Ivy Leaf - Fall 2003

Keeping it in the Family

The Fochlers


If ever there was a household bonded by feelings of collegiality, it was the Fochlers.

All nine children of Edward '58, '77g and Jean Fochler matriculated to Penn State in their father's footsteps. Even more amazing, all of these Fochlers, including Edward, spent their first two years of college at Penn State Altoona.

For Ed and Jean's second youngest child Nancy, the Penn State pride that began to sprout when she was just a youngster is now in full bloom. A 1991 graduate, she recently began her first term on the Penn State Altoona Alumni Society Board of Directors, with hopes that she will be able to convey the value of Alumni Association membership to both graduates and current students.

The reasons why Penn State Altoona was the institution of choice for all the Fochler children are varied. From the standpoints of convenience and economics, it made perfect sense for an Altoona-based couple to send their college-bound sons and daughters to a local campus. In addition, the University's diverse curriculum allowed each young adult to pursue a course of study of particular interest. Penn State's traditions, renowned quality education, and successful football program also boosted appeal. Perhaps most importantly, all nine siblings drew tremendous inspiration from their father as they matured.

Edward Fochler already was married, the father of two, and a Korean War veteran when he received his bachelor's degree in engineering in 1958. Nineteen years later, the family celebrated the conferral of a master's degree to Edward and a bachelor's degree to his daughter and second-oldest child, Karen, on the same day.

"Looking back, when Edward decided to go to college after the Korean War, he picked Penn State Altoona because of the geographic location and economics," Jean Fochler recalled. "We fell in love with Penn State and the children followed. One very joyful moment for us was the day both my husband received his master's degree and Karen received her bachelor's degree."

Edward was employed by Penelec for more than two decades as an electrical engineer, and he also served as a part-time instructor at Penn State Altoona.

Edward passed away in 1986, but the Penn State Altoona legacy he established now includes a third generation.

"My brothers and sisters all wanted to go to college and attend Penn State," Nancy Fochler explained. "We truly did not want to go anywhere else. You see your sisters and brothers attend Penn State and you want to go there, too. I still remember the warm October day when I received my acceptance letter to attend Penn State Altoona. I was so proud to carry on the tradition. My youngest sister (Amy '92) was the only one who almost attended another university because of a basketball scholarship."

From Fall 1973 through Spring 1990, there were only three academic years when the student body of Penn State Altoona did not include at least one of the Fochler children (1975-76, 1976-77, and 1980-81). There were four occasions when a sibling entered college immediately after another had graduated. And during the 1988-89 academic year, the three youngest children—Christine '89, Nancy and Amy—all were enrolled at Penn State.

Youngest child Amy transferred to University Park in 1990, temporarily drawing the curtain on the Fochler's presence on the Penn State Altoona stage. But the dawning of a new century brought the arrival of Edward Fochler's grandchildren to Ivyside: Justine Lilly and Michelle Moser, both now juniors at University Park.

All of the Fochler children possess their own special memories of their years at Penn State Altoona. Mary '77, the oldest, was a member of Circle K and later helped to paint the first mural in downtown State College. Diane '82 was inducted into the Alpha Lambda Delta academic honor society. Currently, she assists with scorekeeping at the men's and women's basketball games. According to Nancy, Diane and her husband, Skip Dry, have played host to some of "the best" Penn State football parties in the area.

Both Christine and Amy fondly recall the influence of Lori Bechtel, their instructor for exercise and sport science classes at Penn State Altoona. Amy starred on Penn State Altoona basketball teams that won Commonwealth Conference Championships her freshman and sophomore years. A standout at Altoona Area High School, she had been offered a partial scholarship to compete for nearby St. Francis University, but the bonds with Dear Old State were just too strong. After careful consideration and a visit to the St. Francis campus, Amy said, "I never envisioned myself playing at St. Francis."

The Fochler family photo albums are much like those found in many other homes…with two notable exceptions: someone always seems to be wearing Penn State attire or receiving Penn State items on birthdays and holidays and there are a host of photos from Penn State graduation ceremonies.

"I find it truly amazing that we all attended Penn State Altoona and University Park, and eventually all found employment in the Altoona area," Nancy Fochler commented. "We are all proud to say we are Penn State graduates, and the family tradition of attending Penn State has continued with my two nieces."

Nancy earned her master's degree in business education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in May 2002. She teaches business education at Penn Cambria High School in Cresson, PA. One day, she hopes to share yet another achievement in common with members of her family.

"One of my career goals is to teach a class at Penn State Altoona," Nancy stated. "My father taught classes at the campus and my brother, Joseph, is in his third year teaching a marketing course there. I believe that Penn State Altoona has always been a part of the Fochler family and will continue to be for a very long time."