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Building a Campus

It was the early 1960s, and the Beaver County Commissioners were anxious to do something with the former Beaver County Tuberculosis Sanatorium, which had been sitting empty for years.

The commissioners offered the property to Penn State University, hoping to have it used as a commonwealth campus. To sweeten the deal, in addition to the buildings and grounds, the commissioners promised $600,000 for renovations and construction.

And that is how, in 1965, Penn State Beaver opened its doors to 97 students.

Initially, the campus operated out of the former sanitarium, but construction began almost immediately on the Michael Baker Science and Engineering Building, the General Classroom Building and the library. They were dedicated in 1968.

That same year, the University purchased additional land, and the campus now occupies 105 acres in Center Township and includes a number of living and learning buildings, including including a residence hall, an Information Sciences and Technology studio lab and the 5,000-square-foot Gary B. Keefer Wellness Center, which was dedicated in 2012 and named in honor of the campus’ Chancellor Emeritus.

The Michael Baker Building will reopen in the fall of 2016 after a $9.6 million renovation to upgrade laboratories, classrooms, studios and offices.

Academics and Student Life

Since its inception, Penn State Beaver has offered the first two years of a Penn State degree. In May 2003, the campus celebrated its first baccalaureate commencement and, come fall 2016, will offer six baccalaureate degrees. The campus population has grown, too, from its original 97 students to more than 700, with about 12 percent of students coming from across the country and the world.

As the campus evolved, so did its athletics program, which now boasts eight teams and has enjoyed unprecedented success. The teams have won 19 Penn State University Athletic Association championships in the past 10 years. In 2015, the women’s basketball team won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, becoming the first Penn State Commonwealth Campus team to win a USCAA championship in any sport.

And, of course, throughout its 50 years, Penn State Beaver has maintained its strong ties to the Beaver County community.

The campus operates community outreach programs through Continuing Education, Adult Literacy Action and the Brodhead Cultural Center. But the best link to the community remains its students, who undertake service learning projects, in and out of the classroom, serving to advance the development of area organizations and businesses and improve the lives of its people.