Penn State Spirit

  • A Homecoming Hike on Mount Nittany

    A Homecoming Hike on Mount Nittany

    As sweet as any Homecoming victory at Beaver Stadium may be, even sweeter for many students, alumni, and friends is a Penn State Homecoming hike on Mount Nittany.

    Penn State Homecoming, in its own words, exists to “celebrate tradition and instill pride in all members of the Penn State family through active engagement of students, alumni, faculty and staff across the community.” Tens of thousands of Penn Staters and friends return to Happy Valley for Homecoming, and hundreds make the special journey into Lemont and up to the Mount Nittany Trailhead, either to the Mike Lynch Overlook or to Mount Nittany’s other overlooks across its miles of trails.

    The journey to Happy Valley for Homecoming is a special tradition in itself, as one recalls the highs and lows of days gone by, but the journey from Penn State’s crimson-hued campus to the top of the Mountain stirs in the heart not only the memories of the past but a clarity and recognition of the sweetness of our presently-unfolding lives. Our loyalty to Penn State, and our love for Mount Nittany, bear witness to a deeper reality: as a people who share common loves, we also share a common future.

    We hope that Mount Nittany remains forever a treasure for Penn Staters, Central Pennsylvanians, and friends, and that these scenes from Penn State Homecoming 2023 and a hike to the Mike Lynch Overlook remind you of a place you will always be able to call home.

    Approaching the Mike Lynch Overlook
    Near sunset at the Mike Lynch Overlook

    Consider making a one-time or recurring financial gift to the Mount Nittany Conservancy to support our perennial work of conservation. Together, we will ensure Mount Nittany remains accessible and for the public benefit for the future.

  • Paul Clifford on Penn State nostalgia, Mount Nittany, and Old Willow

    Paul Clifford on Penn State nostalgia, Mount Nittany, and Old Willow

    Paul Clifford, chief executive officer of the Penn State Alumni Association and associate vice president for alumni relations for Penn State, recently wrote in his Penn State Alumni Association “Insights” column on Penn State nostalgia, Mount Nittany, and Old Willow:

    Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.  It seems to fill the air this time of year on college campuses.  Soon-to-be graduates scampering around to have their final photos taken in their favorite places on campus.  This year, I’ve felt this sense of nostalgia more for some reason; perhaps the wind-felled Old Willow awoke some of these feelings or the series of nostalgic pieces that I’ve come across in just the past month. Three pieces to be exact—reminds me of how my wife always says good and bad things come in threes—that have stirred my wistful sentimentality for Dear Old State.  I thought you too might find them interesting. 

    Some of my predecessors at the Penn State Alumni Association have been some of our University’s best writers over the years.  Roger Williams is well-known for his writings that have kept the legacy and memories of Evan Pugh and George Atherton alive in Happy Valley. John Black and Ridge Riley’s accounts throughout our storied history on the gridiron.  Both of their writings extended far beyond sports on the staff at the Daily Collegian and the respective versions of the alumni magazine that they both edited. Ridge had a way with words. Following a 14–7 loss at Nebraska, he wrote “on Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska, the rains on the plains fell mainly on Penn State,” a most certain nod to the Broadway play “My Fair Lady.”But the piece that I came across was from Ross Lehman ’42. Ross served as the executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association from 1970–83. During his lifetime, he was a conservationist and was integral in the purchase of hundreds of acres on Mount Nittany to preserve her forever.

    He was a recipient of both the Lion’s Paw Medal for lifetime service to the University and the designation of Distinguished Alumnus.  To know Ross was to know how important Penn State was to him.  Here is the excerpt from his Open House column which appeared weekly in the Centre Daily Times and recently caught my attention.

    Ross wrote: 

    “I was a naive, unsophisticated, partly uncultured lad when I came to Penn State. As I entered the Nittany Valley, the first sight to greet me was the beautiful tower of Old Main. When I entered the classroom, I encountered such unusual professors as Hum Fishburn, Nelson McGeary, Lou Bell, Bob Galbraith, and many others who exposed me to the awe of new worlds unfolding. They opened a door to challenging ideas, and another door beckoned, and another … endless, and I felt that knowledge was forever moving and lasting in my life. If I had felt lonely and isolated in these hills it was not for long. I became part of the heart throb of Penn State, and it was a new, exciting world. I fell in love with this unique place.

