The Penn State Stockmen's Club Celebrates 50 Years

After 50 years, members of the Penn State Stockmen’s Club continue to support the Department of Animal Science.

stockmen.jpgThe Penn State Stockmen’s Club Celebrates 50 years

In March 1965, Henry Gruber and Pete Krall sent a letter to their fellow alumni of Penn State’s Department of Animal Husbandry, asking for their support for “an association—relatively small, close-knit, and friendly—devoted to the furtherance of the department and its activities in the fields of resident instruction, extension, and research.”

That letter signified the official beginning of what is now known as the Penn State Stockmen’s Club, the college’s first formal alumni group at University Park—even predating the Penn State Alumni Association. Originally named the Animal Husbandry Alumni Association, the club’s purpose was to support the education and activities of animal husbandry majors as they worked with livestock, including beef cattle, swine, sheep, and horses. Fifty years later, the Stockmen’s Club continues to fulfill that mission.

John Ziegler, professor emeritus of meat science and a founding member of the Stockmen’s Club, remembers the impetus for forming the organization. “Many animal husbandry students were on extracurricular judging teams—for meat, wool, beef cattle, horses, swine, all kinds of judging,” he says. “A group of us faculty members believed it was important to keep students active in this way. We asked Henry and Pete, recent alumni who had spent a lot of time on judging teams, to work with us to convince fellow alumni of the importance of this activity in our students’ education.”

Animal husbandry alumni responded positively to Gruber and Krall’s letter, and the club was born. The club’s early days were informal, with members meeting in homes and socializing long after the meetings were adjourned. “After meetings, people would often end up at our home,” Ziegler remembers. “They’d stay late into the night, sometimes for breakfast! It’s always been a lively social group, and I’m proud that these people are friends and they still come back year after year to enjoy each other’s company.”

Today the Stockmen’s Club is recognized as an official Affiliate Program Group (APG) and chartered by the Ag Alumni Society. It has about 300 dues-paying members and continues to support animal science majors and members of the college’s Block and Bridle Club, a livestock and horse club for current students. “Block and Bridle is our primary pool of future members,” says Jana Peters, coordinator of academic support services in the Department of Animal Science. Peters, who has served as the club’s secretary/treasurer since 1989, is also a former member of the Block and Bridle Club.

Over the years, the club has established three scholarship endowments: the Kean Scholarship (in memory of founding member Glenn Kean), the Hazlett Scholarship (in memory of former member Vernon Hazlett), and the Memorial Award for Freshmen Students. “The club’s endowments provide important financial support for our students,” says Terry Etherton, head of the Department of Animal Science and Distinguished Professor of Animal Nutrition. “The Stockmen’s Club is a large and informed network of friends and supporters who have been effective in recruiting students for our undergraduate program and advocating on our behalf in many ways.”

Peters credits the vitality and longevity of the Stockmen’s Club—which now boasts multiple generations of members—to the strength of the undergraduate program as well as the dedication and loyalty of alumni. “The bonds and friendships that are formed in college continue into Stockmen’s,” she says. “We have a very loyal base of members. It speaks to what the undergraduate experience meant to these people, that they want to continue it for future generations.”

“The Penn State Stockmen’s Club provides a wonderful example of how an alumni organization can support an academic department and students,” says Etherton. “The fact that they’ve been doing this for 50 years is remarkable. The Department of Animal Science is truly fortunate to partner with the Stockmen’s Club in ways that pursue the greater good for our students and academic programs.”

For more information, visit the Penn State Stockmen’s Club website or find them on Facebook.