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Penn College Among Primary Sponsors of Local Soap Box Derby

Gathered around the Soap Box Derby car driven by 1951 national champion Darwin Cooper are, from left, Donald Noviello, assistant director of the Williamsport Soap Box Derby%3B Pennsylvania College of Technology President Davie Jane Gilmour%3B and James F. Campbell, race director.Pennsylvania College of Technology, which annually opens its masonry laboratory for construction of cars used in the Williamsport Soap Box Derby, has been added as a principal sponsor of the community attraction.

“It was an easy ‘Yes,'” President Davie Jane Gilmour said of the college’s role in race preparations. “We’re proud to be affiliated with such an exciting family event.” The college joins the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, the Kiwanis Club of Williamsport, Backyard Broadcasting and the city itself as “tagline sponsors” of the derby, which will be held this year on June 16.

“We couldn’t pull this off without our sponsors, and certainly not without the help of Penn College,” said assistant race director Donald Noviello, a 17-year faculty member, a professional tutor at the college’s Academic Success Center and a Williamsport city councilman. “We need a place for our one-day construction clinic, where the cars are collaboratively built by racers’ families and volunteers, and the college really comes through for us.”

A poster announcing the return of the 'All-American Soap Box Derby' to Williamsport, displayed in Penn College's Madigan Library, was designed by Donald Noviello's son, Cristopher, a graphic designer who attended Penn College for advertising art and later graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.The Soap Box Derby, a fixture in downtown Williamsport from 1950-54, has met with considerable success since it returned to the local landscape in 2010. Coinciding with acknowledgement of Penn College’s ongoing support, the 1951 car piloted by Darwin Cooper who represented Williamsport on his way to a national championship in Akron, Ohio is on display near the entrance to the college’s Madigan Library.

In addition to offering limitless access to the college’s new Construction Masonry Building, Marc E. Bridgens, dean of the School of Construction and Design Technologies, provided a fork-lift truck and driver.

Bridgens, like the college president, said the rationale behind the school’s support isn’t complicated at all.

“No matter how old we grow, there always remains a little youth in all of us,” he said.

Having a spacious, secure place in which to assemble and store the cars is essential, noted James F. Campbell, race director and president of Hope Enterprises Inc.

“We build the cars together, and the children and families take them home to practice for a specified period of time,” he said. “Then, a week before, we “˜tech’ them and prep them and impound them until they’re moved to the staging location on Race Day.”

This year, 58 youths between 7 and 17 will drive cars in two classes: 32 in the Stock category and 26 in Super Stock. Each of the vehicles in the double-elimination contest is sponsored by a local business, and one driver from each class will advance to Akron.

In a time when myriad pursuits compete for children’s leisure time, some of them involving sophisticated and costly gadgets, Campbell said it is “rewarding, meaningful and fun to see a free activity that involves only gravity and driving skill.”

“And sportsmanship,” Noviello added. “After each race, from Brandon Park to Little League Boulevard, both drivers get out of the car and congratulate each other. It’s really a positive experience.”

For more about the Soap Box Derby, visit on the Web .

For more about Penn College and its “degrees that work” in more than 100 career areas, visit online , email or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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