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Leon Kolankiewicz, Mount Nittany Conservancy board member and organizer of the Mount Nittany Hikers Meetup group, led a natural history hike up Mount Nitany on Sunday, May 28th.
The hike was led on behalf of Centred Outdoors, a project of the ClearWater Conservancy and drew more than 30 participants. Leon led about a 3-mile loop hike, up to and along the crest, and stopped frequently to talk about such topics as Mount Nittany’s geology and ecology as well as trees, forests, Lyme disease, birds, plate tectonics, a host of relevant topics, and of course, the history of the Mount Nittany Conservancy.
Leon has shared these photos with the Mount Nittany Hikers Meetup group as well as the Centre Day Hikers Meetup group.
Thanks to the generous donation of time and resources from Mount Nittany Conservancy board member Brian Stouffer and his company TurnKey Logistics, all of Mount Nittany’s public trails are now captured on Google Street View.
Whether you are a regular hiker or haven’t made it up the Mountain in many years, you can explore all of Mount Nittany’s trails using the street view feature, navigating images up and down the trails.
Simply go to Google Maps and drag the yellow person onto the trial, or click the white arrow below to explore this new feature.
Here are some of our favorite views, including the Mike Lynch Overlook, the Tom Smyth Overlook and the square inch marker section:
Thanks again to Brian and TurnKey Logistics for this new feature.
The Mount Nittany Conservancy recently formed a group on Meetup.com — a platform designed for members of local communities to meet new people and pursue their mutual passions together. The group, called Mount Nittany Hikers, hopes to organize all who love the Mountain and the outdoors. The service will coordinate group hikes for those who want to get to know Penn State’s picturesque Mount Nittany and Her trees, trails, and views.
We recently held our first group hike, led by our board member Leon Kolankiewicz. Check out some photos of this inaugural effort and click here to join Mount Nittany Hikers and to be notified of the next adventure.
The Mount Nittany Conservancy mourns the death of Joseph Louis Carroll, the founder of Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery, who died last November, shortly after the winery’s 31st anniversary.
Joe had been an amateur winemaker for years before starting construction on his business in 1987 in the shadows of Mount Nittany’s southern slope. What began as a six-acre plot grew into one of the region’s leading hospitality businesses, where the thirsty came from around the world to sample Joe’s wines along the beautiful mountainside property.
The story of Mount Nittany is best told through those who have loved it, and few have loved it more than Joe and his family.
Penn State’s first president Evan Pugh was born in 1828 at Jordan Bank Farm, three miles south of the city center of Oxford, Pennsylvania, an hour west of Philadelphia, in Chester County. One-hundred eighty-nine years later, an Oxford brewery is honoring one of the preeminent champions of public higher education in the form of a delicious porter.
Bog Turtle Brewery, located right off the main street in downtown Oxford, started serving Evan Pugh Vanilla Porter in early November. It’s a true local operation — the brewery, which is just more than a year old, services several local bars and is open itself for a few hours five days a week for growler fills only (Growlers, for the uninitiated, are glass jugs you fill with beer to take home. There is no on-site consumption). The beer itself is a mild, light bodied porter, perfect for the winter months.
Bog Turtle’s decision to name a beer after Pugh happened in a completely random way. According to Chris Davis, the Bog Turtle’s financial guru, the brewery is located in what used to be municipal offices for the Oxford Sewer Authority. In one of the closets, the brewers found the Pennsylvania Historical Marker for Evan Pugh — previously posted near Jordan Bank High School — which had been damaged by a snowplow and removed some years before. It was this chance discovery that inspired the group to name its seventh-ever beer after one of the most important figures in Penn State history.
The vanilla porter isn’t the only reminder of Pugh in his hometown. Drive three miles south of Bog Turtle, deep into Pennsylvania farmland and adjacent to a Mennonite Church, and you’ll run into another subtle reminder of Oxford’s most important former resident. Jordan Bank Farm still exists, and two houses still inhabited by the Pugh family sit on the 56-acre plot on Media Road. A seldom-seen marker placed up against the roadway 50 years ago by Penn State and the local historical society marks the spot where Pugh was born.
Oxford is one of those magical, increasingly rare Pennsylvania towns that allows us to go back in time, even if just for a short visit, unimpeded by the distilled culture creeping into most places today (you won’t find a Target in downtown Oxford, for instance). If you’re ever in the area — it’s just a short detour on the way to State College from Philadelphia — take the opportunity to have a pint of a good beer and experience the world for a few moments like Evan Pugh did before he took on the responsibility as the founding president of the Farmer’s High School.
The Evan Pugh Vanilla Porter is not the first beer paying homage to an important Penn State figure brewed in recent years, but it is definitively the best tasting.
Writing anything about Joe Paterno at this point is futile. If you’re reading this, your mind has already been made up. If you are not a Penn Stater, we’re an unapologetic cult. If you are a Penn Stater, you’re probably nonplussed, irrationally angry that the news about Paterno being honored before the Temple game is too little too late, or part of the smarmy faction that believesthey are morally superior for having lived inside the cult but made it out alive.
