Sandra Linck came to Mansfield State College as a single mother. Her daughter, Sarah, later recalled university staff members looking after her as a child. There was no daycare on campus for students, faculty, and staff. Such an idea bordered on revolutionary in the 1970s. It was -- and still is -- very possible that a young mother might miss the opportunity to attend college simply for lack of affordable childcare.
Dr. Linck lobbied hard for such a facility. Her dream was finally realized in 2001 with the completion of the daycare. It was dedicated four months after Dr. Linck passed away. The purpose of the center was summed up perfectly by Connie Beckman, representing the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, during the ceremony. She said, “You can’t concentrate on an English exam if you are worried about whether your child is safe.”
The center was built mainly by university buildings and grounds staff. It is professionally staffed by an outside agency, though university students can do internships there. Professional childcare is provided to children aged six months to five years. The center also features a sizeable playground.
Dr. Linck was a native of Missouri and earned her bachelor's degree in home economics from Northwest Missouri State. She earned her master’s degree in clothing and textiles from the University of Kansas and her doctorate in education and management from Penn State.
She came to Mansfield State College in 1971 as Sandra Taliferro and joined the department of home economics. That department was mainly housed in the former Home Economics Center (now Elliott Hall), but Beecher House and Richards House (now Alumni House) served as home management laboratories for the department. In the 1980s, Linck worked for a time as the department’s public relations contact and served as department chair between 1983 and 1986, right after the the college became a university.
During Linck’s tenure, Home Economics changed dramatically. Men started to enroll in the department and microwaves replaced hot plates and kerosene stoves. The Home Ec Department developed majors in child and family services, clothing and textiles, food and equipment, and dietetics. The advent of the fast food industry and legislation calling for gender equality led to these changes, Linck told the Wellsboro Gazette in the 1970s. (In the same story, she noted Ellen Richards’ contributions to the field of home economics.)
Linck later witnessed the demise of the home economics department at Mansfield University as the phase-out began in 1991. Several years later, the last home economics majors graduated from Mansfield.
In addition to her campus teaching, Linck became a sought-after speaker. She published numerous works and gave a number of presentations, both locally and at the state and national levels. Some of her topics included inflation, marketing to women and teens, food safety regulations, and careers in home economics. She also wrote a column for the Wellsboro Gazette called “Family Money.”
Linck was named associate provost in 1986 and served in that capacity until her retirement in 2000. By that time, she had finally convinced the administration and trustees of the need for a daycare center on campus. Indeed, she earned a reputation for continually bringing up problems and deficiencies on campus until they were addressed and resolved.
At Mansfield, one of her most important contributions was being a founding member of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, which still operates today. She often used that organization to push for improvements in women’s education. In fact, it was that commission that pushed for the childcare center. She was also a founding member of the Rural Services Institute. Her other services included, but were not limited to, president of the faculty council, dean’s committee on mainstreaming (1978-1979), president and treasurer of the Mansfield Foundation, council of department chairs, and the assessment committee.
She earned numerous academic awards including Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, Outstanding Home Economist Award, and International Who’s Who in Education. In 1996, she was presented with the International Award for Education and Development by the Priyadarshni Academy in Bombay, India. She was the only American to receive the award that year, which was presented to educators who raised awareness of global issues. Earlier that year, she had organized a four-day seminar at Mansfield focusing on global issues.
Linck also had an interest in community health care and served on the Soldiers and Sailors Hospital Board, Laurel Health System Investment Committee, Tioga County Partnership for Community Health, and the board of Tioga County Human Services. Linck was also involved with the Wellsboro Area School Board, Tioga County Vocational Advisory Board, Tioga County Development Corporation, and Northern Tier Planning and Development Commission.
In 1993, Linck added the title “reverend” to her name when she was ordained as a deacon of the Episcopal Church after completing the School of Christian Studies, Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. Rev. Linck was a member of the St. James Episcopal Church in Mansfield and assisted at churches in Wellsboro and Westfield.
At her country home near Wellsboro, which she shared with her husband John, Linck developed a retreat and meditation center. Through the center, she shared with others her passion for literature, writing, stained glass and gardening. She also had an interest in preserving rural churches and American pioneer life. She also wrote a book of poetry that she gave to friends.
The Mansfield University Council of Trustees voted on May 24, 2001 to name the new center in honor of Dr. Linck. At that meeting, Beckman called Linck “The mother figure” at Mansfield. For her part, Linck, who was surrounded by student and faculty members of the President’s Commission, said “My rowdy friends will prevail – all of them. That’s the way I want it.” The trustees noted “Sandra embraced and championed not just change, which she recognized as inevitable, but sought to nurture and shape change to ensure the best possible outcomes for the collective Mansfield community.”
Just 18 days after that meeting, the Mansfield community lost one of its greatest champions. Linck died of cancer June 11, 2001 at the age of 63. Four months to the day later, members of the Linck family came to Mansfield for the dedication of the new daycare center. It was a beautiful clear day when the sign bearing Sandra Linck’s name was unveiled. Perhaps the most fitting tribute to Linck is the sounds of children laughing and playing just up the street from the Retan Center, where Mansfield University education majors prepare for teaching careers.