Peru, Nebraska – On June 20, Peru State College recognized the 151st anniversary of its chartering in 1867. Its sesquicentennial year was marked by the completion of historical projects and new art installations.
On June 20, 1867, the fledgling state government of Nebraska named Peru, Nebraska, as the home of the state’s first college. The College was founded as a normal school dedicated to training teachers.
The College has enjoyed an incredible year of celebration. Here are just a few of the on-campus events that marked Peru State’s sesquicentennial year.
Pete Ricketts, governor of Nebraska, gave the commencement address at Peru State College to a crowd of more than 2700 graduates, family members, faculty and staff. The major theme of his speech was finding your passion.
You might not know what your passion is today, Ricketts assured, before describing his own journey to find his passion in business and politics.
Governor Ricketts speaking to the 2017 graduates of Peru State College.
The Peru State College Concert Chorale debuted “Sons and Daughters of Peru” at the 2017 Commencement on Saturday. The premier was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Thomas Ediger, a long-time music faculty member who passed in the fall of 2014.
Matt Hill, director of vocal music at Peru State, writes, “The morning provided me a humbling opportunity to premier a work I composed for the Peru State College ‘Concert Chorale’ and as a gift for the campus community and alumni as we kick off our sesquicentennial celebrations!”
“It was a joyous occasion, and I think we may have launched a new annual tradition with ‘Sons and Daughters of Peru!’”
The Peru State Concert Chorale preparing to sing at Commencement.
The Center Schoolhouse, usually referred to as the Little Red Schoolhouse, on the Peru State College Campus is now a Visitor and Interpretive Center for the College. A ribbon cutting was held on Saturday, May 6, following commencement.
The Little Red Schoolhouse served students at the corner of US 75 and Brock Road for many years before school districts consolidated in Nemaha County. Once a landmark on the drive between Auburn and Nebraska City, the schoolhouse was saved from demolition when it was rebuilt brick-by-brick on the Peru State Campus.
According to the bronze plaque on the side of the building–now Visitor and Interpretive Center – the schoolhouse “is dedicated to the many teachers who trained at Peru State College.”
Michelle Kaiser, recent Peru State College graduate, adds, “I wasn’t aware of this building really being used for much, so I thought that might be just a be a perfect fit. For an old, one-room schoolhouse to serve as a legacy and memorial for all the things we’ve done here at Nebraska’s oldest college and originally Nebraska’s teaching college.”
The ribbon being cut by Dr. Dan Hanson, president of Peru State; George Blazek; Nelson Family Foundation Trustee; Michelle Kaiser, former president of Phi Alpha Theta; Dr. Sara Crook, Phi Alpha Theta Advisor; and Joyce Douglas, president of Peru State’s Foundation Board.
The Peru State College Foundation hosted an All-College Reunion on the Peru State Campus during a weekend in June. The All-College Reunion invited all alumni, friends of the College, faculty and staff to attend.
President Dan Hanson hosted an All-College Dinner and book launch reception Friday night to kick-off the reunion. Author of the new Peru State history book, Dan Sullivan, signed books and spoke.
Hanson said, “It is great to have our alumni and friends on campus to celebrate Peru State’s sesquicentennial. Their support continues to be the foundation of our success.”
Deborah Solie, Peru State College Foundation director of alumni relations and annual giving, told the group that more than 200 alumni and friends of the College were expected on campus over the weekend. More than fifty activities and events were planned for the weekend.
It began nearly two years ago when Peru State alumni from the Cape Cod area started discussing what they could do for the College’s 150th birthday. Different ideas were tossed around and finally it was decided that the circa 1960s alumni group would commission a new portrait of Al Wheeler, their former coach, teacher, and friend.
The alumni group raised the funds and commissioned Heath Miller, a 1991 Peru State graduate, to do the painting which would update the older photo of Wheeler that had hung in the Al Wheeler Activity Center (AWAC) since around 1986.
On Thursday, June 15, a formal dedication of the painting took place in the lower lobby of the AWAC.
Steve Schneider, Paul Fell, Heath Miller and Todd Simpson with the new Al Wheeler Portrait
A reception and book launch was held for the sesquicentennial history book, “Nebraska’s First College: Shaping the Future Since 1867.” The book was written by Omaha World-Herald author, Dan Sullivan, and is available for purchase at peru.edu/150.
In his foreword, Sullivan writes, “Today, Peru State College maintains its vital role in the state, continuing to impact the region, serve beyond its own boundaries and send accomplished graduates into an exciting new world.”
“It’s clear that this ‘150’ is more than just a nice, round number. It is a monumental accomplishment spanning generations of families, world wars, 37 presidential elections, droughts, blizzards, tornadoes, earthquakes and transportation from riverboats to jetliners. During that time, dozens of institutes of higher learning fell by the wayside in Nebraska, but Peru remained, laying claim as the state’s oldest college.”
