Penn State New Kensington was founded in 1958 as a result of a study of the local need for higher education in the Alle-Kiski Valley. From its roots in a remodeled high school building on Fourth Avenue in New Kensington, the campus has evolved into a modern educational facility on seventy-two beautifully wooded acres in Upper Burrell.
The New Kensington Center was opened in 1958 in the First Ward School Building in the heart of the city of New Kensington. In 1963, the Center moved to the former Parnassus Junior High School and began offering the first two years of Penn State's baccalaureate programs on a full-time basis in education, liberal arts, business administration, and human development.
In the same year, Alcoa offered to give the University a thirty-five-acre tract of land on Route 780 in Upper Burrell Township, four miles east of the city.
In September 1966, classes convened in the Engineering Building, the Upper Burrell campus’ first building. Today, the Engineering Building houses the laboratories for the Biomedical Engineering Technology, Radiological Sciences, Chemistry, and Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology programs. Also in 1966, men’s basketball became the campus’ first varsity sport.
Two years later, 1968, the Science, Activities, Faculty and Administration, and Library buildings were completed. The new facilities included more labs and the Art Gallery. In the same year, twenty-seven additional acres were purchased from a neighboring farmer.
The Athletics Center (formerly the Health and Physical Education Complex) opened in 1969. Inside, the center comprises the 600-seat Field House (home of the basketball, volleyball, and wrestling teams), racquetball courts, wrestling room, a weight room, cardiovascular training center, nurses station, and faculty offices. The outside venues include a regulation soccer field, home of the men's soccer team, a multi-purpose practice field, and a practice green for the men's and women's golf team.
In 1971, the Forum Theatre, a 350-seat thrust stage theatre, opened with the student production of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." The theatre was remodeled in 2016.
As the campus grew, so did its enrollment and the need for a gathering place for students. In 1975, the Student Learning Center opened with a cafeteria, recreational facilities, bookstore, and Academic and Career Success Center.
In the late 1980s, a capital campaign provided funds for a Science and Technology Center. The opening of the building in 1990 made the campus one of the most technically advanced in the Penn State system. The building was renamed the Robert D. Arbuckle Technology Building in 2012 after former campus executive officer Robert Arbuckle, the longest serving chief executive, 1977-92, in campus history. In 2000, a large section of the Activities Building was remodeled to form the Information and Technology Center - home to the Information Sciences and Technology program.
After a ten-year building hiatus, the new Conference Center and Classroom Building opened in March 2001. It contains a large conference room, a kitchen, two large and six small classrooms, faculty and staff offices, and a lobby with a large courtyard.
In 2009, the cafeteria was remodeled and renamed Cafe 780. In addition, a coffee bar, called the Junction, opened in the lobby of the main entrance. The Café 780 courtyard was remodeled in the summer of 2014 with the addition of a pergola, fire pit and new furniture. The Athletics Center was renovated in 2011 with a new cardiovascular room, new locker rooms, and an upgraded weight room. A pilates/yoga room was added in 2014.
Off-campus buildings include the Entrepreneur Center, which is located in downtown New Kensington. When completed in fall 2016, the center will launch a business accelerator program to attract and nurture innovation and small business development across the Alle-Kiski Valley. The campus is a charter member of the Regional Learning Alliance in Cranberry, Pa. The RLA was established in 2004 with the cooperation of educational institutions in the region. The building houses a variety of degree programs and workforce training for adult and traditional students.
Today, more than 700 students matriculate on campus and are studying in 15 bachelor's and associate programs. As we plan for the future, the New Kensington campus will continue to add academic programs that are grounded in the campus’ curricular strengths — math, science, engineering and liberal arts — to meet the changing needs of the region. Students seek a campus that is accessible, flexible, time and place appropriate, and one that provides a broad range of choices. New Kensington is such a campus, and it is an intricate member of the 24 campuses that are Penn State.
Campus Leadership (1958-Present)
Dr. Eugene Heide, New Kensington Center Director, 1958-68
Dr. Harry Russell, Campus Executive Officer,1968-77
Dr. Robert Arbuckle, Campus Executive Officer, 1977-92
Dr. Roy Myers, Campus Executive Officer, 1992-95
Dr. Catherine Gannon, Campus Executive Officer, 1995-98
Dr. Carol Rush, Campus Executive Officer, 1998-2002
Dr. Larry Pollock, Chancellor, 2002-2008
Dr. Kevin Snider, 2008-present
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