    The campus was, and is, something rather special. It houses the “Penn State spirit,” which is a difficult thing to define because it is composed of so many things.

    Perhaps it can be called a feeling, a feeling that runs through Penn Staters when they’re away from this place and someone mentions “Penn State.” The farther we are away, in time and distance, the stronger the feeling grows.

    It is a good feeling, a wanting-to-share feeling. It is full of a vision of Mount Nittany, which displays a personality of its own in all its seasonal colors, from green to gold to brown to white. It is the sound of chimes from Old Main’s clock, so surrounded by leaves that it’s hard to see; it is getting to class not by looking at the clock but by listening to it.

    It is the smell of the turf at New Beaver Field after a game, and the memories of Len Krouse, Leon Gajecki, Rosey Grier, Lenny Moore, Mike Reid, Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell, Todd Blackledge and Curt Warner helping to swell our fame … and the top of Mount Nittany as seen from the grandstands in autumn.

    It is the quiet of Pattee Library, facing two rows of silent elms; sunlight falling gently through those elms on a misty morning; a casual chat under a white moon on the mall.

    It is talk, too: a great deal of talk, here, there, all around … in fraternity and sorority bull sessions or over a hasty coffee in The Corner Room or at Ye Olde College Diner, talk un-recalled except for the feeling of remembrance and the heart-tugging wanting some of youth.

    It is the smell of a laboratory, the wondering about a tiny cell and its pattern—in its own tiny universe like that of a Milky Way galaxy—and the professor’s scintillating comment that prompts a lone wrestling with a sudden intriguing but frightening thought about our awesome cosmos.

    It is a dance in Rec Hall; a beer in the Rathskeller; a kiss in a secluded campus niche; the romance that bloomed into marriage; the smell of a theater; the laugh of a crowd; the blossoming of spring shrubs and the blend of maple, oak, birch, and aspen colors in the fall; the ache of a night without sleep; and the sharing of a thousand other little things and incidents that honed our “Penn State spirit.”

    It is the flash of many faces and of the single one that touched our lives forever.

    It is here that Penn State molds a person’s life from the raw and unsophisticated into the conscious and cultured. We learned that a person must first be responsible to [themselves] before [they] can be responsible to [their] university, [their] society, [their] world.

    It is on this beautiful campus that we learn, as my wife Katey wrote,” A [person’s] soul and [their] life are [their] own, and even if [they] give [themselves] away in hundreds of careful and loving pieces, [they’re] still [their] own [self] with [their] own life span, and no one [else] has a claim on it, …”

    And here, in this lovely, intriguing spot called Penn State, each of us staked our own special, precious and eventful life.

    Penn State is a benediction to all of us who have graced these beautiful halls and malls.”

    If you change a reference here or there, insert the names of the football players from your era, could this describe your feelings for Penn State? 

    The second piece was an essay titled “Play it Again” by Sam Vaughan ’51 that appeared in the Jan/Feb 2020 edition of the Penn Stater magazine and recently produced as a video for the Alumni Association. You can watch the video on our YouTube page.

    Finally, a recent conversation on the Penn State Parents Facebook site caught my attention.  An alumnus and current parent asked, “Do the students still sing ‘We don’t know the <blank> words’ during the alma mater like we did in the 80’s when I was a student?”  This post was met with a barrage of responses proclaiming that the students of today actually know the words and are proud to sing it loud.  In fact, it is now one of our most cherished traditions and sung at many events including each time our Nittany Lions compete.  

    The alma mater always stirs emotions in me, but it is this version that we have used several times during the pandemic that wakes up the echoes of the past and provides hope and optimism for the future, I hope it does the same for you.  

    You can watch this special rendition of our alma mater here.

    The great thing about feelings of nostalgia and your memories of Penn State is that they go with you, this experience is portable and lives forever in your heart and in your mind.  I think that President Eric Walker said it best when he said, “Wherever you go, Penn State will go with you. You are now a part of her. Her image will be cast in your image. Your reputation will become her reputation.” 

