Alta Schrock

Alta Schrock (April 3, 1911 – November 7, 2001) was a biology professor and community activist in Western Maryland who was the first Mennonite woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D.

Alta Schrock, Ph.D.
Alta Elizabeth Schrock

(1911-04-03)April 3, 1911
DiedNovember 7, 2001(2001-11-07) (aged 90)
Alma materUniversity of Pittsburgh
OccupationBiologist and community activist

Schrock was born on April 3, 1911 on Strawberry Hill Farm, near Grantsville, Maryland.[1] She graduated from high school in Salisbury, Pennsylvania and earned an associate degree in biology from Waynesburg College.[2] She did graduate work at the University of Cincinnati, Oberlin College and Kent State University, and received a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1944, the first Mennonite woman in America to receive her doctorate.[3]

Schrock was on the faculty at American University (1944–46), Goshen College (1946-57), and Frostburg State University (1960–77).[1] At Goshen, Schrock taught biology and was a faculty sponsor for the college's Audubon Society chapter.[4]

In 1957, Schrock left her teaching position at Goshen College to return home to Western Maryland to found the Springs Historical Society, the Penn Alps Center, and the Spruce Forest Artisan Village, dedicated to preserving the heritage, folk art, and craft-work of the region.[1] Schrock built Penn Alps into a tourist attraction, with an inn, restaurant, museum and craft shop where visitors could watch local artisans work and buy their products.[5] Penn Alps held an annual Summerfest, drawing about a thousand people a day by the 1980s.[6]

Schrock was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame in 1991.[7]

Schrock died on November 7, 2001, of circulatory illness at Memorial Hospital in Cumberland, Maryland.[1][2]

In 2007, the Maryland Historical Trust and the Maryland State Arts Council created a new award presented at the Maryland Traditions showcase, the Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts (ALTA) Award, named for Schrock.[8]


  1. "Dr. Alta Elizabeth Schrock". Salisbury, Pennsylvania Historical Web Site. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  2. "Alta E. Schrock, 90, artisan village founder". Baltimore Sun. November 10, 2001.
  3. Lepley, Sandra (June 29, 2009). "Penn Alps started out with a simple dream 50 years ago". Somerset Magazine. Daily American.
  4. Kauffman, Jason (December 21, 2016). "Biology for service: Archival traces of Mennonite environmentalist thought". Mennonite Church USA.
  5. Deardorff, Robert (March 15, 1964). "JUST PLAIN FOLKS; Mountain Town in Western Maryland Is Showplace for Local Artisans". The New York Times. p. XX21. In an effort to help these people support themselves, and to keep their skills from dying out, a local woman, Dr. Alta Schrock, gave up a university teaching job a few years ago, went into the mountains to seek out the craftsmen and organized the Penn Alps center. This since has grown into one of the most unusual tourist attractions in Maryland.
  6. "Crafts That Sustain A Mountain Way of Life". The Washington Post. July 5, 1985.
  7. "Alta Schrock, Ph.D." Maryland Women's Hall of Fame. Maryland State Archives. 2001.
  8. "Maryland Traditions creates new award in honor of Penn Alps, Spruce Forest founder". Cumberland Times-News. June 22, 2007. It is fitting that this new Maryland Traditions Award bears the name of Dr. Schrock, who worked tirelessly and creatively to find and sustain the folkways of her native Western Maryland," said Hannah Byron, assistant secretary for the Division of Tourism, Film and Arts at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. "This award recognizes those that are continuing to keep traditional arts alive in Maryland.
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