I understand this. I don’t intend to change your mind on Paterno — I’ve already tried — but missing in the conversation is any discussion about why honoring Paterno, or university history in general, is even an important endeavor at all. This becomes incredibly challenging, because making any salient point about Paterno requires another ten points of requisite context. Anything without that nuance on this topic is irresponsible, but including it can become a drag, or make it seem like the author is trying to “explain away” facts (or worse, feeling unsympathetic to child sexual abuse victims). Nor has the pro-Paterno crowd been the most tactful advocates for its cause, at least online. All of these factors make this topic so toxic and impossible to manage.
Knowing full well I’m wading into an abyss, here’s my best crack at it.
Before that, there is one important caveat (I told you the context was important).
If you are 100 percent certain that Joe Paterno was the ringleader of a calculated coverup of child sexual abuse, you are irredeemable. A conversation of this sort is impossible to have without the acknowledgement the facts aren’t as clear as some have made them out to be and that many smart, decent people outside of Penn State (Bob Costas, Jerry Sandusky’s prosecutor, Mike Kryzewski, etc.) have serious doubts about Paterno’s culpability and the Freeh Report’s conclusions. The unfortunate reality is that the people who know the most about this case are also the most susceptible to bias. It’s what makes real conversations about this topic so difficult — Penn Staters are easier to dismiss as lunatics out of hand, but virtually everyone outside of the bubble understandably doesn’t follow this story on a daily basis because it doesn’t impact their lives or their Alma Mater.
But to the caveat: If Paterno knowingly and systematically covered up child sexual abuse for decades, then all of this is moot. The evidence, by any objective mind, does not support a coverup assertion. It is not impossible that it happened that way, but the evidence, objectively, makes it seem increasingly unlikely. If you’re one of the thousands of Twitter heroes who has chimed in on this topic in the last day or so, this is probably unthinkable to you — the equivalent of me denying the moon landing. After seven years as a student — trust me — I understand that. But one does not usually commit a coverup if one tells three other people about what happened — knowing that at least nine people would know in total — without some quid pro quo to buy silence. Frankly, a case to prove such a thing would be laughed out of court, and there’s a reason no charges were ever brought against him when they were with the other administrators. And I’ll say this without qualification: Anyone who is 100 percent certain (or near 100 percent certain) that a coverup occurred is not a serious thinker or interpreter of the facts. I’m not talking about people who think that Paterno should have done more at the time — he, himself, admitted this, knowing what we know in hindsight. But the moral gap between “coverup” and “misjudgment” is vast and important to note. Unfortunately, judging the conversation based on Twitter alone, it seems like a large swath of the country is unwilling to consider the distinction or the nuance. I suppose this should come as no surprise by now, but the discourse yesterday was as bad as it’s been since 2011 or 2012.
In any case, if you are unwilling to consider the possibility that there wasn’t a coverup, you are not intellectually serious and this column is not for you. Serious people do not speak in absolutes about situations like this, although I suppose the national sports commentariat has never been accused of being serious. I am speaking instead to the many people — Penn Staters and otherwise — who know Paterno wasn’t evil, but still don’t understand why we should still care about a guy who has been dead for five years, especially at the cost of infuriating a significant number of people nationally.
To understand why honoring Joe Paterno still matters requires a thoughtful understanding of the Penn State Spirit.
And here’s another thing: Sports don’t matter, unless they’re put in the context of life. Teenagers and young adults running around a field throwing balls matters little unless you view it as a metaphor for the extension of the spirit of the university (or in the case of professional sports, an extension of the spirit of a city). What are the moments you think about at Penn State over the last five or so years?
For me, it’s not the score of a game. It’s guys like Michael Zordich saying things like this:
“We want to let the nation know that we’re proud of who we are. We are the true Penn Staters. We’re gonna stick together through this. As a team we don’t see this as a punishment; this is an opportunity. This is the greatest opportunity a Penn Stater could ever be given. We have an obligation to Penn State and we have an ability to fight not just for a team, not just for a university, but for every man who has worn the blue and white on that gridiron before us.”
When I think of the 2013 Wisconsin game, I don’t think about the X’s and O’s, how many yards Allen Robinson or Zach Zwinak had, what play so-and-so-ran, or really, anything about the game. I think about what Bill O’Brien said after the game:
“Seniors…What you meant to this program. What you meant for this university. We will remember you forever.”
“We will remember you forever.” Let those words sit for a moment.
Sports don’t matter unless we insist on remembering instead of forgetting. The Penn State Spirit is a collective of these memories from the past, all while pushing us forward to form a better future. What does it say about us as people if we choose to forget people like Michael Zordich, Bill O’Brien, or those Penn State seniors?
What does it say about us as a community if we choose to forget about people like Joe Paterno?
Consider the ancient story of the great medieval King Arthur.
When the young boy, Arthur, pulled the sword Excalibur from the stone, he did not automatically become the rightful King of England. Many of the lords and nobles of the realm withheld their fealty and allegiance from him, until he should prove in combat and in battle his qualities of courage and leadership.
The last battle was the greatest and most trying. But Arthur and those who believed in him were victorious. That night, when the battle was over, his men gathered together, fresh from combat, covered with sweat, and blood, and bandages, but elated in their victory and the triumph of their King.
As the story goes, the wizard Merlin came forward, and he said to them: “Remember this moment. Catch now the spirit of victory and joy that wells up in you and overflows. Catch it at full tide, and hold it. For out of this spirit and feeling shall the future be wrought.”
