the vision of community leaders and YJC administrators that propelled what has sometimes been referred to as ‘the little engine that could and did.’ ”
The Board of Trustees and YJC President J. F. Marvin Buechel, purchased the Out Door Country Club’s 57.5-acre property for $250,000 in 1956, and began building to accommodate increased enrollment. By 1968, YJC had become a baccalaureate-granting institution with a new name — York College of Pennsylvania.
Innerst says, “An ongoing series of strategic plans provided the blueprint for both the academic and bricks and mortar growth evident today.”
President Waldner and the York College Board of Trustees have overseen remarkable growth and development during their tenure.
Here are some points of pride for York College during 2010-2011. The Class of 2014 represented the highest number of freshmen student deposits in York’s history. A record $7.3 million in gifts and grants was raised in support of York College. The Stabler Foundation awarded a $1.8 million grant to the College in support of nursing simulation. Chloé Eichelberger ’54 (York, PA) created the College’s first endowed chair in business education. A campaign for the Business Administration program to improve facilities and program was launched, and raised more than $11 million in gifts and pledges. The Grounds Building was transformed into the Ecological Sciences Building (now the Naylor Ecological Sciences Center). Matthew Randall was named the first executive director of the Center for Professional Excellence, and Jeffrey Vermeulen was named director of the J. D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship.
Plans for renewing and expanding both academic and residential buildings are well underway, further bolstering the College’s reputation and setting the scene to continue delivering a high level of education and preparing students for their lives and careers.
The York College Campaign for Business Administration Steering Committee: Jeffrey R. Hines, Robert E. Mehmet, Jr. ’80, John D. Brown, D. Scott Cayce ’73, Gregory A. Crumling ’86, Robert A. Delp ’80, Robert P. Donatelli ’10, Jessica E. Easton ’86, Chloé R. Eichelberger ‘54, Douglas N. Fitzgerald ’77, Robert S. Freed ’71, Shawn J. Halsey ’01, Eric P. Hanson ’87, Randall E. Holland ’79, Sheldon C. Lehman ’88, J. Christopher Michael ’73, Dino A. Pritsios ’65, Mark S. Schmidt ’73, Brian K. Welker ’89, Norman P. Weinstock ’58, George W. Waldner, Ph.D., Dominic DelliCarpini, Ph.D., Daniel S. Helwig, Mark G. Rank.