Note: In June 2018, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) announced the winners of its 2018 Circle of Excellence awards. Nebraska’s First College: Shaping the Future since 1867, a history of Peru State College’s 150 years, won the gold award in its category. More than 3,700 institutions of higher education are members of CASE.
Dan Sullivan signing a copy of the new book. Photo by Dr. Bill Clemente.
By special proclamation, Governor Pete Ricketts named June 20 a special day of celebration for Peru State College on the 150th anniversary of its charter.
An early line of the Governor’s proclamation reads, “Peru State College recognizes that resilience is a key factor in success and provides the support and encouragement to achieve high standards by cultivating passion and rewarding perseverance as it has done since the first veterans of the U.S. Civil War walked its hills.”
Dr. Sara Crook accepting a proclamation celebrating Peru State College’s sesquicentennial anniversary from Governor Pete Ricketts. Dr. Spencer Davis, professor of history; Michelle Kaiser, Peru State alumna; and Jason Hogue, Director of Marketing and Communications, also attended.
On Tuesday, June 20, 2017, Peru State College held an all-day celebration of its charter and 150th anniversary. Activities for children, a speaker series, historical re-enactors associated with Nebraska City’s Chautauqua event and a dinner were all hosted as part of the celebration.
Lori Broady, Peru State alum and member of the Charter Day Planning Committee, places a bonnet on a visiting child. Bonnets and aprons were made by volunteers for all girls participating in the 1867-themed activities. Boys were given straw hats and suspenders.
Dan and Elaine Hanson arrive by horse-drawn carriage to deliver a special 150th anniversary proclamation from Governor Pete Ricketts.
Actors portraying W.E.B. Du Bois, Jane Addams, William Jennings Bryan and Edith Wharton visit the Peru State campus as the first official act of the Nebraska City Chautauqua.
Following the school’s founding, Ernie Longfellow wrote in The Normal on the Hill, “The first term opened October 24, 1867, with thirty-two pupils enrolled in the Normal School.”
The comparatively late start in 1867 followed the harvest. The first day of classes at Peru State this year was August 21.
In years past, an All-Campus Photo was taken on the quad. This tradition was resurrected for the sesquicentennial anniversary.
All-Campus photo take the morning of October 24, 2017.
Students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the College gathered in the lobby of the V.F. Jindra Fine Arts Building to unveil and dedicate Victor Issa’s Power of Thought Statue. The statue was installed on Thursday, October 26 and unveiled on Friday, October 27.
Daryl and Peggy Long commissioned the statue and asked the sculptor to include Peru State in its imagery. Daryl Long taught at Peru State for fifty years, from January 1967 to January 2017.
Victor Issa, Peggy Long, Daryl Long, Todd Simpson and Dan Hanson unveiling the statue.
A plaque on the front of the plinth reads, Power of Thought, “Our hope is that those who view this sculpture will be inspired to add their own creative energies to the never-ending quest of humankind to expand the sphere of knowledge.”
The entrance to the second floor Al Wheeler Activity Center bridge decorated for Homecoming. The Bobcat head was inspired by previous years decorating traditions. Many buildings on campus were decorated for homecoming, a historic tradition. Photo by Bill Clemente.
Daryl Long drives his wife, Peggy Long, and their campus escort, Amy Mincer, in a Ford Mustang convertible loaned to the Peru State Student Senate by Larson Motors of Nebraska City.
2017 Homecoming King Gunnar Orcutt and Queen Nicole Osborn riding in the back of a truck loaned to the Peru State Student Senate by Larson Motors. Photo by Anna Naber.
Food being served on the quad as part of the Tailgate. Photo by Bill Clemente.
The ribbon-cutting for Delzell Hall. Delzell Hall was renovated over the 2016-17 school year and reopened for students in August. Photo by Bill Clemente.
Peru State’s freshman education students presented profiles on educators from Nebraska and beyond with wax museum presentations on Monday. This program was in honor of Peru State’s and Nebraska’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
Dr. Gina Bittner, associate professor of education, said, “These students worked so hard and really developed their public presentation skills while learning about educators made famous by their educational contributions in Nebraska and beyond over the last 150 years.”
The freshman education students are enrolled in College 101 courses with Bittner and Dr. Kelly Kingsley (also an Associate Professor of Education).
Bittner added, “We are proud of our freshmen education majors for all their work. They had to conduct research, write an essay, turn that into a 3-5 minute presentation, create a timeline of their famous educator’s life and create the ‘wax museum’ presentation for the entire campus community. ”
“It would be our hope that these beginning education majors focus their time and talents to make a lasting impact during the next 150 years in Nebraska.”
A crowd of Peru State students, faculty and staff gathered Tuesday morning to sign the final beam planned for the Performing Arts Center renovation and construction project. Silver and black ink graced the beam with signatures, messages and memorials.
