Dr. Robert J. Nossen, 1969-1972
Dr. Nossen & his wife in the Alumni room in Waller Hall, September 1969
Robert Joseph Nossen was appointed Bloomsburg's president on August 7, 1969. This gave him the unenviable task of following Harvey Andruss, although he was well prepared for the job. Nossen was born in San Francisco on September 4, 1920, and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He earned an MA and PhD in English from Northwestern University, and began his teaching career at Creighton University from 1950 to 1954. From there he went to Lamar State College in Texas as Head of the English Department, and in 1960 to the State University of New York College at Fredonia. His first two years there Nossen was head of the Department of English & Speech, and in 1962 his administrative career began when he became Dean of Liberal Arts & Sciences. This was followed in 1966 by his promotion to Vice-President for Academic Affairs, the postion he left to come to Bloomsburg State College (BSC).
Dr. Nossen was the top choice among 47 applicants for President of BSC, and he officially took over on September 5, 1969. He immediately had to face many of the problems confronting college campuses during the 1960s. The addressing of these issues had been postponed to some extent while Dr. Andruss was still in charge, but now they came to the forefront. One of the first of these was the adoption of the "BSC Joint Statement on Rights, Freedoms, and Responsibilities of Students." This was particulary important because it formally set as part of the campus governance the students' freedom to learn, their rights as members of the college community, and also set standards of evaluation. Another change involved restructuring the general education program to give students more responsibility and say in their choice of courses.
The physical campus continued to expand rapidly during this time. In 1970 Columbia Hall, the William W. Scranton Commons, and the Bakeless Center for the Humanities were all completed. This was followed in 1972 by the tri-level parking garage, Nelson Field House, and Waller Administration Building. Dr. Nossen was interested in a more responsive administration as well, so in 1970 the separate positions of vice-president for academic affairs, administration, and students were created.
In May of 1971 the real controversy began. A chain of events started that led to the resignation of Robert Nossen less than a year later. After the resignation of four head coaches the affairs of the college were made public and by September students began to circulate petitions, showing their dissatisfaction with the administration. In January of 1972 a decision was made by the board of trustees to investigate all charges relative to the operation of the college. In March a committee found that the trustees had gone too far when they asked Nossen to step down as president, but the committee recommended that it would probably be better if he did find a job elsewhere. After Nossen's resignation on April 28, 1972 the headlines read, "NCAA places BSC on probation." The college's athletic teams were placed on probation in August following accusations that rules concerning financial aid to athletes had been broken, the grades of certain students had been changed, athletes were paid for work they did not do, and high school transcripts were altered to assure admission and eligibility. The latter two counts were eventually proven false, and the ban was lifted except for the wrestling team, which still had a one-year probation.
A final irony of Dr. Nossen's stormy tenure at Bloomsburg was the appearance of Hurricane Agnes at the end of June, 1972. Although the campus was minimally affected, flooding in the town forced people from their homes, and temporary trailers that were placed on the upper campus remained for over two years.
After his presidency at BSC Nossen became the associate provost and professor of higher education at the University of Pittsburgh. He later became the editor of the Journal and Newsletter of Pennsylvania Association for Adults and Continuing Education. Robert J. Nossen died at his home near Pittsburgh on July 29, 1997, at the age of 76.