Penn State Lt. Stew Neff had no idea 50 years ago that he would dedicate the majority of his life to public service.
On Jan. 10, 1966, Neff was a recently married graduate, with a baby girl on the way and in need of a job. When a police dispatcher position became available with Penn State police, he happily accepted.
“He started at Penn State the year I was born, his daughter and I went to high school together,” said Bill Moerschbacher, assistant chief of Penn State police. “When I started, he was the records guy.”
Neff was born in Warriors Mark and through the years, he’s watched the university, State College and surrounding areas flourish, growing right along with them.
“I love being close to home and working with a lot of good people,” Neff said.
He’s served various roles through the years, including as a training officer, firearms instructor and on special events for the past 13 years.
Family, friends and university officials filled a room at the Beaver Stadium police station Monday for his recognition ceremony.
“Anytime anyone reaches 50 years of service, that’s a remarkable accomplishment. That is something this day and age, you don’t see it anymore,” said David Gray, vice president of business and finance at Penn State.
“People change jobs at the drop of a hat,” Gray said. “Having someone come on to a job and stay with their employer for over 50 years shows your commitment.”
Neff addressed the crowd, saying, “After hearing all of these nice speeches, I think I’m at the wrong party.”
After the laughs subsided, Neff smiled and told the crowd, “I enjoy my job and working with everyone in the department. The one thing that I’m the most proud of is the professionalism in our department. We have many quality people working here.”
Neff also told the group that “40 years in, I didn’t think I’d be here, now 50 years in, I still can’t believe I’m still here. I enjoy the job and I enjoy the opportunity. One of these days I will pull the plug, but until then, I’ll be here.”
He acknowledged his family, telling the audience that one of the things that helped him over the years was their unwavering support.
“My father assisted me, he let my oldest son stay with him while I was away at work. Thanks to everyone for their support,” Neff said.
And Neff had just as much to say about his colleagues as they had to say about him.
“A major concerted effort is required by the administration to keep people safe during football games. Staffing can be the biggest obstacle. We are in the middle of Pennsylvania, so we pull from the State College police department and all over,” Neff said.
“Small or major, communications, planning and cooperation is required from anyone. We have a great staff here,” Neff said.
And that staff has been under the guidance and leadership of Neff for 50 years.
“You can’t find a better person than Stew,” said Thomas Sowerby, deputy chief of Penn State police. “He’s conscientious, dedicated and a true friend. He has wisdom, intelligence and credibility. He’s a true police professional and friend of mine. He’s a confidante. They just don’t make them like Stew.’ ”