Curt Udell, a Penn State Health Policy and Administration alum was watching the 2013 IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon Documentary, “Why We Dance” with his young children when he noticed something extraordinary by accident. With a simple pause of the DVD, Udell was filled with beaming pride and happiness at the smallest sight – a Penn State student sporting a Student Red Cross Club t-shirt at the event.
“I just kept screaming ‘No way!’ I looked at it for a minute and a half, and my kids were confused and were asking what I was staring at,” Udell said. “And I said that ‘that student is wearing a shirt for an organization I helped start 30 years ago’.”
And he was correct. In 1984, friends and Sigma Alpha Mu brothers Curt Udell and Bob McGowan joined what was then called the Penn State Student Red Cross Service Organization and served as secretary and treasurer alongside its President and Vice President. Today, we know this group as the Penn State Student Red Cross Club, and after all this time, the two men’s work back during their senior years at Penn State is still making a difference.
For McGowan, a Physical Sciences alum, his story of joining the organization came unconventional. As a writer for The Daily Collegian, he was assigned to cover the blood drive competition happening on campus between Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh. After interviewing the advisor and learning more about the Red Cross and about the importance of blood donation, McGowan realized how strong his interest was. In the end, he left the Collegian and threw himself into the work of the Red Cross and the competition.
“The student population as a huge potential source of blood was so underutilized at the time,” McGowan said. “The Penn State vs PITT rivalry was used to really launch the club and get things moving.”
Despite both McGowan and Udell’s interest in the organization, the two seniors were halfway to graduation when the club starting becoming more active. In order to ensure that the Student Red Cross Service Organization would continue to grow, the two friends acted as mentors to potential candidates to take their places.
What they didn’t know at the time was how much their hard work would last, as the SRCC today has an executive board of officers and a plethora of interested and dedicated members. This comes a long way from when McGowan and Udell were 2 of 4 officers and the organization was absent from a mention in the 1986 version of Penn State’s yearbook, Le Vie.
Today, Udell is the Director of Compfliance for Center of Vein Restoration, a surgical practice centering on vein and vein health out of Rockville, Maryland. McGown is now the manager of a dairy based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Despite the distance, the two men still remain close friends and travel back to dear old State whenever they can, whether it be for work or play.
“There’s an overwhelming feeling of pride,” Udell said. “It’s very warm for an alumnus to see anything they have involvement in grow and that they’ve made an impact.”