And King Arthur stepped forward and said, “Yes, let us catch the spirit and remember it. For this, I shall build a round table, and all of you shall sit around it, and whenever we are together, this we shall remember. It shall not pass away, as deeds of others pass away into forgetfulness, but shall be remembered down through the ages. For thanks to the wisdom of wise Merlin, we shall not forget, not suffer the doom of other men, who, though accomplishing greater deeds, were buried under the veil of forgetfulness.
“No, this spirit and this moment shall live down through the ages, and wherever men shall gather to wonder if they can do great deeds, they shall remember us, and in remembering, take heart. And in every future time, when faith and courage are put to the test and emerge triumphantly, they shall say: Arthur and his Knights, and the Spirit of the Round Table still lives!”
And today, fourteen hundred years later, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are remembered.
Put this in the context of Penn State, a place that so many people hold as a part of their soul. Who will we remember in fourteen hundred years? It will be great presidents, like Evan Pugh, George Atherton, Ralph Hetzel, and Eric Walker. It will be transformative students, administrators, and townsfolk, like Fred Lewis Pattee, Frederick Watts, James Irvin, Calvin Waller, and Rebecca Ewing. It will be sports heroes, like Wally Triplett, Lenny Moore, Bob Higgins, Jesse Arnelle, and the football players who stayed after 2011. It will be dozens of other women and men who will come along in the next hundreds and thousands of years and leave their mark on this place.
And, perhaps more than anyone, it will be Joe Paterno.
All of these men and women who have left their marks on the Nittany Valley deserve their place at the Round Table, deserve to be remembered, and deserve to be honored appropriately so that future generations may know their greatness and strive for it themselves. For without them — and countless others — there is no Penn State. Without the spirit of these people and those times, the present and future have less meaning, and we as a community have a thinner, less stimulating culture.
As Penn Staters, we can celebrate James Franklin’s Nittany Lions this season as hard as we ever had, all while appreciating the context of the now in the spirit of the institution as an aggregate of its past. James Franklin and his players will write their own stories. The ghosts of the past do not hinder their progress, but give meaning to their goals — give meaning to our identity. The student newspaper, predictably, editorialized today that any sort of Paterno acknowledgement is “insensitive to the future.” What a good many well-intentioned people fail to realize is without an appreciation for the past, the spirit of now has less meaning. In fifty years, we all hope we will be able to tell our children and grandchildren tales of Saquon Barkley hurdling foolish-looking linebackers and James Franklin returning the program to its past prestige. The great people of Happy Valley today will be remembered tomorrow — and we will learn from their triumph and disaster — but only if we allow the nihilism behind the phrase “move on” to fade away.
Ben Novak, a retired four-term Penn State trustee and author of “Is Penn State a Real University?: An Investigation of the University as a Living Ideal,” writes about the Penn State Spirit:
“The past, because it was lived, cannot really be destroyed. It can only be covered over, like a lush jungle that gets condensed into a pool of oil or a vein of coal, just waiting to be drilled or mined to have its energy released. But you have to dig for it, and you have to know how to use it. When we don’t know what is in the past, we cannot use it, and we cannot release its power.
“Fortunately we do not live in a world where the past, present, and future are in airtight cubicles that we must look at separately as though the past is dead and gone, the present stinks, and the future is always bright. Rather, the past, present, and future are fluid, and keep washing over each other. There were a lot of good things in the past that can brighten the present, and a lot of things in the past that seem to be missing in the present, but which could brighten your future.”
“Spirit,” Novak writes, “is indestructible. But only if, in a practical sense, we allow it to come alive in us.”
Which is to say this: If you’re worked up or disappointed about the fact that Penn State might play a video and invite some lettermen on the field during a football game in two weeks to honor a man who is on the Mount Rushmore of the institution, I would encourage you to think harder about what Penn State really stands for.
There’s also a second position — that honoring someone so controversial will result in so much negative PR that it will damage the institution to the point of not being worth the hassle and discomfort or somehow overshadows what the current team is trying to accomplish.
And to that, I say this: You are selling the Penn State Spirit short.
Consider these words from the documentary “Sanctioned” by Chris Buchignani about what the last five years in State College have proved:
“It’s really enheartening and strengthening to know that what you always believed was right about the place is real. That we don’t have to believe anymore, now we know. And not just that it’s real. As close as you can come to damn near invincible on this earth. That’s what Penn State is.”
Virtue is doing the right thing even when you know you will be criticized for it. This is the last great test of the Grand Experiment that Paterno inadvertently left for us. Will we, as a community and as an institution, all bonded together in the Penn State Spirit, do the right thing despite the backlash?
Judging from yesterday’s news, it looks like the answer could be yes.
Consider all Penn State has been through in the last five years. No academic institution in the history of the world has been the recipient of as much vitriol. And yet, we have endured. Penn State just admitted the largest freshmen class in the history of the institution — freshmen who walked across this campus when searching for colleges and felt the Penn State Spirit enter their hearts, as it has for 161 years. Academic rankings across the university continue to rise. Application numbers continue to set records and exceed the wildest expectations. People from all over the world are beating down the doors to attend Penn State, despite it all. Athletics teams across the board continue to excel and compete at high levels. Arguably, the health of the institution has never been stronger.
All this, despite the millions of tweets, columns, articles, and nonsense that has been said about Penn State for the last five years.
