In 1956, Peter Linder was a senior at Central High School, one of Philadelphia’s premier academic institutions. The Soviets had just launched rockets into space, and suddenly there was an urgent call for more educated engineers throughout the U.S.
A collaboration between the Navy and Penn State University created a work-study program aimed at attracting engineering students. Linder learned about the program through a posting at Central High, and became one of 36 students selected through the competitive process. The students, about a third from Central High, were admitted to Penn State and were given jobs at the Philadelphia Navy Yard at the Naval Air Engineering Laboratory in Building 75, situated right near Building 661, the future home of GPIC.
For the first two and a half years, Linder split his time between the Navy Yard and the Penn State Ogontz Campus (now Abington) for classes. While at the Navy Yard, he helped to design catapults that launch aircraft off of aircraft carriers. Dummy loads would be tested so the engineering students and their instructors could measure the strain on the equipment. The students would also regularly visit the shipyard within the Navy Yard to learn more about how they poured molding, metalwork and to get a broader feel for the subject.
For the last year and half, the students went to the Main Campus in State College. Throughout this time, the students were paid as full-time federal employees, even while taking their classes. They all spent their summers working at the Navy Yard as well.
Linder and his fellow students graduated in 1961 and all 36 worked at the Navy Yard due to a 5-year obligation to work for the Navy Engineering Department. While working with the Burroughs Company at the Navy Yard through his engineering work, Linder was offered a job with the company. The Navy did not object, so Linder simply paid back a portion of fees and accepted the job. He went on to earn his masters in Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania at the same time.
The program was canceled by the time Linder graduated, due to the high-costs and because the need for engineers had mostly been fulfilled. Linder is now a member of the Board of Directors Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA. He returned to the Navy Yard for the first time in many years when Ben Franklin moved their southeastern headquarters to Building 100 in the Navy Yard.
Linder is now the Chairman of the Penn State Research Foundation. He is also Chairman Emeritus of the Mid-Atlantic Angel Group Fund, a member managed angel fund that makes investments in start-up companies. He recently retired as a member of the faculty and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Muhlenberg College.
Penn State’s long and proud history at the Navy Yard continues and is expanding by the work of the GPIC and the other DOE-funded centers located here.