Tom and Marlene Liszka met while performing in high school plays - cooperative works of their boys- and girls-only high schools in Chicago.
They have become so inseparable as a husband-and-wife team that Penn State Altoona honored them together Thursday for their dedication to students of literature and theater.
More than 100 people donated to establish a $25,000 Penn State Altoona scholarship endowment, the Liszka Award, in the name of the couple that have taught students as well as directed, acted, built sets, designed lighting, ran the pin rail, sang and danced with the Altoona Community Theatre since 1984.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Tom and Marlene Liszka were presented the 2012 Kjell Meling Award for Distinction in the Arts & Humanities at Penn?State Altoona on Thursday evening. The two, who served many roles in the theater, share a humorous moment during their acceptance of the award.
Those donors plus some students gathered in Penn State Altoona's Misciagna Family Center for Performing Arts to announce the endowment to the Liszkas, both Penn State Altoona faculty members, and also to present them with the college's 2012 Kjell Meling Award for Distinction in the Arts and Humanities.
"I was flabbergasted," Tom Liszka, an associate professor of English, said of the endowment. "It shows the typical generosity of the people of the community."
The Liszka Award will be for students selected by faculty for their written work in literature and theater programs, college Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry said.
"The endowment is for the Liszkas' considerable legacy established at Penn State Altoona and the Altoona community," she said.
The Liszkas have three daughters, two sons-in-law and one grandson. The couple said they were humbled to be honored by the university together.
"We work so closely together all the time that it is hard to divide us," Marlene Liszka, instructor in theater arts and technical director of the Wolf Kuhn Theatre, said.
"We are thrilled and honored, together, to receive the recognition of the Meling Award," Tom Liszka said.
Penn State Altoona has a dance studio and a scene shop that are examples of the university's support of the arts, Tom Liszka said.
"The answer the university gives to students in the arts is 'Yes.' It is such a wonderful atmosphere to work within," he said.
The college initiated the Meling Award in 2006 to honor the memory of Kjell Meling, its longtime associate dean for academic affairs, who passed away in 2005.