Penn State Mont Alto

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Penn State Mont Alto
Former names
Pennsylvania State Forest Academy
Type Public
Established 1903
Parent institution
Pennsylvania State University
Chancellor Francis K. Achampong[1]
President Eric J. Barron
Undergraduates 1,204
Location Mont Alto, Pennsylvania, United States
Campus Rural area
Nickname Nittany Lions
Affiliations PSUAC (USCAA)

Penn State Mont Alto is a Pennsylvania State University Commonwealth Campus. It is located in Mont Alto, in south central Pennsylvania, between Chambersburg and Gettysburg. It incorporates the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy, founded in 1903 by Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker.


Approximately 1,200 students attend the school with more than 30% being over the age of 24. The majority of the student population at Penn State Mont Alto commute to classes, rather than live in the provided residence halls.

The campus is well known for its forestry and nursing majors. While many students elect to continue their education at University Park, Penn State Mont Alto does offer four-year degrees in business as well as English.

Today, Mont Alto offers four baccalaureate degrees and eight associate degrees, and serves nearly 1,300 students annually. The campus serves an additional 2,500 annually through its Continuing Education unit, with courses on campus, at the Chambersburg Mall and other sites.


Pennsylvania State Forest Academy[edit]

Joseph Rothrock, an explorer, botanist and medical doctor founded the academy to train men for service in the state forests.

In May 1903, Samuel W. Pennypacker, governor of Pennsylvania, established the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy in Mont Alto. With the precipitous closure of the New York State College of Forestry at Cornell in the same month, the new Pennsylvania school became one of three forestry schools in the nation, along with Yale and Biltmore. George Wirt, the academy's first administrator, patterned the curriculum after curricula in Germany. All first year students were required to bring a horse with them to the academy until the late 1920s. The horses were used to fight forest fires in the Michaux State Forest.[2][3]

The yearbook of the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy was called "The Oak Leaf". It was published in 1914, 1920, 1923 and 1927, and may now be viewed online through the Pennsylvania State University Libraries along with other items documenting the history of this campus.[4]

Merger with Penn State[edit]

In 1929 the Forest Academy merged with Pennsylvania State University, establishing Penn State Mont Alto. Students were adamantly opposed to the merger, and they protested by hanging two state officials in effigy.[2]

The campus closed from 1943 to 1946 because the students and faculty were fighting in WWII.[2]

In 1963, Penn State Mont Alto became a Commonwealth Campus.

In 1997, Mont Alto joined the Commonwealth College, and began to offer baccalaureate degrees.

Overview of the campus[edit]

Residence halls[edit]

Penn State Mont Alto offers three residence halls to students: Mont Alto Hall, Penn Gate I, and Penn Gate II.

  • Mont Alto Hall offers traditional dorm life. All three floors of the building are broken up into an east and a west side, with only one gender belonging to a particular wing. Each room holds two people, although it is possible to obtain a single room given certain circumstances. The rooms are not carpeted, and lack a central AC unit. They do however, include a heater. Each resident is provided with a desk, a phone jack, an Ethernet connection, a dresser, and a closet. The "Microfridge", a combination microwave and refrigerator, is standard as well. Every wing of the building includes a bathroom that the entire hall shares, making for two per floor. Mont Alto Hall also includes a basement with washers/dryers and study rooms. This hall is a mere 4-5 minute walk from virtually anything on campus, with the exception of the Penn Gate dorms and other parts of the campus east of PA 233 (softball fields, etc.).
  • Penn Gate II offers four-person suite living. Similar to Mont Alto Hall, the building is three stories tall. While halls themselves are not gender specific, each individual suite is. The four-person suite includes two spacious bedrooms as well as a bathroom that is shared by all four people in the suite. Each room is carpeted and also includes a central air conditioning unit. Penn Gate II is located east of PA 233, and is a fairly long walk (5-10 minute) to campus.
  • Penn Gate I is a third residence hall offered at Mont Alto. Located directly adjacent to Penn Gate II, Penn Gate I was not in use during the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 school years due to low enrollment. However, it was reopened for the 2006-2007 school year. Penn Gate I offers a similar four-person suite living accommodation that is provided at Penn Gate II.

Classroom buildings[edit]

  • Conklin Hall was originally built as a dormitory by students of the forestry school starting in 1909 and completed in 1911. The building is now home to the Student Center, Student Affairs offices and the archives.[5]
  • The General Studies Building is where the majority of classes at Penn State Mont Alto are held. The three story brick building includes many traditional classrooms for lectures. The first floor holds an auditorium that is frequently used for special shows and speakers, as well as large lecture classes. In addition to the auditorium, the first floor holds the Learning Center, a place where students can go to study with a professional or student tutor. Several computer labs are held in the building as well.
  • The Science and Technology building is primarily used for science courses at Penn State Mont Alto. In it, you will find several labs specific to different courses such as chemistry and nursing. Many general education courses are held in this building as well, particularly those with large class sizes. It was built in the 1970s.
  • The Bookstore has a computer lab in the basement. Classes such as Computer Science and Management & Information Systems are typically held here.

Other notable buildings[edit]

  • Wiestling Hall is the primary building on the campus, located in the center of the campus mall. Built in 1803, it is the oldest building in the Penn State system. Originally built as an iron master's house it has served as the campus dining hall, classroom and dormitory. The second floor of Wiestling Hall is home to faculty and staff offices. The third floor of Wiestling has never been renovated, and remains true to the 1803 design. This third floor is only accessible through two hidden entranceways on the second floor of the building. Local legend holds that Wiestling is haunted by a ghost named Sarah and by the ghost of Col. Wiestling, the first ironmaster who lived there. In 2004, Wiestling Hall was modernized and now it serves as the student building and houses the campus Student Government Association office.
  • History has it that John Brown spent time at Emmanuel Chapel before his raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859. Penn State Mont Alto bought the chapel in 1992 for $1 and reopened it in 1999.[5]
  • The MAC (Multipurpose Activities Center) is the gym at Penn State Mont Alto. This building sports a few classrooms, a basketball gym, a weight room, a racquetball court, and a multipurpose room used for conferences, dances, and other occasions. Two tennis courts are located outside of the MAC as well.
  • The library at Penn State Mont Alto includes a variety of books and research databases that serve faculty, staff, and students, as well as members of the local community. Any Pennsylvania resident may borrow items from the Penn State University library system.
  • The most recent building to be added at Penn State Mont Alto was the Bookstore.
  • The dining hall was built in 1968.
  • On Arbor Day 1905, students searching for native tree species returned more than 400 specimens (30 species) to the campus forming the beginnings of the Mont Alto Arboretum. This arboretum continues to provide a training ground for students, as well as a research site for the development of new hybrids.
  • September 10, 2014, Penn State Mont Alto opened its Veterans Center. The center was spearheaded by the Penn State Mont Alto Student Veterans Association (SVA) which received a $10,000 VetCenter Initiative grant from the SVA and The Home Depot Foundation partnership to refurbish the spring house on campus (built in 1905). It had previously served as a faculty lounge and mailroom. Now it has computers for Internet access and space for student veterans to study and gather.


Penn State–Mont Alto teams participate as a member of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA). The Nittany Lions are a member of the Pennsylvania State University Athletic Conference (PSUAC). Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis and wrestling; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, softball, tennis and volleyball.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°50′32″N 77°32′33″W / 39.842261°N 77.542534°W / 39.842261; -77.542534