Knowledge at Noon uncovers Lehigh history and trivia

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Lehigh student Joseph B. Reynolds calculated the orbit of the 691 Lehigh asteroid in 1910. This is just one of many trivia facts about Lehigh’s history and accomplishments discussed at the “Knowledge at Noon” program held by librarian Ilhan Citak. (Courtesy of B&W Archives)

Ilhan Citak, an archives and special collections librarian, stood in front of a crowd of participants, challenging their knowledge of Lehigh history.

“What is 691 Lehigh?” Citak asked.

The audience called out guesses that included “phone number” and “an address.”

When no one guessed correctly, Citak gave the answer with a smile.

“It’s a planet,” he said. “No matter what happens during the Lehigh-Lafayette game, we need to remember that there is a Planet Lehigh and no Planet Lafayette.”

Faculty members gathered in Linderman room 200 on Feb. 15 for Citak’s Lehigh trivia presentation, Knowledge at Noon.

Citak conducted the event question-and-answer style — he waited to see if anyone could answer his obscure questions before sharing the facts with his audience

Though the questions stumped many audience members, Karen Williamson knew many of the answers. Her position as a campus planning and projects mapping support specialist has made her knowledgeable about Lehigh’s history.

“(I learn trivia so I can) get a better understanding of the campus as a whole and how it grew and was shaped,” she said, “but also so I can share these facts with people because as generations come and go, a lot of these little trivia things get lost in translation.”

Williamson said her favorite new fact she learned was that a construction worker was buried on campus. Others buried on campus include Clarence the Wonder Dog, Lehigh’s unofficial mascot in the early 1900’s, and Joseph Richards and his wife. Richards was an engineering professor known for exploring the chemistry of aluminum.

“As much as our department deals with the changes that occur on campus over time, the history of the campus is equally as important to us,” Williamson said. “Learning about some of these facts is fascinating and gives an added dimension to our work.”

Citak gives Lehigh-focused presentations similar to Knowledge at Noon about once a year through the employee relations advisory company program. Despite the limited advertising to students, Citak said he encourages students to attend, as he thinks everyone has something to gain from the session.

“I try to make people more interested in where they live and work,” Citak said. “We work in this institution, we come and go. But the institution is always here. There are a lot of beautiful reasons to love and enjoy (it).”

Jodi Imler, the coordinator for mechanical structural engineering, said she hopes to incorporate some of Citak’s facts in a scavenger hunt for her students.

She said these events are a good excuse to venture outside of her office and take a break from her daily routine of meetings.

Citak also hosts presentations in the Bethlehem community about general interest topics, such as the Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry, the Lehigh Valley railroad, Bethlehem Steel and local businesses.

He said his goal is to debunk the myths that circulate around campus — one popular myth being that classes start 10 minutes after the hour because, many years ago, students needed that long to get to class on time after working at the steel mill.

“As you hear, there’s a lot of misunderstandings and a lot of misbeliefs as well as misinformation,” Citak said. “It would have been impossible for students to get from a job at Bethlehem Steel to campus in only 10 minutes with only the railroad as transportation. Plus, only a handful of students worked there.”

Citak said he plans to continue to gather information to educate the public about Lehigh.

“The more we learn, the more faithful we feel,” he said.

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