This pattern is all too familiar. A major Paterno or Sandusky-related news incident occurs. The national conversation, driven by folks who aren’t interested in nuance, turns against Penn State. It lasts for a day, maybe two, sometimes three. And then the Penn State Spirit continues on, unchanged. Students continue to pour in for a life changing education. Alumni continue to get great jobs. And we, the people of Happy Valley, continue to survive — nay, thrive.
The “opening old wounds” argument only has meaning if there is a tangible negative effect on the institution beyond a few days of keyboard heroes having their fun. Put away your keyboard. Turn off Twitter. Walk across campus when classes are changing and take it all in. There was a corporate career fair all week. There will be a football game on Saturday, and all eyes and minds will be focused on the 2016 Nittany Lions.
Is an on-field ceremony — hell, even a statue — and another day of “Penn State just doesn’t get it!” columns going to change any of that?
I insist that it already would have.
“As close as you can come to damn near invincible on this earth. That’s what Penn State is.”
Virtue is doing the right thing when you know it will be hard. That’s what Joe Paterno preached. And that is how we should — and will — press forward, with our sights set on the future of the institution and an unwavering appreciation for its past greatness — Joe Paterno, and otherwise.
By Kevin Horne & Chris Buchignani
“They’ll be enjoying the tailgating afterwards, with a 30-point win.”
On that note, ABC’s Brad Nessler wrapped up the national broadcast of Penn State’s October 1, 2005 win over 18th-ranked Minnesota, a 44-14 shellacking that featured two standout plays that would endure for years among the program’s most memorable – quarterback Michael Robinson’s violent collision with a Gopher safety and linebacker Paul Posluszny’s leaping, over-the-pile takedown at the goal line. Nessler was right, of course, the parking lots would be especially raucous that evening, but the celebration in Happy Valley was only just beginning.
As the Beaver Stadium shadows began to lengthen and the crowd bid the vanquished Golden Gophers farewell with strains of “Na Na, Hey Hey,” energy was already building for a weeklong party, fueled by an anxious anticipation that would electrify all of Nittany Nation. After years of losing at an unprecedented rate, the NIttany Lions were 5-0 and, dating back to the previous season, on a seven-game winning streak, the program’s longest in more than five years. The sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes were coming to town the following Saturday, a perfect opportunity to show the nation that Penn State football was back. And the nation took notice.
ESPN announced that its college football programming for the week would center on Happy Valley. College GameDay, the network’s wildly popular live pregame show, would make its first visit to campus since 1999, and Cold Pizza, a more youth-oriented morning show that airing on ESPN2, would broadcast live from outside Beaver Stadium on the Friday before the game.
“We try to go to the most intriguing match-up of the week. Penn State is a big story line in college football right now,” Associate Manager for ESPN Communications Mac Nwulu told The Daily Collegian.
The increased media attention on Penn State dovetailed with the Lions’ debut at No. 16 in the polls, the team’s first in-season ranking since the ’99 campaign. But even before “the Worldwide Leader” began cranking up its hype machine, the Penn State student body would stage a compelling display of spontaneous enthusiasm.
“That Ohio State week, I was driving home – I lived in Toftrees at the time – probably 11 o’clock on Sunday night, after the Minnesota game, and I was pulling around the turn, and I saw, probably seven (or) eight tents,” former quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno recalls.
“I stopped my car. There was nobody else on the road at that hour. And I go, ‘Oh my God. They’re camping out for next Saturday.’ So before I even moved, I called Guido.”
Penn State football’s branding guru Guido D’Elia knew what needed to happen next. “I immediately called the press to get them up there and document it. I knew we had to turn this into a story to make sure nobody tried to shut it down.”
His plan worked. Beginning the next day, local news coverage (with national outlets close behind) prominently featured the emerging tent city, briefly dubbed “Camp Nittany” before “Paternoville” stuck as its permanent moniker. The campout continued growing throughout the week, with more tents appearing each day. President Graham Spanier, Joe Paterno, and dozens of players made surprise visits, to cheer on the campers and soak in the spectacle.
“It was just exciting. I would drive by or walk by Paternoville just to get that energy for the game,” remembers Derrick Williams, the freshman wide receiver and top recruiting prospect whose versatile play had sparked Penn State’s offense.
The mounting excitement did not stop at Paternoville. D’Elia next unleashed another catalyst to spark even greater fervor: The “White Out.” The 10,000-strong Beaver Stadium student section would dress all in white, creating an iconic image and inspiring ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit to famously dub it the best in the country. Students, locals, and visiting fans all got into the spirit, and the sudden demand for white Penn State apparel gave a jolt to the Downtown economy. College Avenue storefronts were emblazoned in Blue and White. Spontaneous football discussions interrupted classes. School spirit gripped State College.
College towns like State College are distinct in that they are self-contained communities, but also extend their metaphorical borders to the far corners of the world, encompassing legions of loyal and nostalgic alumni. There is nothing quite like when something briefly unites that physical and cultural community, or to be at “ground zero” of that – heading to work or class, feeling the energy and attention of a “Nittany Nation” all focused in on your place – where it touches into every aspect of your day, where it’s the hot topic of conversation, splashed across every newspaper front page and leading the nightly news, local storefronts declare their support and invite the patronage of enthusiastic customers. This was the phenomenon at work that week in the Nittany Valley, as a community came together to reclaim a shared identity that once seemed lost, perhaps forever.
