Kutztown University, a census-designated place, evolved from the Normal School Act of 1857


Berks Places is a recurring feature that will focus on small towns and census-designated places throughout the county. History, nostalgia and local voices will shed light on the quaint nooks and crannies of our region. Additional historical photographs accompany the online version of the articles.

Kutztown University in northern Berks County had 7,675 enrollment as of fall 2021, the most of any college or college campus in Berks. It is the only institute of higher learning in the county to have part of its campus as a census-designated place.

The Kutztown University Census Designated Places portion of Maxatawny Township. (Corey McCarty – Reading Eagle)

“Census-designated places (CDPs) are statistical geographic entities representing tightly populated, unincorporated communities that are locally recognized and identified by name,” according to the Federal Register. “They are the statistical equivalents of incorporated places, the main differences being the absence of legally defined boundaries and an active and functional government structure, licensed by the state and administered by elected officials.”

The majority of the Maxatawny Township campus is the portion so designated. Part of the school’s football facility, Andre Reed Field, is within the Kutztown borough boundary.

Census figures only take into account actual residents of a specified area.

Why are census-designated places important? Just like the rest of the statistics collected by the United States Census Bureau, the numbers are used to determine how many seats states get in the United States House of Representatives. Berks has recently been affected by this. It is also used to determine state legislative districts. All of these people help decide how taxpayers’ money is spent.

Kutztown University has had many names since its official establishment as Keystone State Normal School in 1866.

The Normal School Act of 1857 established teacher training institutions in 12 areas of Pennsylvania. The law required an institution to have at least 10 acres of land, accommodation for 300 boarders, and an auditorium that could seat 1,000 people. These initial normal schools became the current 14 public institutions overseen by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, or PASSHE: Bloomsburg University, California University of Pennsylvania, Cheyney University, Clarion University, East Stroudsburg University, Edinboro University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown University, Lock Haven University, Mansfield University, Millersville University, Shippensburg University, Slipper Rock University and West Chester University.

A plan to consolidate certain campuses into regional universities was approved by PASSHE in July.

One of a series of photographs taken by William Wilberforce Deatrick between 1902 and 1922 depicting life at Keystone State Normal School, predecessor to Kutztown University, which have been made into postcards. This shows the library’s reading room and was part of Wilmer R. Trauger’s collection used in Book 4 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. (WW Deathrick)

Normal school days

From 1866 to 1927, KU was known as Keystone State Normal School.

At the beginning of the 20th century, KSNS hired a faculty member to photograph campus life. The photos would be transformed into postcards. From 1902 to 1922, Reverend William Wilberforce Deatrick, better known as WW Deatrick, captured the architecture, athletics, faculty, and every nook and cranny of campus.

Deatrick had come to Kutztown in 1891 to fill the post of instructor in psychology and pedagogy, wrote George M. Meiser IX in an April 6, 1983, reading eagle article also featured in volume 4 of “The Passing Scene” by Meiser and his wife, Gloria Jean. Pedagogy is defined as the art, science or profession of teaching. Soon Deatrick was appointed senior professor of rhetoric and literature, a post he held until 1923, when mandatory retirement was imposed on him at age 70, according to Meiser.

  • WW Deathrick

    One of a series of photographs taken by William Wilberforce Deatrick between 1902 and 1922 depicting life at Keystone State Normal School, predecessor to Kutztown University, which have been made into postcards. This one depicts a basketball game at the gymnasium and was part of Wilmer R. Trauger’s collection used in Volume 4 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. (WW Deathrick)

  • WW Deathrick

    One of a series of photographs taken by William Wilberforce Deatrick between 1902 and 1922 depicting life at Keystone State Normal School, predecessor to Kutztown University, which have been made into postcards. This shows faculty members in the front row, from left, Helen Beam, Ruth Rothermel, Mary Rickenbach, Catharine Weaver, Mary Fox and Georgia Reeve. Second row, left to right, AC Rothermel, director, Clara Meyers, Mabel Dengler, Ruth Voegele, Jessie Dotterer, Anna Heydt, Isabel Small, alma Stier and Frank Krebs. Third row, from left, Deatrick, who used a delayed trigger to capture the image, unknown, CC Boyer, assistant director, GC Bordner, AM Dietrich, James Grim, C,L, Gruber, BW Beck, Harriet Avery, Ella Kramlich, and Henry W. Sharadin. It was part of the collection of Wilmer R. Trauger used in Volume 4 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. (WW Deathrick)

