PSU welcomed scores of Pittsburg firefighters and others from the community on Monday, June 30, at a commemoration of the centennial of the fire that nearly destroyed Russ Hall, its first permanent building.

Lynette Olson, provost and vice president for academic affairs, praised William A. Brandenburg, who, just 10 months into his appointment, was faced with a crisis that some believed could be the death knell for the young institution.

“President Brandenburg was presented with the greatest challenge a university leader can face,” Olson said.

Russ fire observance - Firemen

Pittsburg firemen observe a moment of silence in memory of Rex Tanner, the student who died in the fight to save Russ Hall from fire.

That included the death of Rex Tanner, a student, who was killed when he came into contact with downed power lines while trying to calm the excited fire horses.

Olson recounted the way the city, the university and its students rallied in the aftermath of the fire, saying it was the foundation for the relationship that exists to this day.

“In many ways, Russ Hall is a physical reminder of the undying spirit of cooperation that exists between our city and our university,” Olson said.

As part of the observance, the university honored members of the Pittsburg Fire Department for their efforts that night and more than a century of service to the university and the city.

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Old Glory, suspended from a Fire Department ladder truck, flies over the Russ Hall Fire Centennial ceremony

Following the ceremony, guests toured an exhibit on the second floor of Russ Hall containing photographs and artifacts from the University Archives. Among those were scorched bricks, books rescued from the library and even the preserved hide of Deck, the fire horse killed in the fire.