Joe Paterno’s career longevity was unusual, but his staying power at a single institution was without precedent, offering fans and alumni a chance to experience something unique. The old man’s steady presence on the sidelines through the decades, graduating players, winning football games, and promising to go on for “four or five more years,” offered a “through-line” connecting generations of Penn Staters, a unifying point of common reference. From the undergraduates making their homes on the hard pavement outside Beaver Stadium to the legions of alumni
“That week, it really was like Woodstock,” reflects Jay Paterno. “It was totally organic. It wasn’t forced. It wasn’t regulated. And it really took on a life of its own.”
Reflecting back on it now, the team’s defensive coordinator, Tom Bradley, a long-time Nittany Lion who now coaches at UCLA summed it up: “Definitely magical. The White Out and all the things that went with it. The nation got to see what Penn State football and Penn State students are all about up there that night.”
By Kevin Horne & Chris Buchignani
There are certain successes that everyone from the outside can predict. These are victories worthy of celebration, for sure, but movies aren’t made and books aren’t written about the events that everyone sees coming. The stories that inspire us the most and linger in our memories are often the ones that make the unexpected seem possible, the unbelievable a reality.
Such a story unfolded here in Happy Valley 10 years ago this fall, authored by Penn State’s football team.
The Nittany Lions were fresh off a 4-7 season, only their sixth losing record in 68 years, but — incredibly — the fourth in the last five. Few now remember how that team, which held every opponent to 21 or fewer points, featured probably one of the best defenses in program history, largely due to an offense everyone would rather forget. Despite that suffocating D, the 2004 Nittany Lions needed to win their final two games to finish with four wins, a one-game improvement over the previous, equally miserable, season’s output. Loyal fans and alumni had had enough.
At the center of this unrest was a 78-year-old head coach, ostensibly overstaying his welcome at the program he had built and brushing away pleas from even those within his inner circle to move aside. With calls for Joe Paterno’s dismissal or retirement reaching a deafening pitch, his fate appeared inevitable. The journey, as so often happens with legends in sport, was nearing an ignominious end. Except it wasn’t.
Penn Staters still talk about what happened next, one of the most improbable college football stories ever told. Behind unshakeable senior leaders and explosive freshmen playmakers, the Lions came charging back from the brink, completing a 12-1 season en route to an Orange Bowl win and top-three finish nationally. In one magical season, they rejuvenated an iconic program and an old coach who had been written off by the nation and captivated an entire community in the process. And no one saw it coming. Or did they?
Could that wily old coach have known what was to come? Could anyone? A review of Daily Collegian articles during the 2005 spring practice suggest that something special was brewing — just how special, only the players and coaches who lived it could have predicted. Nevertheless, a media narrative that had, in recent years, focused almost entirely on Paterno’s age and the dismal on-field results subtly began to shift.
The first ray of light to pierce the darkness clouding the program’s fortunes came in late 2004 when two gifted recruits — Justin King and Derrick Williams, the number-one prospect in America — announced their intent to play for Penn State and enroll early. With these surprising commitments, Joe Paterno’s insistence that his hapless squad was only a couple playmakers away from greatness — “I wouldn’t care if we didn’t get anybody else but those two kids,” he would say — could now be put to the test.
Maybe the arrival of King and Williams inspired new confidence. It could be that fresh memories of a supremely talented defense buoyed hopes. Perhaps it was merely the natural, if often irrational, optimism that accompanies every off-season. Suring the spring, the focus shifted from obsession with past failures to pondering the possibility for better days ahead. No one exuded confidence more than the players themselves.
Senior cornerback Alan Zemaitis, who toyed with the idea of entering the NFL draft after his junior season (it was the first year since 1951 that no Penn Stater was drafted to play in the NFL), knew there was something in the air that spring.
“The guys we have coming back, the kind of year I know we’re going to have,” Zemaitis said to the Collegian before the Blue-White Game, “I wasn’t ready to leave that.”
Zemaitis and his fellow senior, quarterback Michael Robinson, were integral to all of Penn State’s success that year, on and off the field. These two, along with so many other great senior leaders such as Tamba Hali, Matthew Rice, Calvin Lowry, and Chris Harrell, were joined by one throwback Steel City linebacker in their singular focus on returning glory to Old State.
“It’s a huge thing for us just because we know all the great guys who have come before us, and to not try our hardest would be a disservice to them,” linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “If we didn’t try to uphold that, then we would be stamping on the tradition that is Penn State.”
One month later, “Poz” would be elected the first junior captain at Penn State since the 1968 season, joining Robinson and Zemaitis. By seasons’s end, he was celebrated as one of the best linebackers in the country, winning the Butkus and Bednarik awards while earning Academic All-American status.
Even as dreams of speedy playmakers danced through fans’ heads, no one outside the program was quite sure how big of an immediate impact those highly touted freshmen could truly have on the beleaguered program: Despite Robinson moving full-time to quarterback for the first time in 2005, the Collegian called the wide receiver corps the team’s “biggest question mark” going into the season. The paper’s Friday primer before Blue-White weekend did note the emergence of unheralded redshirt freshman Deon Butler, a former walk-on brought over from the defensive side of the ball. The same article also tipped off fans to a “sleeper” — local product Jordan Norwood. Butler would go on to lead the ’05 team in touchdown receptions, and Norwood became Robinson’s clutch target down the stretch.