    I hope your memories of Dear Old State have been a comfort to you during this time that we have all been apart.  And as we are now able to see the light at the end of this long tunnel, I hope your longing for Penn State brings you back this fall to make even more memories.  WE ARE looking forward to that day!  Until then, WE ARE grateful for your continued support of the Alumni Association.  We Are Penn State!  Thank you for all you continue to do to “swell thy fame.” 

    For the Glory,

  • Penn State’s ‘Century of Service to the Commonwealth’

    Penn State celebrated its Centennial in 1955 and commemorated its first century of “service to the Commonwealth”:

  • WeStillAre

    WeStillAre was a student-created project launched in November 2011 in response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State. During a time of intense media scrutiny and institutional pessimism, Penn State students created WeStillAre as a way to gather community remembrances and spotlight historical memories that captured the best aspects of the Penn State spirit as a means to guide the community through the scandal with a confident “sense of self.”

    WeStillAre’s original website was shut down in 2017, but its archives (including approximately 400 posts) was gifted to the Mount Nittany Conservancy as a cultural/digital artifact.


    Capturing Our Spirit, For Our Future


    The Penn State Honor Code states, “A good name is earned by fair play, square dealing and good sportsmanship in the classroom, on the athletic field and in all other college relations. We earnestly desire that this spirit may become a tradition at Penn State.”

    So many of us have spent so much of our lives holding these values deeply in our hearts. Now, leaders who have been entrusted with Penn State’s honor and glory have failed in their obligations to uphold these shared ideals. As a result of this betrayal, the pride of many in the Penn State community has been severely fractured and the current mood is grim. Many are calling for answers and explanations, while others are demanding radical change. It is important to remember in this time of uncertainty that it is not within the legacies of our leaders where our strength resides; rather, it burns inside the core of each of us, and manifests itself in the pride, worldview, and actions of our fellow Penn State students, faculty and alumni.

    We still are Penn State. We still are dedicated to consistently enriching the world with our degrees. We still are believers in the principles on which this University was founded in 1855.

    Our strength, honor and integrity will provide us with the determination to weather this crisis, and in turn the spirit and ideals of Penn State will endure. But they will not endure without our help. We are now, more than ever, the guardians of Penn State. We have lived and learned here, our lives forever enriched by our experiences as students, faculty and alumni. We must acknowledge the wrong doings, seek justice and rebuild the integrity and tradition that have defined our University for 156 years. If we refuse to accept the challenge of rebuilding the standard of integrity and honor we believe in, then we have failed all past, present and future Penn Staters.

    No misrepresentation of the University by a select few can take our spirit away from us. These actions will not outweigh the spirit and impact that Penn State has, and will continue to have, on the world. So long as we continually strive to live by the traditions and principles to which we have assigned our unending commitment, no acts of ours shall ever bring shame to Penn State.


  • ‘The Class of 1950: A Nostalgic Look Back’ by Thomas E. Morgan

    “The Class of 1950: A Nostalgic Look Back” were the remarks of Thomas E. Morgan, Penn State Class of 1950, delivered February 29, 1980:

    No one could have mistaken Penn State for a sedate Ivy League college during those strained elbow-room-only days of ’46-’50 when GIs and their little sisters and brothers crammed into Pollock Circle, into other dorms, fraternities, sororities, town residences in search of an education. The main campus of Penn State was a unique combination of students—probably unlike any student body before or since in the Nittany Vale.

    It was a mass situation. All those incoming students and nowhere to put them! It was push, push, push. Confusion. At one point, student registration and a wrestling-boxing-fencing meet were scheduled at the same time, same place, Rec Hall. Penn State was suffering some pangs of sudden large enrollment under the GI Bill.

    State ’50 grads who went through World War II—or who went through college with combat-conditioned classmates—had a combination of experiences that hasn’t been truly matched since. They chose their careers and studied in an era of success and triumph coupled with anxiety over lost time and drive to knuckle down and get on with the business of making a living.

    The stampede of students started in 1946 and those who really pushed got through school beginning in 1948 with a few more in 1949. But the biggest group was the Class of 1950. Ours was the largest Penn State class in history until then, and remained the largest until exceeded by the Class of 1960 and, incidentally, by all classes since ’60 at the College—excuse it, the University. Members of our ’50 Class have seen ours and other colleges grow from relatively small, intimate campuses to bursting, scattered complexes in a short time.

