Skip to Content - Skip to Navigation

Sandra Hoover Diefenderfer '67

When Sandra Hoover Diefenderfer ’67 was growing up, she was used to driving by the future site of the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex. Her maternal grandparents lived in Homer City, and she visited them regularly.

President Michael Driscoll, Sandra Diefenderfer, and Phil Carrai“My grandparents and my mother liked to shop at Brody’s,” she said. “We were up and down Wayne Avenue all the time, going back and forth to the stores in Indiana.”

In 1963, Diefenderfer left her hometown of Westmont for Indiana State College and majored in Elementary Education. By then, the most prominent feature of Wayne Avenue for her had become Winky’s drive-in, where one of her cousins worked.

Today, fifty years later, the Wayne Avenue corridor has been transformed, and. Diefenderfer and her husband, William, have played a role in that transformation. They made a gift that named the Elizabeth and Rocco DeChurch Lobby in the Kovalchick Complex in memory of Diefenderfer’s grandparents.

The road that led Diefenderfer away from Indiana and back again started with her IUP graduation in 1967. She went straight to teaching third grade in College Park, Maryland, and after four or five years, began working with children who had learning disabilities. She earned a master’s degree from the University of Maryland in elementary special education.

In the mid-seventies, at a party in Sharon given by her IUP roommate, she met the man who would become her husband. William Diefenderfer was a Dickinson College alumnus, Vietnam veteran, and Duquesne University Law School graduate. He also had coincidentally just taken a job in Washington, D.C.

The Diefenderfers married in 1976 and raised two sons. After teaching for a dozen years, Sandra Diefenderfer left education to devote herself to her family and to volunteer activities. The latter eventually included IUP.

“The IUP Alumni Association Board of Directors needed someone from the Washington area to fill a slot for a year,” she said. “I ended up being on the board for nine years.”

Renewing her connection with the university made her appreciate its progress.

“I’ve been so impressed with the quality of the education IUP offers,” she said. “Students are encouraged to keep open minds and to think for themselves. IUP has established a great reputation and provides excellent preparation for its students.”

Returning to campus on a regular basis for meetings and events, Diefenderfer has watched old-style residence halls give way to suite-style buildings and an industrial site reborn as the KCAC.

“The university’s physical facilities are really impressive,” she said. “My husband and I are delighted to be part of the KCAC’s development. My grandparents came from Italy and settled in Homer City. They never had a chance for advanced education, but education was very important to them. They launched my cousins and me. It’s fitting that their name is part of this building.”

In the photo: IUP President Michael Driscoll, Sandra Diefenderfer, and Phil Carrai '83, vice president of the IUP Alumni Association. The photo was taken in 2013 at a reception Diefenderfer hosted in her home.

--profile by Karen Philippi Gresh '67
January, 2014


  • Office of Alumni Relations
  • Breezedale Alumni Center
    880 School Street
    Indiana, PA 15705
  • Phone: 724-357-7942
  • Fax: 724-357-7926
  • Office Hours
  • Monday through Friday
  • 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.