Before the annual scrimmage was called on account of lightning in the third quarter, Robinson had started answering questions about his own ability to command the offense and what role his new teammates would play in it. The first offensive snap of the game featured a 35-yard completion to a streaking Justin King; the very next saw Williams catch a short pass and juke his way to a nine-yard gain. Robinson called it “a statement.”
“It could be a glimpse of what might happen in the fall, I don’t know, but we have been working with him on both sides of the ball,” Robinson said of Williams. “He is such a gifted athlete that he is able to do both, so we just wanted to get the ball in his hands and let him run around a little bit.”
What happened in the fall was one of the great stories of the Nittany Valley, one worth remembering this month as we again celebrate a special spirit the 2005 Nittany Lions embodied like few others.
“5… 4… 3… 2… 1… HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”
I hear that same countdown every night, a few seconds before midnight, from my Beaver Avenue apartment, although its consistency makes it no less painful to digest. The commotion, of course, is coming from the line outside the local bar known for catering to belligerent 21st birthday crowds. Six short months ago, that would have been me in that line, watching juniors and seniors become initiated to the State College bar scene. But tonight, like most nights, I’m at my desk reading about the ancient legal code of Hammurabi of Babylon or the proper way to file a lawsuit against a foreign corporation.
Such is the transient existence between undergraduate studies at Penn State, a decidedly impermanent condition for most, and immersion into a more established segment of the State College community. I’m talking, of course, about grad school.
All told, somewhere between five and eight percent of my class at the Dickinson School of Law also holds an undergraduate degree from Penn State. We are, in many ways, the odd creatures in a heterogeneous class of 191, which represents 138 different institutions of higher education, 48 undergraduate majors, six countries, and 27 states (plus the Virgin Islands). By the time we graduate law school, my fellow Penn Staters and I will have spent at least seven years in the Nittany Valley, which will amount to something like 30 percent of our entire lives – and probably closer to half of the cognizant lives that we can actually remember. Other Penn State alumni-graduate students who are seeking Ph.Ds will spend upwards of 10 years here. The longest continuous student tenure that I’m aware of currently stands at 13 years, although I’m sure someone can beat that.
When your time here stretches beyond those first few years spent learning the academic and social intricacies of college life, a change happens. State College, which starts out as little more than a temporary way station on life’s journey, starts to feel more and more like a home unto itself.
In any case, it’s a strange space to exist in, especially at first. Most undergraduates are content living between the comfortable rectangle created between where Atherton St. and University Dr. intersect with Park Ave. and Beaver Ave. (or Fairmount Ave. for the Greeks). To use a somewhat obnoxious law school term, this is the “nerve center” of the State College and Penn State experience, and few have a need to venture outside of that bubble (except, perhaps, to the DMV when the bar won’t accept your newly expired ID).
Most people probably intuit that the transition from undergraduate to graduate school is easier for Penn Staters. After one semester of law school, I’m not so sure about that. With the temptations and libations that made the Penn State undergraduate experience so fulfilling nearby, coupled with the professional and intense academic expectations of grad school, it can make for a confusing recipe.
While grad students may not be able to responsibly relive their “glory days” in the heart of the Valley (avoid driving by East Halls on a Friday night – trust me), I’ve found that grad school creates a unique civic space that can bring value to the community. Many grad students are homeowners in State College or its surrounding townships. Some have families and children in the school district. Most even know who the mayor is, which is actually a pretty high standard of knowledge for an undergrad. Issues like borough zoning ordinances and student healthcare policies often dominate the conversation at graduate student government meetings.
For Penn Staters continuing their education in the graduate school, some measure of devotion to Penn State and the Nittany Valley is already inherent in the decision to stay. Few undergraduates don’t appreciate their University to begin with – Penn State’s 92 percent freshman retention rate is one of the best in the country, especially among public universities—but the number of students who stay for seven or more years is a testament to the magic of the place.
Local government officials often cite a need to keep Penn State graduates in State College after graduation as a key to economic success and diversity. Most grad students are in the unique position of being both students and employees – teaching and graduate assistant stipends help bring money to the area that isn’t just a tuition check. Local entrepreneurial organizations like the New Leaf Initiative and InnoBlue help keep some Penn State graduates in town, but most young people cashing paychecks in State College are doing so with graduate student funding.
I don’t expect the birthday bar countdowns outside my window to stop tugging at my heart and reviving cherished memories of Old State life any time soon. But living in the unique space between transient student and established resident provides new opportunities for learning and growth that other groups might never get to experience. The cliché used in far too many commencement addresses is the concept of Penn State always being considered a home to its graduates, although the speaker usually only means that in an emotional sense. Further study at Penn State and extended immersion in our living-learning community beyond the undergraduate years offers valuable life lessons about coping with change, becoming part of a community and appreciating a sense of place.
After five years, and with two more to go, it’s probably time to go get a State College driver’s license.
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
When I visit Joe Paterno’s gravesite, as I have done on occasion over the last two years when I’m in need of some ethereal inspiration or peace, I’m always struck by the above line from Robert Browning on his headstone. The message speaks to the profound impact of Paterno as an academic visionary, and there’s a specific moment that comes to mind when I think of it.