    Because the main campus couldn’t take us, many of us were “farmed out” to state teachers colleges for our freshman year. They weren’t ready for us either. For example, at California, Pennsylvania, where our ranks included our freshman football team, we took up residence in the gymnasium. Well, vets were excused from the gym class anyway, and basketball would wait till second semester. The drafty gym, a sea of cots, became our home.

    Until the Class of ’50 hit Penn State—primarily in the fall of ’46 and early in ’47, freshman had traditionally come to the Nittany Valley directly from high school. Their classmates, though from different parts of the state or country, were basically of the same age and background. But the high schoolers entering Penn State in 1946 had some surprises in store. Instead of a nice, homogeneous group of fun-loving teen-age peach-fuzzed youngsters, they found themselves shoulder to shoulder on the crowded campus with young men. These men had spent anywhere from two to four or more years of their lives in the military, often in foreign lands with all manner of men in all manner of situations—some life-and-death.

    As a younger member of the Class of ’50 puts it, “College was not what I expected, coming right out of high school. Instead of horsing around with a fun-seeking teen-age gang as I did in high school, I found myself living in a married students’ place and going to Penn State with bomber pilots, infantry platoon leaders and veterans of Omaha Beach. It wasn’t what I thought college would be like.”

    The returning veterans, for the most part, had had enough of wild experiences and unsettled living. They were anxious to study hard to get through college and on with their lives. Coming off an often mean and miserable wartime life, vets had to clean up their language and learn some Penn State manners. They dominated the student population and a considerable part of campus life. They introduced married life to Penn State. And their general maturity and seriousness had a profound effect on their younger classmates.

    In later years there were veterans on campus, after the Korean and Vietnam Wars, too, but nowhere near the percentages in the ’46-’50 era, and their influence was diluted.

    The GIs of World War II came back tremendously motivated because they felt they had been a part of a great, great accomplishment in the life of America. They were self-confident. A lot of that rubbed off on the high school students.

    For the coeds (That’s what we called the girls, remember?) who managed to make it to Penn State, the place was a paradise. The ratio was five men to one woman! Dean of Women Pearl O. Weston had a rough task looking after her girls.

    And there was no Pill then!

    The era of the Class of ’50, with its amalgam of seriousness and fraternity, is gone. That social and academic mix was a healthy one, a balance the current generation of Penn State students may not have. For example, many of us of ’50 were much in favor of a fraternity-sorority system, but it isn’t as popular with young people today. Leave out the rah-rah Penn State thing if you wish and think only of the values of relationships with people developed over three or four years that last to be strong even 30 years later. Penn State students today don’t have the relationships like ours. Their milieu reflects the social times. It emphasizes more sexual freedom, less marriage, live-in love partners in the dorm, and other aspects of today’s x-rated world. When television was only in its infancy and before the Pill changed the world, students of the era of ’50 were of a different Penn State mold and stripe.

    In 1950 our country was coming off two decades of Depression and war. But it was also the beginning of a period of reawakening in America—with a re-emphasis on the importance of the individual, on his rights and opportunities in a free society. It was the beginning of a period of increasing affluence and leisure time. Many of our Class of ’50 went out from Penn State to become successful in our chosen fields and to enjoy it. In retrospect, we owe a lot to our University for that ’50 sheepskin signed by Judge Milholland, acting president, and to the start it gave us.

    A fleeting, biased look at the times of the Class of ’50 at Penn State seems in order. Apologies to the realists who may not appreciate a tendency to nostalgia. What follows, then, is dedicated to those equipped with a special Blue and White sense enabling them to feel something extra when thinking, even 30 years later, about things that happened in or about 1950 in the Nittany Lion’s lair. There is no special order. Do you remember?

