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Mount Aloysius student brings WWII history to life

Minnick set to take over as curator after graduation

Mount Aloysius junior Alex Minnick has gone from volunteering at the Eldred World War II Museum in high school to preparing to take over as curator when he graduates next year. Courtesy photo

When Alex Minnick first set foot in the Eldred World War II Museum, where he’s spent four years volunteering, he “was immediately entranced by how the museum is organized,” he said.

The junior at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson has been volunteering at the museum since he was in high school. He’s given tours, researched artifacts and taken inventory, but the political science and history major isn’t stopping there. Upon graduation next year, Minnick will take over as the museum’s curator en route to achieving his dream in a subject area he holds dear.

“Every artifact in the museum has a story,” he said. “This goes from the 3-inch mortar shells from the federal munitions plant, which was outside of Eldred during the war, to the U.S.M.C. Dress Whites and Medal of Honor awarded to Lt. Col. Mitchell Paige for his stand on Guadalcanal.”

The St. Marys, Elk County, native wants to be museum director of the National World War II museum in New Orleans one day.

Five years ago, he took the first step. During his junior year of high school, Minnick was introduced to the museum in Eldred on a field trip with the German club. During breaks from school, he volunteers at the museum, which was built to commemorate the munitions plant in Eldred Township that operated from the early to mid-1940s. On a typical day there, he gives tours, sharing with visitors the intricacies of a segment of history he finds particularly important.

“Walking around and telling stories makes up the majority of my day,” Minnick said. “When I am giving tours, I am in my element. I can educate people on the amazing men and women who fought and worked extraordinarily hard to keep our nation free and safe. Being able to educate others about the personal stories of many amazing people fills me with great pride in my work.”

It’s those stories that fascinate Minnick, even the ones of those less celebrated.

“The personal stories of both the victors and losers are incredibly interesting to me, as they all are important,” he said.

“Never underestimate the power of humanity even in the darkest of situations,” Minnick said. “What piques my interest in Second World War history the most is how even through this horrid conflict that killed so many, some people were able to go above and beyond the call of duty to save not only their friends, but their enemy. It is my passion … to show people how there was still good in people.”

Matt Arsenault, one of Minnick’s professors, has seen this passion firsthand.

“Alex is well on his way to a great career in preserving our World War II heritage,” Arsenault said. “For Alex, this is more than a passing interest in World War II; this is something greater. Alex wants to preserve and share the experiences of a generation.”

While working at the museum in Eldred after undergraduate school, Minnick will pursue a master’s degree in World War II studies online through Arizona State University in partnership with the National World War II Museum.

When Minnick gives tours and tells stories to guests in Eldred, which is in McKean County, about 80 miles south of Buffalo, N.Y., he has one goal in mind.

“The people who come to the museum will leave having learned at least one thing from their short visit,” he said.

Arsenault said Minnick’s “deeper understanding will provide the tools to be a subject matter expert in the field.”

Steve Appleby is the Eldred museum’s current curator, and he’s confident in his soon-to-be successor.

“He’s the kind of guy who we would hope we would get to replace us because his knowledge and enthusiasm are what’s needed here at the museum,” Appleby said. “He’s always been very enthusiastic and very motivated, very involved. His knowledge of the history of the war is very good, especially for a guy his age.”

Mirror Staff Writer Andrew Mollenauer is at 814-946-7428.

The Minnick File

Name: Alex Minnick

Age: 21

Hometown: St. Marys

Education: Junior at Mount Aloysius, majoring in history and political science

Family: Mother, Beth Kamats

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