In 1873, the Warden State Hospital opened with a hefty government grant in upstate Pennsylvania. At the time, it was a state-of-the-art facility designed to treat the mentally-ill in a humane fashion. Built on a Kirkbride plan, the facility sprawled out for acres, with every room having a window to maintain a feeling of openness and comfort.
Unfortunately, like many of the asylums built during this time, the facility soon became overrun and underfunded. Patients often suffered from abuse, and while many facilities across the country were able to remain open well into the 60s and 70s (some still open even today), Warden continued to fall to the wayside -- particularly taking a funding hit during World War I.
By 1918, with much of the patient population being transferred to other facilities, Warden State Hospital closed down. It sat vacant for two years -- gathering mostly just mildew and cobwebs.
On the other side of the world in Austria, Albert J. Durnstein was born in 1897. The son of a wealthy wine merchant, Durnstein grew up in relative comfort. When World War I broke out, he was conscripted by the Austrian forces in 1915 when he turned 18 and served for most the remainder of the war. Having hefty connections, he was eventually promoted to Colonel, and mostly did not see much actual combat. However, one thing that stuck with him was the recently developed aerial innovations known as airplanes. In fact, a low-flying biplane nearly killed him when the pilot dropped a few grenades near where he was. Durnstein proved to be fascinated by the aerospace technology every since.
Shortly after the war, Durnstein immigrated to the United States -- settling in a small community in upstate Pennsylvania.
In 1920, at the age of 23, Albert J. Durnstein purchased the remnants of the Warden State Hospital from the government at a substantially discounted rate. Needing a major remodel, the government was looking to unload the property, and Durnstein had just the idea for it. Overhauling the entire building, he converted the aging hospital into an engineering laboratory -- returning it to state-of-the-art glory. Along with revamping the already standing edifice, he also built several air hangers along the surrounding areas to act as engineering, manufacturing, and testing facilities for full-scale aircraft.
Rolling out several high-end aircraft, the US government became interested in the facility. The company expanded into naval, vehicular, and weapons technology -- becoming an early defense contractor alongside the recently formed Lockheed Aircraft Company (formed out of the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing and Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company before that) and Boeing (Pacific Aero Products at the time).
Beginning in the mid-1930s, with tensions in Europe increasing with the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy, the US began ramping up its spending in defense technology. Although the United States was not yet officially in the war, entry into battle seemed imminent and the country was still supplying European Allies unofficially. The next two decades saw one of the most major expansions, with the number of employees rising dramatically to keep up with the demand.
With the United States officially entering World War II in 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, demand for more weapons and vehicles -- with greater and greater innovation -- skyrocketed. The Institute developed several of its namesake weapons -- mainly rockets -- during this time period. It also engineered and manufactured a few aircraft like the B-87, but as Lockheed and Boeing could manufacture the crafts cheaper, the Institute focused primarily on the engines and turbines used in the other company's aircraft. Several prestigious plane models carried the Institute engines as they flew into battle.
Although no attack occurred, during the time -- much like with many airfields -- Durnstein was seen as a possible target for attack. So, it set up various camouflage efforts -- putting up nets and tarps of disguised colors to blend into the surrounding forest area.
World War II officially ended in 1945, and the year prior, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the 1944 GI Bill -- designed to provide education and training for returning troops to be better equipped for re-entry into the workforce. In response to the GI Bill, and a recognition that their facility was not reaching its full potential, Durnstein began offering training courses and education programs. In 1947, the overall facility was officially renamed the Durnstein Institute of Technology and numerous courses -- notably in aerospace and mechanical engineering began to be offered.
The 1950s saw the first big leap into education expanses. Gaining offical accreditation in 1952, the Durnstein Institute of Technology began offering full college programs in engineering and defense technology. Recognizing a potential to breach the healthcare industry with several facilities designed for the medical field, Durnstein began offering biology, nursing, and pre-med courses. DIT entered a joint-partnership with the Orthopedic Frame Company (later the Stryker Corporation) in 1957 to research and develop high-end medical devices.
In 1959, Arthur Lincoln became the first African American student to attend Durnstein Institute of Technology -- majoring in aerospace engineering. Mr. Lincoln would go onto graduate in 1963.
On October 17th, 1959, at the age of 62, Albert J. Durnstein died suddenly of a heart attack. John "Jack" Durnstein, his son, had taken over most of the operations in 1957, but officially became president of the Institute following Albert's death.
In the fall of 1960, Margaret Rollingstein became the first women to enroll at the Durnstein Institute of Technology, majoring in nursing; although Ms. Rollingstein did not successful graduate, she set the precedent that anyone would be allowed entry into the Institute. One year later, Agatha Borgen enrolled and became the first women to graduate from the Institute in 1965.
With the Cold War in full swing by this point, more and more high-end, and very secretive, technology was developed at Durnstein Institute of Technology including a special stealth bomber prototype known as the Y-457 that, while it never actually went beyond the prototype stage, was seen as the most advanced aircraft of the decade.
Durnstein continued its expanse within the medical industry, with many notable medical alumni attending during this decade. With recent advances in devices such as pacemaker technology, Durnstein became a forefront authority on training and educating the future minds. These included Franz Schindler, who traveled back to his home country of Germany to help in re-inventing Fresenius with Else Kroner (daughter of Eduard Fresenius). The Fresenius company brings in approximately $34 billion in 2015.
In 1976, the Durnstein Institute of Technology gained its 300th patent for adoption heating-cooling system.
With powerhouses like IBM, and later Apple and Microsoft, emerging more and more profoundly, DIT took a digital leap and started offering information technology courses in the 1980s. By 1986, the Institute began offering degree programs -- notably Bachelor's and Master's programs -- in computer science and computer engineering. Durnstein was one of the few institutions with a major computer laboratory during this time.
In 1982, Phillip Gordneimer, the son-in-law of Jack Durnstein, became president of the Institute following declining health of Jack. Jack Durnstein later died in 1983 after a battle with lung cancer.
In 1993, Durnstein Institute of Technology reached 4000 students, and in celebration, President Gordneimer began the tradition of the Durnstein Summer Festival that invited students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding area into a large celebration that included food, music, and fireworks. This tradition has continued now for over three decades.
In 1996, hoping to brand the Institute as a more educational oriented facility as opposed to the government contractor it began as (and still continues to be), the first president of the Institute not familiarly-related to Albert Durnstein was selected in Jim Radcliffe. Under President Radcliffe, the Institute branched further into educational pursuits -- opening to several new majors, notably in information technology, psychiatry, and biotechnology.
In 2001, with the arrival of Benjamin Sanders as the new president of the Institute, the new Holloway Hanger was opened -- a facility large enough to easily accommodate 3 large bombers at once. Holloway Hanger was opened in coordination with Northrop Grumman to develop specialized aircraft that were faster and more precision-oriented than ever before.
In 2007, Sally Gordneimer (daughter of former president Phillip Gordneimer) took over the presidency until 2011; she became the first female president of the Institute, and was followed by Samantha Wyling as the current president of Durnstein.