Having overseen the expansion and
construction of much of the current
Lycoming College campus, Bishop D.
Frederick Wertz is referred to as “The
Builder” in the college’s history. But
for those who knew him, he built much
more than structures – he built direction
for the college and character in those he
came in contact with.
Stories of interactions and how he has
impacted the campus, past and present,
were shared as the Lycoming College
community gathered to remember and
celebrate the life of its 10th president,
who passed away Oct. 16. He served as
college president from 1955-68.
Wertz, who became the president of
the college 58 years ago, was a man with
a vision when taking over from the Rev.
Dr. John W. Long, the college’s lon-
Dr. James E. Douthat, who retired as
college president this past year, stated
Wertz’s goal for the college as simply “to
create a liberal arts college of general
But Douthat stressed that Wertz’s suc-
cess in building up the campus was not
simply taking advantage of opportunity,
but was built through strong focus and
That leadership was in full effect for
Rev. Dr. Bruce Fisher ’56 even before
Wertz took the presidency at the college.
As Wertz was preparing to take over
the position, he asked Fisher to speak on
behalf of the students at his inauguration
ceremony. Fisher was honored but won-
dered aloud why Wertz wouldn’t have
the president of the student body speak
In response to Fisher’s inquiry:
“(Wertz) leaned in and looked at me with
those penetrating eyes and said, ‘I want
you to speak on behalf of the students.’
That was it. I almost saluted him,” he
It also was during the tenure of Wertz
that 13 buildings, including a majority
of the campus’ residential halls, and the
Quad were constructed.
And it was through one of those
buildings, the student center, which
would be named after Wertz years later,
that saw him give a space for students to
gather and interact. Gregory Vartan ’15,
president of the college’s student senate,
explained that, like it did when it first
was built, the student center continues to
But not only did he create buildings,
he also was responsible for programs that
had great impacts on the students who
It was only two years into his tenure
as college president that Wertz made
the “bold move” to plan a trip for the
school’s choir to London.
Rev. Dr. John F. Piper Jr., emeritus
professor of history and dean of the
college, called the trip “one of the most
memorable” in the college’s history.
Dale Bower ’59, who was on the trip,
recalled the 24-day trip included 28
performances. He noted that for many,
it was their first time on an airplane – a
somewhat terrifying experience.
But for Wertz, the trip wasn’t one
where he only observed the activities. He
also joined in. An opportunity for square
dancing arose, Bower explained, with
Wertz calling out the dance.
Bower noted that at reunions years
after, Wertz not only remembered names,
but engaged the graduates in discussions
that saw him recalling small details
about each individual.
“His memory was phenomenal,” he
It was around the same time in his
tenure as the trip that Wertz also revi-
talized the Chapel Speaker Program at
the college. The series included Rev. Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Ruth Perry Hodge ’58 called meeting
King “one of the best days of my life.”
As one of only two African-Ameri-
cans in the college’s choir, having the op-
portunity to meet King was a remarkable
experience. And it was possible because
In quoting one of her favorite sayings,
“I’m drinking from my saucer because
my cup has overflowed,” Hodge gave her
appreciation to Wertz.
“Bishop D. Frederick Wertz is part of
that overflow and I will always be grate-
ful,” she said.
Wertz’s impact on the campus still
can be felt, from buildings to the path he
set the college onto.
“Lycoming was given a far different
future through the efforts of D. Frederick
Wertz,” Douthat said.
He noted that in Wertz’s final visit to
the campus about a decade ago, he sat on
the porch on the Wertz Student Center,
telling stories of his time at the college
and the construction of buildings. It was
at that time, that Douthat said the true
vision of Wertz could be seen.
“It was as if he was rebuilding the
campus with those strong and firm mem-
ories,” Douthat remembered.
Reprinted with permission
which originally published the story
By Joe Stender
President D. Frederick Wertz (right) with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Philip Hamond, director of reli-
gious activities, outside of Clarke Chapel during King’s visit to campus on April 23, 1958.
LYCOMING COLLEGE 2014 WINTER MAGAZINE