Scranton, Pa., where I was born and grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, was not particularly a cultural hotspot when I lived there. But in recent years, the situation has changed dramatically. Many people know it as the fictional setting of the hit NBC show The Office. There are now Office-themed tours, the subject of Jayne Clark’s recent USA TODAY story Scranton welcomes fans of ‘The Office’. And during last year’s presidential campaign, the city became known for the family roots of both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joe Biden. Among the major improvements in recent years include two top minor league franchises shared with their neighboring city, The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, the Triple-A baseball affiliate of the New York Yankees; and hockey’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the top affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain (near the baseball stadium) books major pop music acts during the summer. These big-time sports and music activities would have been nearly unthinkable when I lived there, and it’s nice to see the progress. The latest major development is the new Commonwealth Medical College, which has just seated its first class. It went from idea to reality in less than five years. Read the fascinating two-part series in The Scranton Times Tribune, by Sarah Hofius Hall. It shows how far the city has come in the long, painful transition from a coal-based and manufacturing economy to becoming more knowledge-based. There are also excellent, long-established local schools of higher learning including The University of Scranton, Marywood University, Penn State Worthington Scranton and Lackawanna College.  The tourist attractions such as the Steamtown National Historic Site and the natural beauty of much of the area and its surroundings, combined with its relatively short driving distance to both Philadelphia and New York City, are also making people see Scranton in a more positive and hopeful light.

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