The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Penn State Mont Alto, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, dedicated a formal marker recognizing the first African American forester in the nation, Ralph Brock, on October 24, 2003. The marker was unveiled at the entrance to the Penn State Mont Alto campus.
Ralph E. Brock was among the first class of six foresters to graduate in 1906 from the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy, now known as Penn State Mont Alto. Brock, who died in 1959 at the age of 79 after a distinguished career in both state and private forestry, is believed to have been the first African American to be educated in the field of forestry in the United States, according to DCNR's Bureau of Forestry.
Brock was born February 15, 1881, near Pottsville. Before attending the forest academy in Mont Alto, he graduated from the Howard School in Wilmington, Del. Before the first academy class was formed, he was employed at the former Mont Alto Reserve, now Michaux State Forest.
After academy graduation, Brock served as Mont Alto State Forest Nursery Superintendent from 1906 to 1911. Forestry records indicate the nursery flourished under his direction, and his accomplishments are detailed in early annual reports of the former Department of Forestry. Brock resigned from state service in March 1911 and entered the field of private forestry, serving the Chester and Philadelphia county areas, as well as New York City. His specialty was estate gardens, orchards and landscaping.