Garban enjoyed 50-year career at Penn State
By George Von Benko, For the Herald-Standard
Brownsville High School has fallen on hard times recently in football, but the school has a rich gridiron history. Steve Garban was a big part of that history in the early 1950's. Garban starred for the Brownies in football and excelled on the baseball diamond. Garban was on some tough Brownsville squads coached by Warner Fritsch. "There were some very good athletes at Brownsville at the time," Garban opined. "When you think of Andy Sepsi, Don Bartolomucci, Wayne Gemas and Buck Grover, we had some talent."
Garban has some fond memories of the Brownsville coaching staff."Warner Fritsch was the head coach," Garban recalled. "Charlie Slick was the assistant and he was very prominent in my life. He did a lot of things, once I started playing football my sophomore year. He encouraged me to change from the commercial to the academic curriculum and he thought I might have a chance to go to college and obviously my family had never thought anything about college back then in a coal mining patch. But Charlie convinced me and my mother that's what I needed to do and that was probably the turning point of my life. It allowed me then to go to college. "I also played baseball for Charlie as did Gemas and Grover. Charlie was the baseball coach and he went on to become principal of the school and he became an assistant coach at California University of Pennsylvania."
"It was special," Garban explained. "The Mon Valley had a lot of great athletes and it was a way of life. Friday night football was huge. Redstone was the big rival back then and we were only three or four miles apart. Uniontown was a big rivalry also and they had some great teams back then." Garban at 6-2 and 190 pounds was captain and center-linebacker for the Brownies. He was All-Fayette County and All-Big Six as a junior and a senior and was All-WPIAL as a senior. When Garban graduated from Brownsville, several schools pursued him. "I visited probably 12 or 15 schools," Garban recalled. "Earl Bruce was a big reason that I went to Penn State and Charlie Slick influenced that decision as well. It was never a mistake because I've never left Penn State." Garban played freshman football at Penn State in 1955 and then was on teams that posted records of 6-2-1 in 1956 and 6-3 in 1957. His senior season he was captain of the 1958 squad that finished 6-3-1. "Joe Paterno was an assistant at that time and he watched me play baseball. He also said that I was the slowest guy that he'd ever seen running from home plate to first base and he says it often."
Garban played in a couple of All-Star games after wrapping up his career at Penn State. He played in the North-South Shrine Game in Miami, Fla., and the Copper Bowl in Tucson, Ariz. Garban got some feelers from the pros, but his career ended after his playing days at Penn State. "I had a chance to try out for the Chicago Bears, but I didn't. I knew that I wasn't big enough," Garban said. Garban went to work for US Steel, but came back to Penn State for his masters and he accepted a job as ticket manager. He spent the rest of his 33-year career at Penn State. He rose to increasingly responsible positions. He was an officer the last 22 years of his career, 10 as controller and 12 as Senior Vice President/Treasurer, oversaw Penn State's nationally recognized athletic program, and its entrance into the Big Ten. He was instrumental in the development of The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, The Nittany Lion Inn, the Bryce Jordan Center and the Penn State Research Park and currently is a member of The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Campaign Committee.
As a respected financial advisor, Garban served as Treasurer and on the Board of The Pennsylvania College of Technology, The Pennsylvania Research Corporation, The Corporation for Penn State and the College Football Association. He is past president of the Smeal College of Business Alumni Association, the Lion's Paw Alumni Association, and the Quarterback Club. He is listed in Who's Who of American Education and Who's Who in Finance and Industry. In tribute to his outstanding service and contributions to the University, Garban received the Lion's Paw Medal Award in 2008, the John E. Wilkinson Award for Administrative Excellence in 1993, and was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 1995. He was elected to the Mid Mon Valley All-Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. Garban was elected to the Board of Trustees by the alumni for a three-year term beginning July 1, 1998 and has been reelected for succeeding terms. He was elected vice chair of the Board of Trustees in 2007 and reelected in 2008.
"I've been here over 50 years," Garban stated. "Penn State's been good to me. I've enjoyed it immensely - for a kid from Grindstone as you look back it's been a long haul and very rewarding one. I owe a lot to Penn State." Retired and living in State College, Pa, Garban, 70, is married to his second wife Mary Ann. He has three children, Donna, Andrew and Douglas. Garban still has a soft spot for Fayette County. "No question - it was a great place to grow up," Garban said. "You learned the values of life and you learned how to work hard and you learned to be honest and truthful. You learned a lot of things in those coal mining patches."