Former SRU President dies

Published by adviser, Author: Amber Cannon - Asst. News Editor, Date: March 19, 2015

A previous Slippery Rock President died last Monday at his residence in Bismarck, North Dakota, surrounded by his family.

Dr. Albert Watrel, 87, was born in Brooklyn, New York on Dec. 23, 1927 to parents John Rochabowski and Julia Rochabowski-Watrel. 

According to his obituary, Watrel graduated from East Rutherford High School in New Jersey and went on to attend Syracuse University, where he majored in Bacteriology. He obtained his Master’s degree in Education and later obtained a Doctoral degree in Bio-Chemistry. Before assuming the presidency at Slippery Rock, Watrel served as the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Chairman of the Department of Chemistry at the State University College in Cortland, New York, according to the Slippery Rock website.

According to the Slippery Rock website, Watrel became the president of Slippery Rock State College on June 28, 1968. Watrel assumed the role as president of Slippery Rock State College from 1968-1976.

Executive Director for University Public Relations, Rita Abent said Watrel made a significant impact on the university. Abent said Watrel was the first president to reorganize the Slippery Rock State College into the School of Fine Arts and Humanities, the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Abent said Watrel also broke the 4,000 mark in enrollment According to the Slippery  Rock website, when Watrel became president, there were less than four thousand students enrolled. During his last academic term, there were a total of 5,329 students enrolled at Slippery Rock State College.

“He grew the university,” Abent said.

During Watrel’s time as president, not only did he increase enrollment, but he also increased the number of intercollegiate athletic teams at Slippery Rock as well. According to the SRU Principals and Presidents book, at the time of Watrel’s presidency, intercollegiate athletics grew to 19 men and women’s teams as well as several intramural teams for both men and women.

Abent said Watrel was also responsible for organizing the first Slippery Rock Foundation, which was used to secure additional private financial support for the college. Abent said he laid the groundwork for the current Slippery Rock University foundation, which is now used for scholarships. Abent said this was one of the more important and impactful parts of Watrel’s presidency.


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