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March 7, 2014
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU plans 125th celebration March 26

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - The founders of what has grown to be Slippery Rock University certainly celebrated the opening of the school March 26, 1889. SRU students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the University will follow their lead with two Founders' Day celebrations March 26 marking the University's 125 anniversary.

SRU's Green and White Society is spearheading a "Birthday-Bash" complete with cake and party games in the Smith Student Center, while President Cheryl Norton will host a formal celebration marking the occasion in the Russell Wright Alumni House and Conference Center.

Norton will open the formal celebration at 10 a.m., with a welcome and remarks in the Alumni House. The "Birthday-Bash" will follow at noon.

The Slippery Rock State Normal School was created by the residents of Slippery Rock in the late 1880s as a way to teach young people to be schoolteachers in service in western Pennsylvania. After securing community support, purchasing land and building the original school buildings, the citizens applied for and were granted Normal School status. The institution grew over the ensuing 125 years to a full university offering more than 60 majors in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs.

Robert Watson, interim vice president for student affairs and whose great-grandfather was one of the original founders, will deliver an address recounting the history of the University. Watson, a 1970 SRU graduate who has served in a variety of capacities at the University from dean to vice president before retiring in 2006 after 36 years service to SRU, is the author of "Slippery Rock University: The Legend Behind the Name." Originally written in 1982 as his doctoral thesis while attending the University of Pittsburgh, Watson updated the book with additional and later-year materials in 2011.

Honorary proclamations from a variety of governmental and educational organizations recognizing SRU's service to the commonwealth and nation will be presented as part of the formal Founder's Day program.

Following the ceremony in the Alumni House, parade through campus to join the "Birthday Bash" in the Smith Student Center.

The bash, which opens at noon will include a 1:25 p.m. group photo of all students, faculty, staff and community members in attendance. Organizers are encouraging everyone to wear green and white in support of SRU.

There will be a "Thumbprint Tree," where participants can dip their thumb into various color ink-stamp pads then affix their print to the tree poster. "This will show that we are a community that grows together," said Katie Hill, a special education major from Stow and president of the Green and White Society.

"AVI is providing food for the birthday event, including 125 cupcakes to mark the occasion. We will also host a 'Trivia Wheel,' with questions about SRU's history. Rocky, our school's mascot, will be there for photos," she said.

The Student Government Association, the Association of Residence Hall Students and a number of Greek Life organizations will offer games. A giant birthday card will be available for signing.

Soft pretzels and snow cones will be available. All activities will take place in the Fireside Lounge.

"The society is encouraging everyone to wear green and white throughout the day to help mark the anniversary," Hill said.

The first classes at the Normal School began March 26, 1889, with 168 students enrolled. Two thirds of the original students came from Butler County, the rest form Mercer, Lawrence, Allegheny, Beaver and Armstrong counties. One student was from Ohio's Mahoning County. There were 94 women and 74 men in the first class.

James Morrow was the school's first principal. He served a year, then turned the reins over to Albert Maltby who served from 1990-1916. Norton, the first woman to serve as president, was named to the post in 2012.

The school became State Teacher's College at Slippery Rock in 1927; Slippery Rock State College in 1960, and part of the 14-member Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, as Slippery Rock University in 1983. PASSHE was created by the Pennsylvania legislature under Act 188 of 1982.

Today, the University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs to some 8,500 students in four colleges, the College of Business, Information and Social Sciences, the College of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts, the College of Education and the College of Health, Environment and Science. The yearly budget is nearly $160-million.

SRU's yearlong anniversary celebration is being led by a 25-member steering committee.

Wilma Cavill, assistant professor of safety management, and Watson, interim vice president for student affairs, are honorary co-chairs.

Laurel Dagnon, director of programming for SRU's Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, George Mihalik, professor of safety management and head football coach, and Judy Silva, library professor, are tri-chairs of the celebration planning committee.

SRU's homepage includes a 125 website available at: The site includes a calendar of events, historical timeline and a toolkit for logos and related materials.

The year's Academic Honors Convocation and both spring and fall semester commencements will focus attention on the 125th anniversary as the University marks academic achievements.

Kaleidoscope, the University's three-week, on-campus arts festival that opens April 15, will help mark the anniversary with a variety of art and entertainment programs open to the campus and region.

The "SRU Gala," which raises scholarship support from faculty, staff, alumni and friends, has been themed "Through the Looking Glass" and will be hosted May 31.

A "Founders Picnic" is being organized for June 21 as a community event honoring the descendants of the original founders of the Slippery Rock State Normal School.

Fall semester will see the SRU football team take on Mercyhurst University at the University of Michigan football stadium. The event will mark the longstanding connection with the Michigan school and the 35th anniversary of SRU's first appearance in "The Big House," as the U of M stadium is known. During the football season, Michigan traditionally announces SRU footballs scores at its home games bringing cheers from Michigan fans that support The Rock.

Additional events are being planned for fall to commemorate the founding.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.