  • WW Deathrick

    One of a series of photographs taken by William Wilberforce Deatrick between 1902 and 1922 depicting life at Keystone State Normal School, predecessor to Kutztown University, which have been made into postcards. This shows the chapel at the east end of campus and was part of Wilmer R. Trauger’s collection used in Volume 4 of “The Passing Scene” by George M. Meiser IX and Gloria Jean Meiser. (WW Deathrick)

“Interestingly, my mother graduated from Millersville State Normal School in 1932, which was the last year the state offered a two-year ‘normal’ degree to prepare teachers, many of whom are found in one-room schools, but not all of them,” Meiser wrote in a recent email. “By the end of the 1960s, almost all teachers in normal schools had retired or died.”

In 1928, KSNS became Kutztown State Teacher’s College when it became authorized to award bachelor’s degrees.

“For what it’s worth, I graduated in the last class of Kutztown State Teacher’s College, in 1959, an institution founded for the sole purpose of preparing educators to take over public classrooms in Pennsylvania,” Meiser said. “Tuition was minimal — $90 a year — so the state could get educators into state classrooms. In return, graduates were asked to sign a pledge that they would teach in Pennsylvania schools for at least a three-year period, which I did, all but 40 years.

“When I became principal of Alsace Township Consolidated School in 1960, there was a teacher in my building who was still teaching on a ‘standard certificate’, which was an 18-month course of study to prepare teachers for classes of Pennsylvania, mainly for rural classes.one-room schools.

The university today

Pennsylvania changed the name of the institution again in 1960, when it became Kutztown State College. In 1983, it became Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and joined PASSHE. Today, it offers 130 undergraduate programs in liberal arts and sciences, visual and performing arts, business, and education. There are 31 areas of graduate study, including two doctoral programs.

The university has put together a long history for its 150th anniversary, and it is available at www.kutztown.edu/about-ku/history/150.html. It includes a video of almost half an hour.

Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle

Construction continues on the 13,250 square foot Wells-Rapp Center for Mallet Percussion Research building on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. It is being constructed on the site of the former home of Jacob and Jeanne Esser, who owned Kutztown Publishing Co. (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

The campus continues to expand. In August, the demolition of Jeanne and Jacob Esser’s former home on campus was completed to make way for the Wells-Rapp Center for Mallet Percussion Research. On August 24, the Kutztown University Foundation opened the 13,250 square foot facility that will house KU’s collection of music, photos, artifacts and vintage mallet percussion instruments. the $6.4 million project will also include a 2,100 square foot performance space.

Last week, it was announced that the Keith Haring Fitness Park would come to the corner of Normal Avenue and Baldy Street. It will feature the artwork of the late, internationally acclaimed pop artist and former resident of Kutztown. Haring’s work will be integrated around an outdoor bodyweight circuit training system. Kutztown is one of only 10 sites in the country to be selected to accommodate a Haring fitness court.

  • Old Main at the Maxatawny Township campus of Kutztown University, Wednesday, February 23, 2022. (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

  • Schaeffer Auditorium on the Maxatawny Township campus of Kutztown University, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. The building, which now includes an 826-seat theater, was built in 1940 and newly renovated in 2013 with an addition of 23,000 square feet. (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

  • The Grim Science Building, left, which includes an observatory and planetarium, and the Boehm Science Center Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, on the campus of Kutztown University in Maxatawny Township. The iconic water tower can be seen in the background. (Susan E. Miers Smith – Reading Eagle)

  • Alumni Plaza on the Maxatawny Township campus of Kutztown University, Wednesday, February 23, 2022. The domed building on the left is the Graduate Center and Old Main can be seen across Kutztown Road/Business Route 222. (Susan E. Miers Smith — Reading Eagle)

Kutztown University Timeline

September 15, 1866Keystone State Normal School is officially recognized by the state on the grounds of the former Maxatawny Seminary.

1928 The name is changed to Kutztown State Teacher’s College after being authorized to issue bachelor’s degrees.

1960 Pennsylvania changed name to Kutztown State College.

July 1, 1983the college became Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and a member of the new National higher education system, or PASSHE.

Kutztown University according to US Census figures

Population: 3,094

Age: 0% under 5; 99% are 18 years and older; and 0.1% aged 65 and over

Total area: Not communicated

Median household income: NA

Employment rate: 46%

Source: US Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

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