Soldiers transform into scholars, leaders at Abington

100 years of connection to the military

Penn State Abington students benefit from the experiences student veterans share.

Credit: Regina Broscius

Veterans enrolled at Penn State Abington find support inside and outside the classroom as they work to become the next generation of scholars and leaders. But few know that the campus' connection to the military dates back more than a century when it was home to the Ogontz School for Young Ladies, a boarding school.

The Ogontz School adopted what at the time was considered a shocking practice for young women — military drills complete with uniforms, officers, and faux weapons. The school's last principal, Abby Sutherland, explained its rationale in a letter: "No other form of exercise is at once so complete in its demands on attention, concentration and response to standards of posture, walking, consideration of others."

Sutherland also lauded the drill for its democratic qualities since students could only advance through hard work and discipline. She wrote: "All members are on the same level until by earnest, careful, bi-weekly drill, they win their higher rank."

The school staged annual competitions judged by military personnel. And in 1929, former Ogontz student and aviator Amelia Earhart pinned medals on the winners. The drills remained a distinctive feature of the school until Penn State took over the property in 1950.

military veterans

Students at the old Ogontz School for Young Ladies practiced military drills on what is now known as Sutherland Plaza.

Credit: Penn State University Libraries

In the decades since, Penn State Abington has established itself as a haven for vets and their families. The Student Veterans Organization, a peer-to-peer network, creates personal bonds within the campus community and coordinates activities. It also welcomes non-veterans such as its current president whose mother retired from the Army recently.

Veterans enrolled in all Pennsylvania state colleges and universities are eligible priority registration thanks to an initiative developed and adopted at Abington. As the nation prepares to mark Veterans Day, the college learned it earned its fourth consecutive designation as a military friendly school by an independent organization.

Ah-Lisa in the lab

Biology major Ah-Lisa Hull volunteers as president of the Abington Student Veterans Organization. Her mother recently retired after 25 years in the Army.

Credit: Maria Narodetsky