Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Council of Trustees honored the late Sam and Elaine Light and the Light family with the naming of the Sam and Elaine Light Library and Learning Center in the new Academy of Culinary Arts building planned for downtown Punxsutawney.

at left, Interim Dean of the College of Health and Human Services Lynanne Black, who accepted the resolution on behalf of Meredith Light, with IUP President Michael Driscoll.

At left, Interim Dean of the College of Health and Human Services Lynanne Black, who accepted the resolution on behalf of Meredith Light, with IUP President Michael Driscoll.

This new 45,000-square-foot educational and multipurpose commercial facility, to be sited adjacent to the Academy of Culinary Arts’ Fairman Centre in downtown Punxsutawney, is currently in design. The $22-million structure is a Department of General Services project; DGS officials project that the building will be completed in 2028.

The Lights were long-time residents of Punxsutawney, leaders in the community and the region, and advocates for IUP and its educational initiatives. Elaine Light was instrumental in the development of IUP’s Culinary Arts program in Punxsutawney.

The Light’s daughter, Meredith Light of Washington, DC, also was recognized by the Council of Trustees for her continued contributions to IUP as a member of the Punxsutawney Regional Advancement Council. 

“The Lights’ vision for Punxsutawney changed the whole trajectory of Punxsutawney and its economic future—and the futures of thousands of IUP students who have had and will have the opportunity to study at the Academy of Culinary Arts,” IUP President Michael Driscoll said. “Both the Lights were tireless advocates for education and the betterment of the region and their community,” Driscoll said.

“Their daughter Meredith is an accomplished and remarkable leader in her own right. She has continued her parents’ legacy as a member of the Punxsutawney Regional Advancement Council. Sam and Elaine would be proud of her. The new library is a very fitting honor for the Lights and the Light family,” President Driscoll said.

The resolution called the Lights “champions of IUP and the region, enriching the lives of students and residents alike,” and noted that “Elaine Light worked tirelessly to establish the IUP Academy of Culinary Arts, which has had a profound impact on IUP, the region, and the food industry.”

Trustees also noted the Light family’s “generous philanthropic commitments to IUP, which has helped build lasting, robust bonds between the IUP and Punxsutawney communities.”

The resolution recognized that both Lights were active in their communities and with IUP.

Samuel Light was a member of IUP’s Council of Trustees from 1965 to 1971 and was a member of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and its president from 1952 to 1976. Both Samuel and Elaine Light were long-time members of the Punxsutawney Planning and Zoning Commission and the Punxsutawney Area College Trust. The Lights worked together to develop the Punxsutawney Civic Center and borough building.

In recognition of her work to establish the Culinary program in Punxsutawney, Elaine Light was part of the 1990 ribbon-cutting party for the dedication of the IUP culinary building and was the main speaker at the first graduation ceremony for the culinary students in 1991.

During her husband’s presidency of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, she authored a series of cookbooks with the story of the groundhog, including Cooking with the Groundhog and Gourmets and Groundhogs. All of the proceeds from the sale of the cookbooks were donated to community organizations.

In addition to her monetary gift to Fairman Centre, she donated her extensive collection of cookbooks to the Academy of Culinary Arts library. Samuel Light passed away in 1983; Elaine Light passed away in 2021.

In March 2009, the IUP Council of Trustees approved the naming of the culinary library in the Fairman Centre in Punxsutawney as the Samuel R. and Elaine K. Light Culinary Library, in recognition of a gift from Elaine Light for the renovation of the Fairman Centre in honor of Samuel Light.

Academy students currently have classes at the 37-year-old facility on Gilpin Street in Punxsutawney and at the Fairman Centre (the former J.B. Eberhart building) along West Mahoning Street.

The Academy of Culinary Arts project, once completed, is expected to allow for an additional 50 to 70 full-time students annually. Since its founding in 1989, more than 4,300 students have studied in Punxsutawney at the Academy of Culinary Arts, which has continued to meet and exceed its enrollment goals.

IUP’s Council of Trustees formally approved the Academy of Culinary Arts long-range facilities plan in March 2022. The long-range plan is focused on providing state-of-the-art facilities and providing new opportunities for increased enrollment by relocating all the educational facilities for the academy to new or renovated buildings in downtown Punxsutawney adjacent to the academy’s Fairman Centre.