Belknap Hall was among the first four facilities to be named when the Mansfield State College Board of Trustees began the naming process in 1964. The yellow brick building was formerly called the Education Center Building.
The building now named for Dr. Arthur Train Belknap was originally built as a model school, serving the educational needs of children from the Mansfield area. Classes had been held at the old Alumni Hall for 25 years. Students at the normal school were able to observe and teach at the model school without leaving campus. The community, meanwhile, had access to a whole campus of educators.
The model school eventually outgrew the facilities in old Alumni and the Education Center opened in 1914. There were both classrooms and administration offices in the building. The building served as a model school well until the Junior High (Allen) and Elementary (Retan) schools opened in 1926 and 1939 respectively. Today the departments of Language and Literature and Geography and Geology are housed in Belknap.
Arthur Belknap came to Mansfield in 1920 from Maine. He attended college at Brown University and Sioux Falls College. He also held degrees from Newton Theological Institute, University of Halle, and Harvard. He and wife, Mary, married in 1902. She held a degree from Colby College and was a librarian at Mansfield.
At Mansfield, Dr. Belknap served as dean of instruction frequented the buildings now called Belknap, Retan, and Allen. He was very close to Mansfield president William Straughn and one of the Belknap’s daughters, Mary Constance, married William Straughn Jr.
The senior class of 1922 dedicated the yearbook, The Carontawan, to Arthur and Mary Belknap “in recognition of their earnest endeavors in the interest of Mansfield State Normal School.” In response, the Belknaps offered some thoughts on the influence of the Teacher. They called teaching “a vocation, a prophetic and sacred call, worthy of the deepest devotion of the human heart.” The same yearbook also noted that Normal School graduates cannot earn less than $100 a week teaching, which was considered “an adequate wage.”
When Dr. Straughn passed away in 1936, Belknap was named interim president of Mansfield State Teacher’s College. In one major announcement, he reported in October, 1936 that more than 90 percent, or 303, teachers in Tioga County were graduates of Mansfield State Teacher’s College. He served as college president from August, 1936 until May, 1937 when Joseph Noonan was hired.
Belknap then returned to his old job. He decided to retire 1941. At that time, the Wellsboro Agitator wrote, “Through the years, Dr. Belknap has had the respect and affection of not only class after class of students at the college, but also hundreds of persons in educational and religious circles beyond the campus.” James G. Morgan, who would later serve as college president, was named dean of instruction that year.
Dr. Belknap was a member of the First Baptist Church and even assisted with the funeral for Dr. Straughn. He was very active in church activities and often served as preacher for various services.
Mary Belknap was a member of the Mansfield Literary Club, PEO Sorority, and served as the first president of the Tioga County Council of Republican Women. One newspaper article discusses an impressive speech that she gave to the Wellsboro Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution. The speech discussed notable women in Pennsylvania history.
Arthur Belknap passed away in 1946. The building was named in his honor in 1964.
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