Ingold winds up ‘great ride’ at Penn State Altoona

Fredina Ingold has spent the last few weeks with tears in her eyes.

After working practically her entire career at Penn State, Ingold is retiring. It was announced internally this spring and is effective Monday.

“This has been my whole life,” she was saying quietly earlier this week. “Thinking of not being around the students anymore is really heartbreaking.”

In wrapping up a 37-year career, the 61-year-old – “I tell people I started (here) when I was 12,” she jokes – leaves an outstanding legacy, particularly for aspiring women athletes and administrators.

Ingold was a trailblazer who played on the first Altoona High School girls basketball team, when the teams fielded six players at a time. At University Park, she played softball and assisted Tom Tait with the transition to the school’s first women’s volleyball team – a program that today ranks as the nation’s best under Russ Rose – before graduating in 1975.

She became Penn State Altoona’s first woman athletic director in 1985 and after winning a national racquetball championship in 1988, she was the first woman to be enshrined in the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

“When you think of Fredina, you think of energy,” retired PSU Altoona colleague Tom Brouse said. “She was an enthusiastic person who brought a lot of vitality to the program. I remember her as a student and watched her progress. She’s been an inspiration to young women. We’re proud of her, and I think everyone in the university community is proud of her.”

In 2009, Ingold was named the Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year for the NCAA Division III’s Central Region of the United States, and last year she was named the ECAC Jostens Female Administrator of the Year.

“Fredina is admired by generations of student-athletes, their parents, and countless coaches and athletic directors for her dedication,” Penn State Altoona Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry said. “She always goes out of her way to help and support others, and most especially our student-athletes. I will miss her bright smile, amiable personality and ‘can-do’ attitude. She has been a great colleague and friend for 30 years.”

Bechtel-Wherry said Ingold’s favorite phrase is “whatever it takes,” and Penn State Altoona needed that strength in the early 1990s as, unquestionably, Ingold’s finest period of leadership was exercised in 1993 when she shepherded the transition to Division III after a reckless decision by former PSU Altoona boss Jimmy Duplass stripped the school of its entire sports program and much of its community involvement.

“It was quite a blow to me,” Ingold said.

When she met Duplass’s successor, Allen Meadors, Ingold introduced herself by saying, “Hello, my name is Fredina Ingold, and I used to be the athletic director.”

Meadors, a believer in sports, responded, “You may very well be again.”

Ingold’s charm worked, Meadors saw the light, and Penn State Altoona, once a dominant force in the Penn State Commonwealth Campus Athletic Association, got the green light to not only restore its athletic program but to upgrade it to Division III status that included eventual participation in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Athletic Association.

Prior to its new league, Ingold said, “I was begging people to play us.”

If the ups-and-downs of the 1990s weren’t difficult enough, the entire Penn State community was devastated by the Sandusky scandal and all of its fallout in November of 2011. For Ingold, that included the resignation of her racquetball partner and friend Graham Spanier, Penn State’s president who was indicted in November 2012 on charges of perjury, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice in the case and awaits trial.

Ingold admitted the nightmare “has taken some of the wind out of my sails for Penn State.”

“I won’t say there haven’t been tears along the way, but certainly the joys have outweighed the tears or I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Penn State will always be an excellent institution academically and athletically.”

Ingold lost her mother at a young age. Her father, Frederick, was her mentor along with Big John Riley and his wife, Dee. She also appreciated the professional guidance provided by Spanier, Meadors, Bechtel-Wherry and the late Ellen Perry.

“It’s very difficult to leave something you love – Penn State Altoona, my job, my staff,” she said. “But it’s been a great ride. I was here when the program was at a junior-college level and having the opportunity to share in the growth and success … now it’s my time to pay it forward.”

Ingold created the “Fredina M. Ingold Intercollegiate Athletics Enhancement Endowment” at Penn State Altoona, which provides discretionary funds to support student-athletes, and she will continue to serve on the committee exploring renovations to the Adler Gym.

“I think the future here is very bright,” she said.

Fredina Ingold has helped make it that way.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or