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July 18, 2014
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

New book dubs Slippery Rock 'center of the universe'

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Many people with connections to the Slippery Rock University region would agree with the viewpoint of Tim Croll, a 1991 SRU geography graduate who works as a laborer for SRU's facilities and planning.

Croll has written and self-published a natural history book, "Slippery Rock: The Philosophical Center of the University."

"I am from Slippery Rock, and there is just something about the place, its history, its location and its state of mind that made writing a book easy," Croll said. "Philosophically speaking, there is nowhere better to find yourself and find your mind. I've read so many good books that I wanted to write my own."

The result of more than two years of research, the 200-page paperback examines the natural history of the region and people. Croll offers observations and explores the history of the area's inhabitants, the economy and philosophy that shaped the area's personality before and after the founding of SRU 125 years ago.

Published by Croll Resolution Multimedia, the book includes more than 50 photographs and maps and chapters about "The Creek," "Pennsylvania Indians," "George Washington," "Butler County," "Railroads" and "Oil."

"Some might say, 'Why Slippery Rock?' I say there is more than meets the eye," Croll said. "I know good people can be found everywhere, but it's the nature of Slippery Rock that attracts people here. Nature has blessed this area with its gifts and nature has a way of influencing people to lead productive, happy and healthy lives."

"The writing style I use in this book is sometimes first person, close personal observation of the natural world, close personal observation of the manmade environment, historical facts to the best of my knowledge and my reflections philosophically toward nature," Croll said.

In analyzing the natural and manmade forces that shaped the region near Slippery Rock Creek, Croll references Slippery Rock University several times.

Many SRU graduates know something of their alma mater's building, academic and sports history. Less known are the property's landscape characteristics, including Glacier Ridge, which shows the impact of the geologic ice age. Most of the view looks flat aside from ridges that were left behind by retreating glaciers thousands of years ago.

"There are three vantage points in Slippery Rock where almost the entire ridge can be viewed, and all three are on the Slippery Rock University campus," he said.

The first is on the hill behind Mihalik-Thompson Stadium; the second view occurs at the intersection of Harmony and Branchton roads. The third vantage point is at the water tower above campus.

"From this spot, almost the entirety of Glacier Ridge can be viewed," he said.

Croll points out another landscape connection to campus. The "Top of the World," the highest point in the area at more than 1,500 feet, is in an open field above SRU's Old Stone House.

The chapter on Slippery Rock Creek makes the connection between the 49-mile creek and the name of the university. The creek had the name first, followed by the Borough and university. Croll said the Borough was originally named Centerville and then in the 1880s, it became Slippery Rock, followed by the launch of the normal school in 1889.

The University, incorporated as Slippery Rock State Normal School in 1889, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year with a series of special events.

In exploring the cultural influence of this region, Croll, who grew up in Lyndora, makes some surprising connections. For instance, a famous Butler resident was Timothy Leary, the late Harvard professor and LSD guru.

In the mid-1940s, Leary, from Massachusetts, moved to Butler and found employment at the Deshon Veterans Administration Hospital. He met his first wife, Marianna Busch, in Butler and lived in an apartment in the mill-section of Butler, not far from where Croll grew up.

In Chapter 11: Intellectual Enlightenment, Croll mentions two late SRU professors as contributors to visionary learning: Robert Macoskey, professor of philosophy, and Hunter Davis, professor of English.

Macoskey formed the Alternative Living Technologies and Energy Research Project, called ALTER. His project led to the development of SRU's Robert A. Macoskey Center for Sustainability Systems Education and Research, where students carry out sustainability research and experimentation.

Davis became a cult figure on campus, teaching students English and about life and different aspects of existence, Croll said. Students often spotted him in his trademark green and red socks or playing harmonica.

"The intellectual enlightenment of Slippery Rock didn't happen overnight. It grew just like nature did and as nature does, is in a constant state of change," Croll said

Croll said he researched the Butler, Mercer and Lawrence county region for more than two years. He walked trails in Moraine State Park, photographed McConnell's Mill and researched the influence of Slippery Rock Creek.

Croll offers an in-depth perspective by referring to and quoting naturalists and philosophers, including John Muir, Aristotle and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In the end, the book celebrates the Slippery Rock region, which Croll said should be referred to as the Slippery Rock's.

"People seem to know who we are; anywhere you go, as soon as people found out that you are from Slippery Rock, they love you," he said.

Croll joined SR in 1998. His job responsibilities include moving furniture, event setup and teardown, deliveries to buildings, trash pickup and snow removal.

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.