Ice Cream U: The Story of the Nation's Most Successful Collegiate Creamery
A 1990s Penn State alumni survey revealed that the Creamery was considered the second most beloved institution at the university (second to football). A glance through back issues of the Daily Collegian confirms the intensity of Penn State students' passion for the Creamery and its ice cream flavors. A tongue-in-cheek editorial appeared in September 1970 imploring students to assert their constitutional right to have Creamery ice cream any hour of the day or night. Also told with much enthusiasm is the 1987 story of how the new Creamery flavor honoring PSU football coach Joe Paterno gained the "Peachy Paterno" name (the winning name was chosen among a thousand-plus submitted in the keenly watched contest). [End Page 521]
Lee Stout's Ice Cream U certainly highlights Penn Staters' warm affections for the Creamery. But as the subtitle indicates—"The Story of the Nation's Most Successful Collegiate Creamery"—the book offers a great deal more. The book is comprised of seven rather short but pleasingly written and engaging chapters. Stout's coverage is broad, with chapters ranging from the growth of dairy farming in nineteenth century Pennsylvania, "a brief history of ice cream," and "the ice cream phenomenon," in addition to four core chapters which ably chronicle the educational-commercial history of the Creamery.
Ice Cream U is attractively put together, filled with dozens of richly evocative and vivid photographs and images. The reader is treated to an 1893 class photo of the one of the Creamery's first "short courses;" early twentieth century Penn State College Dairy Department posters lauding the benefits of milk pasteurization; plus a dozen or more 1920s and 1930s photographs showing college "ag" students engaged in various stages of ice cream-making—among many others. The long-time archivist at Pennsylvania State University, Mr. Stout has plied his trade well in uncovering these historical gems.
Above all, this book's narrative rests with the compelling success story of the Creamery itself, from its modest 1880s beginnings as "a simple one-story structure" to the multi-million dollar Berkey Creamery complex of today. It is, intentionally, an institutional history—with primary emphasis on its leading educators and administrators, the expansion and modernization of facilities, and how the Creamery's mission adapted to changing ice cream industry conditions. We learn of the pioneering role played by Henry Armsby, one of the iconic figures in Penn State's history, who confidently steered the University's School of Agriculture (including its Creamery) in a chiefly academic, "agricultural scientist" direction. The 1920s-1950s, a time of great advances in research and "short course" enrollment for the Creamery, owed much to the steady, insightful leadership of Andrew Borland and Chester Dahle respectively. And Tom Palchak, the current manager of the state-of-the-art Berkey Creamery, is praised for his business and marketing acumen.
If Stout's fine book is deserving of criticism it is its predominantly top-down quality. The most intriguing, textured chapter is the fourth on the Creamery's "ice cream short course." The short course, the famous two week ice cream-making course long taught to area dairy farmers, is noteworthy because it constituted the Creamery's single most concrete grassroots public service link with the broader community. Stout quotes effectively from the [End Page 522] Creamery's 1901 short course description and shares the reminiscences of 1923 "graduate" William Tharp. The book would have benefited from the inclusion of more student voices—those of short course participants and college "ag" students, and those of other folks in the community. Nonetheless, Ice Cream U stands as an enjoyable and informative read. [End Page 523]