'68 Sweethearts Reminisce

It was the spring of '68 and John Ryan had spent nearly two years taking classes at Williamsport Area Community College without a female student in sight. All of his courses were conducted in the old "Trolley Barn" and the former Claster Steel Building, where the college had leased space for classrooms. But, lucky for him, that spring, he and his buddies in civil technology were sent over to the former Rishel Building for a computer class.

Sweethearts and '68 alums Marian and John Ryan pose in the Madigan Library in the fall of 2011. "It was the first time we had encountered any women on campus," Ryan said, noting there was a group of girls hanging out in the hallway. Within the group, he kept noticing a tall blonde each time he returned to Rishel. After a couple of weeks, he mustered up the courage to ask her out.

"He walked up and asked me if I wanted to go to a party with him," said Marian Stoddart Ryan, who was enrolled in the secretarial program. "I simply said, 'OK.' I didn't know him from Adam. I didn't even know his name."

The party they attended was at a cabin near Highland Lake, located in the northeastern section of Lycoming County. After a month of dating, they attended the Spring Weekend dance together, along with two other couples. Marian was a candidate for Spring Weekend queen.

"I remember all three couples crammed into a friend's car, pulling into the parking lot," Marian laughed, noting the dance was held at the YWCA.

Marian and John attended the 1968 Spring Weekend dance, where Marian was a queen candidate.One of Marian's most vivid memories of that time was an interview of the candidates that was held the week before the dance on the stage at the Academic Center Auditorium.

"They brought each of us out on stage to answer some questions in front of the student body," Marian offered. "I was the first girl to ever wear a mini-dress at the college and I had that on that day. One of John's friends hooted when I walked out on the stage, so I pulled the stage curtain around my legs."

I remember all three couples crammed into a friend's car

Aside from Marian's mini-dress, John was also a trendsetter on campus. "He set his own fashion trend," Marian laughed. "He had this sweater that he had cut the sleeves off of that he wore and then his friends started wearing sweaters like that too."

John, who had moved from Syracuse, N.Y., to Montoursville in his senior year of high school, attended the college due to its convenience. The same can be said for Marian, who commuted to campus with some girlfriends from their homes near Lock Haven.

Among their campus memories, the duo recalls students gathering at the College Corner sandwich shop in between classes. Marian thinks fondly of favorite faculty members like Donald Bergerstock and Alex Bailey, while John remembers "ducking under the pipes in the Trolley Barn."

The first to wear a mini-dress on campus, Marian, in the front row, second from left, stands with other queen candidates in the Academic Center lobby prior to being interviewed on the stage.Both recall seeing Neil Diamond in a campus concert in the fall of 1967. However, unlike today's college, the social scene on campus in the late '60s was minimal.

"Since it wasn't a residential campus at the time, students went home after classes and weren't intimately involved in the school like they are today," John said.

In between classes, on the evenings and weekends, fun needed to be found elsewhere. John recalls going to hear bands at "Gill's Discotheque" in downtown Williamsport and attending dances at the Montoursville Social Hall.

Upon graduation in May of 1968, Marian and three of her female classmates moved to Binghamton, N.Y., to work for General Electric, which had come to campus to recruit employees, including secretarial staff. John began work at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).

"PennDOT was hiring a lot of grads because there was a big push to complete the Interstate in the late '60s and '70s," John explained. "My first assignment was the last three sections of I-80 between White Deer and Loganton."

One year after they began dating, the couple married in April of '69, with four WACC classmates in their wedding party. For 27 years of their married life, they lived in Laporte and raised their children Ben, born in 1975, and Mary-Kate, born in 1979. The couple now resides in Montoursville, where they both work at McTish, Kunkel & Associates, an engineering, environmental and construction management services firm. John serves as the company's regional manager and Marian supervises the office.

Approximately 60 of the 85 employees at the Montoursville branch of McTish, Kunkel & Associates are Pennsylvania College of Technology graduates. Most are graduates in civil engineering technology and surveying technology.

When the couple is not busy at work, they enjoy traveling, especially to the Finger Lakes Wine Country and to New York City. Marian enjoys cooking and baking. A former marathon runner, John now settles for a round of golf. He also serves on Penn College's Foundation Board of Directors and its Civil Engineering Technology Advisory Committee.

The Ryans are proud of the growth and evolution of their alma mater.

"I can't believe what has become of it! The campus is so beautiful!" Marian enthused. "It makes me wish I was in school now!"

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