HAZLETON, Pa. — Penn State Hazleton is grieving the loss of Bertil E. “Bert” Lofstrom, a campus alumnus, Air Force veteran and, along with his wife Mary, longtime campus supporter for whom the library is named. He died on Oct. 27 at the age of 91 at his home in Florida and will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
“The entire Penn State Hazleton campus community mourns the passing of Bert Lofstrom, a cherished alumnus whose generosity and dedication to Penn State Hazleton will forever be remembered,” Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Elizabeth J. Wright said. “His legacy, marked by his support for education and his transformative contributions, particularly for students pursuing business degrees, continues to inspire and shape the future of our campus."
After moving to nearby Drums from Philadelphia in his teens, Bert enrolled at Penn State Hazleton in 1950 before transitioning to University Park, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in commerce. After joining the Air Force Reserve Officer’s Training Corps at University Park, he went on to have a distinguished 21-year career in the Air Force, retiring in 1976 with the rank of colonel. During that time, he completed a master’s degree in finance through Michigan State University.
It was during his service to his country that Bert met Mary, who herself had success and longevity in the Air Force. After graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she began a 26-year nursing career in the Air Force that, like Bert, also culminated in the rank of colonel. During her service, she was a nursing administrator and military consultant to the Surgeon General for 14 years and a flight nurse for 11 years.
After retiring from the Air Force and settling in Alexandria, Virginia, with Mary, Bert worked as a financial planner in Washington, D.C., and eventually became a founding partner of labor-sourcing service LaborFinders.
He and Mary retired to Vero Beach, Florida, in 1989. The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary shortly before Mary died in 2016. She was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.
The couple were generous benefactors to both Penn State Hazleton and the University. Avid art collectors, they amassed numerous pieces of original and fine artwork, including pieces by Salvador Dali and Rembrandt, and donated pieces to Penn State. Some are housed at the Palmer Museum of Art on the University Park campus, while others are located at Penn State Hazleton.
In addition to their donations of art, the Lofstroms made other significant gifts to Penn State Hazleton, including endowing a scholarship for business majors that was established in their name. For their continued generosity, they were named members of the Mount Nittany Society, the Atherton Society and the Penn State Hazleton Highacres Society.
On Sept. 13, 2017, under the leadership of former Chancellor Gary M. Lawler, Penn State Hazleton’s library was named the Mary M. and Bertil E. Lofstrom Library. In addition to Bert, the ceremony was attended by numerous high-ranking officials from throughout the University. In fall 2021, a $7.6 million renovation project was completed at the library that included significant upgrades to offices and common areas and added floor-to-ceiling windows, several group study rooms, makerspaces, a one-button studio and other resources.
“The Lofstroms’ remarkable giving spirit illuminated our campus, casting a legacy of boundless generosity that not only adorns our walls but also opened doors of opportunity for future generations of Penn State Hazleton students,” Director of Development and Alumni Relations Desiree Voitek said. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to Bert’s loved ones as we honor and celebrate the extraordinary impact he has left upon us."