Penn State names road after Lower Burrell native
Joe Swanderski has made quite an impression in his 17 years working at Penn State University.
So much so that the Lower Burrell native recently had a road named after him at the State College campus.
Swanderski, 67, works as a supervisor for utility operations at the university.
He has been part of the living filter project there. The project, a collaboration between several departments, includes treating wastewater at the campus’ treatment plant and using it to irrigate land off campus where crops are grown and studied by students.
Swanderski said the university recently began naming some of the roads on the property for 911 emergency location purposes. Officials decided to name them after people who had an impact on the living filter project.
He was surprised to learn his name had been chosen.
“I was honored and humbled,” Swanderski said. “You just do your job day in and day out.”
Swanderski said he helps the project by maintaining the property and upgrading the equipment used for irrigation and treating the water, among other things.
“We made it a lot more streamlined in the operations,” he said.
Swanderski’s sister, Terry DeMoss of Lower Burrell, said she is proud of her brother’s accomplishments and was excited to find out about the road being named after him.
“Our parents raised very hard workers,” she said. “He’s always been such a kind brother.”
Swanderski grew up in the Braeburn Heights section of Lower Burrell, where he was one of nine children. He graduated from Burrell High School in 1970.
After high school, he attended college for a brief time, but decided he wanted to go down a different path.
“It was OK, but it wasn’t my thing,” he said. “I’m more of a hands-on person.”
He then began a career in retail and, by chance, took a job at a wastewater treatment plant in Indiana, Pa.
“It was by necessity,” he said. “I say that my grandmother always told me that hard work pays off.”
After 24 years honing his craft at that job, he was offered the Penn State position. He was excited to work in a more academic setting where he could interact with people from different backgrounds and specialties.
Swanderski said he’s enjoying his work so much these days he has no plans to retire.
“As long as they’ll have me, I’ll just keep going,” he said.