Bridal path leads floral design grad back to Penn College

Published 05.20.2022

Landscape/Plant Production
Alumni News
Engineering Technologies

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Schneebeli Earth Science Center holds such a special place for alumna Elizabeth M. Getchen that, when it came time to arrange her wedding flowers, no other venue could come close to warmly honoring the occasion.

Getchen holds two associate degrees from the college – floral design/interior plantscape (2007) and ornamental horticulture: landscape technology emphasis (2009) – and obtained administrative permission to return to the Allenwood-area campus in advance of her nuptials.

She and fiancé Ian J. Mowatt are to be married Saturday, May 21, at Sacred Oak Vista in Jersey Shore.

Smiling through her pre-wedding to-do list – and aptly sporting a tie-dyed "Dazed and Engaged" T-shirt – Getchen makes a sentimental return to the ESC.“When it was time for me to graduate (from South Williamsport Area Jr./Sr.) high school and start college, like most people I had no clue what I wanted to do. Also, my dad was not well and I needed to be close to home to help him with different things,” Getchen explained.

This stunning table arrangement was among the pair's output during a whirlwind two and a half days of floral creation.“I flipped through the Penn College degree book what seemed a million times. I tossed back the idea of photography because I had taken it in high school, but landed on floral design because, hey, who doesn't like flowers?”

She also did some landscaping on the side during her high school summers, so the green-thumb world was hardly foreign turf.

“I am so thankful that I went with the floral design program. The ESC is just what I needed in my life. Who else can go to college and be outside all day long?” Getchen said. “The property is just so amazing. All the different types of trees, plants and flowers that you don't always get to see in nature or even at a greenhouse/nursery.”

She fondly recalls horticulture faculty members Dennis E. and Christine A. Fink, and Dennis P. Skinner, for their student-centered passion and empathy. Dennis Fink, who was the college’s Master Teacher in 1997, retired in 2012 and passed away the following year; his wife was a part-time instructor who was certified by the American Institute of Floral Designers. Skinner retired in 2019 after more than 30 years’ service.

A corsage for Mom and the groom's boutonniere are lovingly crafted, too.“Like I mentioned, my father was ill, so I had missed a lot of class to take him to doctors’ appointments, but they were understanding,” she said. “Mr. Skinner was great, always having so much fun in his classes and labs.”

Getchen returned to one of those labs over several days this past week, along with bridesmaid Vanessa R. (Atherton) Harman, who she met in her floral design class. (Harman graduated in 2008 with an associate degree in floral design/interior plantscape.)

A friend and former classmate lends expert assistance to the bride-to-be.“Vanessa worked as a florist for a few years prior to college and even after college," Getchen said. "She did her own flowers for her wedding so, when I was planning mine, she said she wouldn't have an issue helping me.”

The only question was where to work on them and refrigerate them. Harman suggested reaching out to the college to see if they could use the floral room, and the answer came back “Yes.”

“The Earth Science Center is just a whole different world. The classes were small and most everyone in those classes you knew well because you had almost every class and lab with them, all day/every day,” Getchen said.

“Words will never describe how the ESC actually makes me feel. Life wasn't easy for me while I was going there. It was my comfort blanket, a safe place where I didn't have to think about what was actually going on in my real life.

“I met a lot of wonderful people from the different programs there, and I couldn't have asked for a better college experience.”

Photos by Marci M. Hessert,
office assistant to the assistant dean of diesel technology and natural resources

For more about Penn College's popular Art of Floral Design offering, an art elective open to all academic majors, consult the course flyer: Art of Floral Design