It was just days after the school’s first football National Championship, and Joe Paterno was invited to speak at the Board of Trustees meeting. Most people were expecting him to ask for more funding for football resources or to talk about the successful season. Instead, Paterno delivered a speech critical of the Board’s reactionary and conservative governing style (as much as things change…) and pushed the trustees to launch a serious fundraising campaign to strengthen academic units and bring in world class professors. It was a bold move for a football coach — at his first Board meeting ever no less — to call out his bosses to use the momentum from football’s recent success to build a better university. This speech led to “The Campaign for Penn State” and the fundraising excellence we have today.
As a friend of mine put it, the vision and passion at work in reality can be so striking and so rare that we end up creating legend to describe them later, because from a distance it seems like they were otherworldly experiences—so rare were they amidst the ‘Sleepy Hollow’ that forms most of our daily lives. In some paradoxical cases, mythical greatness is first born of actual greatness.
I bring this up today because, as you probably know, it is the two year anniversary of Joe Paterno’s death. It also happens to be the anniversary of, in my estimation, one of the most important speeches in Penn State history. Rather than write another column — it’s been done already, of course — I’ll let Joe Paterno’s words from 31 years ago today stand for themselves.
As visionary as they were at the time, they’re still relevant as ever today.
Joe Paterno’s Speech to the BOT following his first National Championship
Delivered January 22, 1983 (29 years, to the day, before he passed away)
“I very much appreciate those words. You know this is the first Board meeting I have ever been to in 33 years so if I look a little shocked and scared, bear with me, I really do appreciate this. I would hope maybe on this occasion since I’ve never addressed a Board meeting, to maybe share some thoughts with you as to where we are and what I hope we can get done here at the University. It pleases me, obviously, to happen to be part of the Number One football team. I am pleased also that it happened at this time in Dr. Oswald’s career that he could leave feeling that he finally got it done. Having been a former coach, he knows how tough it is to get on top of the pile and everything else. It pleases me in a lot of ways. But after having said that, and I’m going to be very frank with you, and I may say some things here that maybe I should not, but it does give me an opportunity to tell you how I feel and what I want to do and what kind of contributions I’d like to make to this institution as I stay on. You know, obviously, all of us are disappointed in the newspaper reports that some of our academic departments are not rated very high. That bothers me. It bothers me to see Penn State football be Number One and then to pick up a newspaper several weeks later and we find we don’t have many of our disciplines rated up there with the other institutions in the country. I want to share just a couple of things with you and I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
“I think this is a magic time for Penn State. Dr. Oswald has said this, and I have felt it, and I think he is probably more attuned to it than anybody. There has never been a time when Penn State has been more united or proud. Now maybe it’s unfortunate that it takes a Number One football team to do that. I don’t think we can lose the opportunities that this moment presents to us, and I don’t mean in athletics. I’m not even concerned about the athletic aspects of where we are, I think we can handle that and make sure that we can maintain the kind of teams that you people like to see and you can be proud of and identify with the type of students and the type of football players we get. But I think we have got somehow to start right now. I think Dr. Oswald came to us at a time that we absolutely had to retrench in some areas and he has done a magnificent job for us. I for one want to thank him for what he has done for intercollegiate athletics. We would not be Number One in athletics if it had not been for his cooperation. Every time I ever went to him he never said no to me. I’d like to be on record as having said that. Maybe once in a while there has been somebody in between us that has not presented my case accurately, but anytime I have had an opportunity to sit with him and discuss some things that we needed, he’s never said no to me. I don’t think we’d be where we are if it hadn’t happened that way. But I go back to a fact that we are in a national situation that I have never felt as I have felt now.
“I have been all over the country in the last few weeks. I have been in Florida, been in California, I’ve been in airports in Chicago and Atlanta, you name it, and I’ve been there recruiting and doing some other things trying to capitalize on the position that you have when you’ve had success and trying to make some corrections in what we have and the abuses of the intercollegiate program. Some of the thoughts that I have expressed–and I don’t mean to make this a testimonial of Dr. Oswald–but he was one of the people that came up with the ideas that we had to raise the level for scholarship. He was one of the Council of the American Council of Education, one of the select committee, that came up with the standards that we proposed out on the Coast and I’ve gotten a lot of publicity for having made some speeches out there, but it was Dr. Oswald and some other college Presidents who got together and proposed those standards. But everywhere I’ve gone I’ve heard nothing but, ‘boy, Penn State, Penn State, what a great bunch of people, what a great institution,’ and all of those things.
