W.T.I. Alumnus Donates Pieces of His Past to Penn College Archives
With his recent donation of precision-tooled items and other personal effects to the Pennsylvania College of Technology archives, Donald W. Stout has touched all three chapters of the institution's history as a student, a mentor and, now, as a benefactor.
"We are so pleased that Don has donated some of his tools to the college to be placed in the archives at the Madigan Library," said Barbara A. Danko, director of alumni relations. "It is important that we preserve the history of our school through donations such as this one." The gift also preserves Stout's longtime connection to the college a bond forged in a ninth-grade shop class at Stevens Junior High School in the Williamsport School District, where introduction to a lathe sparked Stout's career interest in metal work.
Abandoning his original plan to operate heavy construction equipment, he opted for a machine-shop course offered by Williamsport Technical Institute, Penn College's earliest predecessor. When Stout's mother was told about his choice, she simply replied, "Do it well," advice that set the tone for his lifelong commitment to high standards.
In 1942, he said, the Williamsport resident volunteered for a cooperative night program between W.T.I. and Avco, joining several other high school students in wartime work for 85 cents an hour each. Avco then was producing engines for the Piper L-4J "Grasshopper," a military version of the Piper Cub manufactured in Lock Haven, and Stout was among those making pieces that demonstrated exactitude in machining and could be used as a standard for other work.
A drill-sized gauge, hammer, chuck wrench and a master block used in calibration are among the items he shared with the archives.
Stout gave an A+ to all of his instructors, drawing particular inspiration from the "unbelievable knowledge of machine-shop practices" exhibited by 12th-grade teachers Lewis Bardo and Don Hennigan. (Bardo later became dean of applied arts when W.T.I. evolved into Williamsport Area Community College; the college gymnasium now carries his name.)
Stout graduated from the secondary program in May 1943 and entered military service three months later. After basic training and assignment to an Army base in South Dakota, he traveled to Great Britain aboard the Queen Elizabeth, which had been outfitted for troop transport during the war. He was assigned to the 8th Army Air Corps and, thanks to a transcript from his W.T.I. education, qualified for the machine shop in short order.
He remembered a particularly challenging and time-consuming job that required him to work on a pipe that was 4 inches in diameter and an inch thick; still, he drew notice from his superiors when he completed it in shorter-than-expected time. (Asked how he was able to produce such quality work so quickly, Stout responded, "I want to go home!")
A sketch of the pipe is included in the archival material, as were a citation for his contribution to the war effort and a photo of the teenage soldier during his time in Warton, England.
One month after his military service ended, Stout returned briefly to campus for continued studies in machine-shop operations. During that postwar period, he recalled, he was given a blueprint of a unique, model-sized gasoline engine, which he later fashioned out of brass and steel. The item, part of his contribution to the archives, so impressed his instructor that he was told he needed no further instruction.
He was hired in December 1946 by Keystone Friction Hinge in South Williamsport, where he eventually supervised the tool-making operations. Alfred Hauser and Earl Parrish, who became longtime faculty members in the machine shop and tool-and-die program at W.A.C.C., served their apprenticeships under Stout there, and a number of students were hired after first signing on for cooperative employment with the company.
"He is a wonderful example of the transfer of knowledge and skill across generations that are at the heart of teaching and learning as a lifetime commitment," said Daniel J. Doyle, a professor emeritus of history, who interviewed Stout as part of an ongoing oral-history project at the college. "Don's passion for teaching and learning began at the Williamsport Technical Institute and continued throughout his career. He credits the foundation he received at W.T.I. for some of his success."
The notes from that discussion accompanied Stout's donation, which joined by his wife, Betty he made to Patricia A. Scott, collection development librarian and archivist. The college archives are housed on the third floor of the library.