Alumni Profile: Charles Steen ’62

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We recently caught up with our very own Charles Steen ’62 and had the chance to ask him about his AZ experience, and where life since Penn State has taken him. Here's what he had to say: 

Where has life taken you since you graduated? Give us a brief recap up to this point including career and family highlights. 

It's been a long time since graduation - and so very much has happened! After graduating from Penn State in Agricultural Engineering I was granted two-year assistantship at Cornell University because they were wanting to establish a program in soil and water and I was available. Without a count, it was a highlight of my academic experience as the emphasis was on research and fieldwork which I especially loved. In addition, my major advisor was a wonderful man in every way: family, student relations, teaching. He became a very good friend and mentor as we worked together setting up labs and occasionally teaching one of his classes when he was able. It was all a wonderful experience and a lot of fun and value for me. I likely would have stayed for a Ph.D. but the Vietnam war was heating up, and as I had an ROTC obligation from Penn State, I decided to go on active duty. Another highlight in my experience made possible by my time at Penn State. After serving with Engineer groups in Korea, then Vietnam, I aligned with a non-profit organization, The Navigators, and began to help young men in spiritual development, in several US locations with young men, most of whom were veterans. Then after meeting my beloved wife, we had three years as a family (by then four "young ladies," the last who was born there) we returned to the US with the Navs and lived in several US locations, mostly in the mid-south. Next, he called us to Colorado Springs with Resource Exchange International to help the Vietnamese in areas of English development and agricultural education. In January of 2015, the Lord promoted my beloved wife to her eternal glory, and I will likely officially retire in a year or two. 

Sharon and I got a bit of a late start in our relationship, meeting at thirty, introduced by a friend who knew us both and thought we would be a good couple. He was more than right. It wasn't exactly "love at first sight," but not far from it. After two years of marriage, we had the first of our four beautiful daughters. Three are now married and they have presented us with six incredible grandchildren, three boys and three girls. The girls live from Denver to Kansas City to Ft. Walton Beach, FL to Norman, OK. The oldest is now in the last months of a virtual program with Vanderbilt, University as a PA in psychiatric home health care. It need not be noted that she is a great deal smarter than her dad, as are the others as well. 

What are the most important lessons you learned because of AZ? 

 I suspect more than I know. As a high schooler, I was pretty much a loner. From three years old I spent summers on my granddad's dairy farm with time much on my own. Even with granddad, there wasn't much conversation. He had been terribly affected by the death of their son when he was young, and although a very pleasant man and very, very kind to me, there wasn't much conversation. At AZ, I began to make friends, and in fact, for the first time, nurtured and strengthened life-long relationships. Although becoming more difficult now, for most of the years since graduation, Brother Crily has hosted an annual newsletter that followed the class members and our families and activities. There are life-long memories I still value. 

When you look back on your time in AZ, what moments do you tend to remember most?

Who could forget pledge week (I forget what we called it). The signal to rundown the three or four flights of stairs in the middle of studying for some test, and the "inspections" by the elder brothers were all a part of good-natured fun, making us, on the one hand, anxious, but on the other assuring us we were a part of the brotherhood. Another memory was years later, coming in from class as the last world series game of the Pittsburgh Pirates (I grew up on the east side of PGH) just in time to glance at the TV in the front room and watch pirate star Bill Mazeroski drive a Yankee pitch way out of the stadium - and win the World Series. It is the only bit of the World Series game I had seen. Oh, the silly things we remember! 

But there are lots of things that are far from silly that I remember, that contribute to who I am and the opportunities I have had to live a life of challenges, enduring failures, and experiencing successes that I could not have had otherwise. God never wastes a thing when we give ourselves to Him and commit to bringing Him glory. The years at AZ and ongoing connections are a rich heritage that I greatly appreciate, and realize how blessed I am to have had them. 


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