Penn State’s current status as the seventh largest employer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, not to mention its largest provider of degrees annually, can be traced back todecisions that were made more than six decades ago, during the years following World War II.As higher education changed nationwide with pivotal documents like
Higher Education for American Democracy; Science, the Endless Frontier;
Harvard Report for General Education
shaping a new dialogue, plus legislation like the GI Bill providing new funding, PennState also underwent tremendous changes during that period. The development of Penn Stateduring the postwar period was the result of many factors, but it was personified by one manwhose career had, arguably, a greater effect on the institution than any other: Dr. Eric Walker.Coming to Penn State from Harvard after the war, Walker brought a great deal of governmentresearch work with him in the form of what would soon be called the Ordnance ResearchLaboratory and Garfield Water Tunnel. Walker also got to know Penn State President Milton S.Eisenhower rather well working underneath him for nearly a decade; Eisenhower had been partof the Truman Commission, which composed
Higher Education for American Democracy
under the leadership of George Zook, US Commission of Education and former Penn State professor of history. All of these experiences contributed to Walker’s thinking when he became President in1956 – he wanted mass excellence, quantity and quality. During Walker’s time as Penn State’s president, research expenditures grew 500% from $7 million dollars in 1956 to nearly $37million dollars in 1970. The quantity of education provided grew as well – total enrollmentsacross the Commonwealth grew 300% from 16,000 to 48,000 over the same period. Walker wasone of Penn State’s foremost leaders along the road to mass excellence, and for that reason hecan be largely viewed as the architect of Penn State today.