“So we do have a magic moment and we have a great opportunity, and I think we have got to start right now to put our energies together to make Penn State not only Number One, but I think we’ve got to start to put our energies together to make this a Number One institution by 1990. I don’t think that’s an unfounded or a way-out objective. I think we need some things. I talk to you now as a faculty member. I talk to you as somebody who has spent 33 years at Penn State, who has two daughters at Penn State, who probably will have three sons at Penn State, who has a wife that graduated from Penn State, who has two brother-in-laws that graduated from Penn State, and I talk to you as somebody I think who knows a little bit about what’s going on. Who has recruited against Michigan, Stanford, UCLA, who has recruited against Notre Dame, Princeton, Yale, and Harvard and who has had to identify some things that they have that are better than we have and has had to identify some of our problems. I talk to you as somebody that I think knows a little bit about what’s going on in the other guys, and I think a little bit about what’s going on here. We need chairs. We need money so that we can get some stars. We need scholarship money. We need scholarship money to get scholars who can be with the stars so that the stars will come in and have some people around that can stimulate them and they can be stimulated by the stars. We need a better library–better libraries would be a better way to put it–so that the stars and the scholars have the tools to realize their potential. We need an environment of dissent and freedom of speech and freedom to express new and controversial ideas. Basically, this Board is in a lot of ways reactionary because you are more conservative than anything else. That is not a criticism of you as individuals, but I think that’s a fair criticism of The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees for the 33 years that I have known them going back to Jim Milholland who was acting Chairman and President when I first came. We need more controversy, we need more freedom, we need more people to come to us with different ideas, we need more minorities. I am constantly fighting the battle, ‘we don’t have enough blacks; we don’t have enough minorities’ everywhere I go, and I don’t have the answers to it, but I’m giving you some impressions. We can’t be afraid, too reactionary to new and disturbing ideas; however, we can’t do some of the things all at once. I think that Dr. Oswald and the new President and Ted Eddy, our Provost, have got to sit down–I’m probably not speaking in turn, I’m probably way out of whack, I’m probably on a page that I probably shouldn’t be on but I feel so strongly about it I want to say it–to sit down and put down some priorities. We have some excellent departments. And I know because when I get out in the field we have some excellent departments that can be absolutely outstanding in a relatively short time. We also have some departments that are absolutely lousy and we have lazy profs who are only concerned with tenure and only concerned with getting tenure for some of their mediocre colleagues.
“Alright, now I’m telling you how I feel about it and I may be all wet. But I’ve dealt with all of them, and a lot of these latter groups. Some of these people in the latter group would make Happy Valley Sleepy Hollow if we let them. It’s certainly not invigorating. We’ve got a new President and I think that he and Dr. Oswald need to sit down and have to probably make some tough decisions.
“Pirandello, the brilliant Italian playwright–I suppose brilliant and Italian is redundant–wrote a play ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’, in which the characters of an unfinished play come to life and then they try to finish the play. Well, I believe that Penn State has not necessarily all of a sudden come to life. That would be an unfair criticism of all of the great things that have been done here in the 33 years that I have been here. But I think it’s more alive today than at any time in 33 years that I’ve been here. I think it’s well organized, and I think it’s got thrust and wants to pursue. It’s alive but it’s looking. I think we are not looking for bricks and mortar–and most of you people are businessmen–and we are not looking for GSA money. I think we are looking for the soul of this institution. The soul may be an overstatement, but I’m not sure I’m overstating the case. I think we’re literally looking for a soul. Who we are, what we are, and I think that basically comes down to soul. We need to find out soul. We need vibrant, aggressive, brilliant teachers and scholars. We have some, but we don’t have enough of them and that’s why we need chairs. We need to give them the resources to grow and the freedom to challenge some of the old ideas and old conceptions that have made this country backward in a lot of ways, and have made this state the one with the highest unemployment of any state in the northeast part of the country.
“I’m a football coach. I sit down with my staff and I look at our schedule and our squad and we say this is what we want to do and this is what we can do. And then we set priorities and make decisions as to how we can achieve our objectives. We put a plan together and we stick with it. We don’t jump from one plan to the other and we bust our butt to get it done. And that’s what has to be done with Penn State in the ‘80s. We can’t wait. It would be nice to say we can wait and in three years put together a major fund-raising campaign. We can’t wait. I am only telling you that as somebody who’s in the field. We can only hold up our finger as Number One for six more months and then we have to play the game again and we may not be Number One. Six short months to capture this magic moment. We have got to raise $7 to $10 million bucks as far as I’m concerned in the next six months or we are going to lose some things and an opportunity we have. How do you go about raising $7 to $10 million is somebody else’s concern. I’m willing to help in any way I can. We need $7 to $10 million in the next six months to get us the impetus that we need because we don’t want to lose it. I think we’ve got to take this magic moment and stick it in a jar and we’ve got to preserve it until we open it up in 1990.
“Dr. Eddy, the other day at an alumni meeting down at Pittsburgh where we had over a thousand people in Allegheny County. Stan was there and some of the others were there and the next night we went to Westmoreland County where we had over 580 people and they turned away 300 people. There is a great group out there right now wanting to get involved in it. Dr. Eddy said it the other night better than I can. He said, and he almost sounded like a football coach, we have a great chance and challenge to make our University Number One in many areas and in coming together to do it we may find out we will have as much fun doing it as we had fun doing it in New Orleans. It was a very moving speech and it hit home. I have had a lot of people come to me wanting to know how they can help. I said to you I have given 33 years, two daughters, and probably three sons to Penn State. I am ready to help where I can to make “Number One” mean more than when we stick that finger up it’s only football. We are losing a great President; we’re starting a new era. As Jim Tarman said the other night, we are fortunate that where we are that we’ve been able to get there our way. We’ve not cheated, I mean not deliberately, you never know with that thick rule book. We’ve done it with people who legitimately belong in college. We’ve set a standard in one area that I think created a challenge for us to reach in all of our areas. You are the people who are going to have to help us do it. There are a lot of us that want to get on with it.
“So, thank you very much for this wonderful resolution. I’m moved. I think you know how much I love this institution and how much I appreciate what it has meant to me and my family for 33 glorious years. 33 years of a great love affair that I have had with this place in this town. I have no regrets. I’m only anxious to get on with some other things to make it even bigger and better, not in a sense of size, but in the context of quality and influence in this country and in some of the things that I think it’s important for a major institution of this size to do. So, thank you very much. I hope I didn’t bore you with it too long.”