All roads lead to Penn State Wilkes-Barre

Longtime Penn State employees stop at Wilkes-Barre campus on summer road trip to honor family connection to Hayfield House
A photo of a grand staircase inside a mansion

Hayfield House's grand floating staircase, built by Pat Stormer's great-grandfather, Charles Case.

Credit: Penn State Wilkes-Barre

DALLAS, Pa. — A visit to Penn State Wilkes-Barre this summer connected Pat Stormer and her husband, Dave, with the legacy of her great-grandfather, Charles Case. Case was the lead carpenter for construction of Hayfield House in the 1930s and built the grand floating staircase inside the home that has been at the centerpiece of Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s campus since 1968.

The Stormers’ visit to campus came as part of an 11,000-mile road trip by car from their home in Folly Beach, South Carolina (a barrier island near Charleston). The stop at Penn State Wilkes-Barre was one of the first on their adventure.

“My grandmother and my mom always talked about how my great-grandfather was such an excellent carpenter. They often said they were so proud of his staircase at the Conynghams’ mansion (now the Penn State Wilkes-Barre campus) and how he built that staircase without a single nail,” Stormer said. Case operated a construction contracting business.

“I told myself, ‘Someday I’m going to get there and see that staircase,’ and I finally made it,” she said. “I got the most wonderful tour of the incredibly gorgeous house. And, of course, the staircase was very interesting to see.”

Her great-grandfather had a farm in the Dallas area that Stormer and her family visited when she was a young child, but she was only a year old when he passed away in 1944. She said she is honored to know her family is part of the legacy of the historic home.

“I’m very proud of that. I’m also pleased with the way Penn State is taking care of that house,” she said. “They are being respectful of its history and its art. Hayfield House is like a living piece of art and a museum as you walk through it.”

The Stormers were captivated not only by the work her great-grandfather had done, but also the campus’ beauty and sense of community. Their visit led them to make a contribution to the campus on the spot to help ensure the upkeep of Hayfield House for generations to come.

“The location is truly beautiful with its setting in the woods. Once you get there, you just want to settle in and enjoy the scenery,” Stormer said. “I was also struck by how warm and welcoming everybody I met was. Gina Miale, the administrative assistant in Admissions, was so kind and gave my husband and me a wonderful tour.”

Although both Stormers are retired Penn State employees and Pat has been to numerous other Penn State campuses for work, it was their first time seeing Penn State Wilkes-Barre. After starting her career at Penn State Behrend, Pat Stormer worked in Old Main at University Park for 30 years as assistant vice president for student services and visited all of the University’s campuses with residence halls. Dave Stormer was assistant vice president for safety and environmental services at University Park for 25 years.

After visiting Penn State Wilkes-Barre this past summer, the Stormers continued their road trip, visiting family in Cleveland, Michigan, Seattle and New York. Their journey took them all the way around the northern border of Lake Superior as they drove across Canada to Vancouver, back to the United States, back to Canada to visit Montreal, and ending with a month spent with their daughter and grandchildren in upstate New York.

Stormer said she hopes their travels bring them to Penn State Wilkes-Barre again.

“When I was there, I thought, ‘It’s about time’ and wished I had gone much earlier,” she said. “I’d love to go back again and have another look. I may have occasion to be driving on the interstates nearby and stop in. I took lots of pictures that I shared with my friends and suggested they visit if they are nearby.”