Facility Services Director, Jill McCormick, adds, “The Topping-Out Ceremony is an age-old tradition of placing a beam at what will be the structure’s highest level. While there is much to be done, this is a wonderful opportunity for the campus community to celebrate this construction milestone.”
Peru State student, Jimmy Johnson (left), signs the beam.
As part of the sesquicentennial celebration, the 2017-2018 Distinguished Speaker Series featured speakers with roots in Nebraska.
Peru State established the Distinguished Speaker Series in 2010 as part of a commitment to student engagement and success. The intent of the Series is to bring diverse, nationally and internationally recognized speakers to southeast Nebraska to enrich the educational experience of students while also providing regional communities more opportunities to engage in interesting and relevant topics.
Aaron Davis, former University of Nebraska National Champion football player, spoke at Peru State College in November as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series. His presentation was titled, “Attitude of a Champion”.
According to his website, “Aaron Davis is a thought leader and expert in the area of attitude and how it impacts every area your professional and personal life. He equips audiences with tips, tools and techniques on how to utilize the power of a Champion Attitude to reach their full potential.”
Aaron Davis with Peru State students.
Joe Starita visited Peru State College with a box of his latest book and a keen understanding of Nebraskan history. Starita, who is currently a professor at the University of Nebraska College of Journalism and Mass Communications, spoke in March.
Mr. Starita’s third and latest book is “A Warrior of the People—How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor.” The book was published in November of 2016.
Starita spoke passionately about American Indian history and particularly about the life of Susan La Flesche. The proceeds from his book sales support a college scholarship fund for American Indian high school graduates.
Joe Starita speaking on the Peru State campus.
On Tuesday evening, April 10, Curt Tomasevicz visited the Peru State College campus as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series. His presentation, “Have No Fear,” explored his personal growth as an athlete, first joining the Husker football team and then training for three Olympic appearances.
While attending the University of Nebraska, Curt played running back and linebacker for the Huskers, earning most of his playing time on special teams. After an impressive story about joining the Huskers through hard training and the student tryouts, Tomasevicz explained that bobsledding was not the sport of his childhood.
Curt Tomasevicz speaking on the Peru State Campus.
Tomasevicz said, “I was 23 years old and I knew nothing about bobsledding. I had seen Cool Runnings, but that was about it.”
He went on to win Olympic gold in the sport.
Marion Marsh Brown, a Nebraska-native author, was commemorated on Peru State’s campus on February 27. Brown is an alumnus and former faculty member of Peru State College
As part of Nebraska’s and Peru State’s Sesquicentennial celebrations, four Peru State students hosted a panel and gave presentations on a few of Brown’s books as well as background on Brown’s life. The Peru State College Library also assisted in the project, providing Brown’s books at the presentation and giving the student’s access to their archives for Brown’s work, including notes and former drafts Brown wrote before final release. Two of the students also met with Brown’s son, Paul Brown, who was also in attendance of the event.
Presenters at the Marion Marsh Brown panel: Taylor Finke, Dr. Bill Clemente, Ashley Peiman, Ashley Grell, Quentin Victor and Dr. Dan Holtz.
Mike Johanns, former senator of Nebraska, gave the commencement address at Peru State College to a crowd of more than 3,100 graduates, family members, faculty and staff. The major theme of his speech was cultivating relationships and service to others.
Johanns was introduced by the Chancellor of the Nebraska State College System, Stan Carpenter. Carpenter thanked him for his work to support the College.
Johanns began by saying that it was great to be back on campus. He was also the commencement speaker in 2002.
He adds, “I could not be more thrilled to be a keynote speaker at commencement. Thank you graduates for sharing this day with me.”
He praised Peru State’s beautiful campus and historic commitment to the region. Johanns said it was also particularly an honor to be here during the sesquicentennial.
Senator Mike Johanns giving the keynote address. The sesquicentennial time capsule is filled with flowers in the foreground.
During Peru State College’s May commencement, former State Senator Floyd Vrtiska received the Distinguished Service Award.
The Distinguished Service Award was established by the Nebraska State College System Board of Trustees. It authorizes each college to nominate a graduate or someone who has made significant contribution to the College or to an alumnus who has achieved distinction and recognition in his or her field. Recipients are nominated by the college president and approved by the NSCS Board of Trustees.
Vrtiska accepting the award. Dr. Hanson (left) congratulates the Distinguished Service Award winner while Kim Vrtiska (middle left) and Chancellor of the Nebraska State College System, Stan Carpenter, applaud.
Following the spring commencement, Peru State alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends gathered to place items of significance in a time capsule to be opened in 2067. The time capsule will be buried under the new Sesquicentennial Plaza outside the remodeled theatre and event center.
The time capsule will be placed at the request of Phi Alpha Theta, Dr. Sara Crook and Dr. Spencer Davis. Davis, faculty emeritus, was a champion of the project.
Garth and Gloria Adams place the first item in the time capsule. Garth is a 1967 alumnus and Gloria is a 1970 alumna.