    • Despite a new dial telephone system on campus, young bucks still had to dial 5051 till kingdom come, beginning at 9 p.m., in quest of a damsel’s voice. That’s as far as you got. Coeds had to be safely in their dorms by 10 p.m.
    • What used to be time-honored “C&F” majors at Penn State (for commerce and finance) were about to be of the past, as that department changed curricula and re-named that one.
    • The Inkling, a new student literary magazine, was born. Like others before and after, it didn’t last long. Its greatest distinction was to be its first editor, who has since become a top U.S. publisher.
    • The first of many “Nittany Lion Roars” throughout the year in the Daily Collegian went to the esteemed Five Hundred: the frosh women who marked the return of the first freshman to campus in four years, in our senior year. Today would they be called “freshpersons”?
    • Perhaps surprising in the no-nonsense attitude of vets, the Class of ’50 reinstated freshman customs at Penn State. They had been a war casualty. Maybe we were proud of being college boys and wanted to see more spirit … of dorm, class and school. Although some bugs cropped up in customs for ’50 frosh femmes, it was a valiant attempt and helped pave the path for bringing back customs in ’51 for the first on-campus male frosh in five years. Hat Society Council in ’50 decided not to reinstate the old Penn State tarring and feathering of frosh nor “will they strike much fear in frosh hearts.” But customs were deemed a new start. By the way, today at Penn State there are hardly any “class” distinctions because of the new four-term academic year. It’s hard to tell who are the seniors, and so on. Everyone is of this numbered term or that.

    The year ’50 was packed with foundings and firsts.

    • One far-reaching action by a creative All-College Cabinet was founding a new school ring which boasted a closer connection with the University in its design. The Lion, Old Main and the graduation year replaced time-honored duplicate seals of The Commonwealth on the ring sides. The Board of Trustees agreed. Our new ’50 design remains today.
    • Cabinet, in fact, achieved a pinnacle in attention not only to student matters but also, in a period of college transition, to matters of an overall Penn State nature. It made the campus Cabinet-conscious, the student-government conscious.
    • Our year was marked by some new student events, or renewal of some old ones that had fallen to war-time. Two brand new ones were Mad Hatter’s Day and the Spring Week Parade. The parade was replete with flashy bands, queens, floats and the military. Both events expanded Spring Carnival, begun in ’49, to a week.
    • The Penn State Farmer was reorganized after a six-year lapse.
    • To fill a need recognized by both the College and the students, a new junior hat society, Androcles, was established by the Class of ’50. It stressed lionine tradition and service, and its new members were tapped each year from a broad spectrum of campus life—not sports only. Androcles has lasted 29 years, has apparently just now fallen victim to the new term system with cloudy definition of who are juniors. Maybe someone will apply the fable of “Androcles and the Lion” to Penn State once again.
    • A 13-year desire for a Student Union Building at Penn State involved lots of talk, lots of plans, that’s all. No funds. Till 1950. A collegian editor had captured the need for the building back in ’40 when he cried, “Can’t we rest just a minute, catch our breath, fill out this vast hollow shell we call a college with more of the real stuff of life? Why can’t we have a SU building?” Well, it remained for the Class of ’50 to score the bold stroke that caused the much-discussed building to reach fruition. Through All-College Cabinet with Trustee approval, our Class did an unheard-of thing: We students slapped a $15 year assessment on ourselves for the purpose of financing construction of the SU. That did it. As they say, the rest is history. During the post-’50 Korean War, construction was delayed but the fund grew. Today, the HUB—Hetzel Union Building—is a vital and expected part of student life.
    • A dating bureau was set up to help boys and girls get together. It was a partial help to remedy a situation in which “many coeds are having to pass up the future greats in the engineering field.”
    • A new court of appeals was created as a compromise between All-College Cabinet and WSGA—what was that? Oh yes, the women on campus. Each wanter to hear appeals from Judicial decisions involving coed infractions of rules. The new Court would do it instead.
    • In 1950, coeds were in trouble who did not live in a dorm on campus, stayed out later than 10 p.m. weekdays, failed a famous peanut-butter breath test upon return to the dorm, did not get permission from the house mother to go home weekends, stayed overnight anywhere but the dorm. These are some rules remembered. There were others.
    • Honoring the last PSU president our Class knew, we established the Ralph Dorn Hetzel Award to a top student leader. Also the Hetzel Room in Old Main.
    • In other firsts, foundings and reactivations, the CORE barbershop was established, AIM held for the first All-College hike since 1942 to Mt. Nittany, providing lunch for 35 cents; after some minor clamor about it, the Blue Band moved over to join us students on our side of Beaver Field football games.
    • Inter-fraternity Council conducted a realistic drive against fraternity theft. About 20 houses were “robbed” late at night by IFC teams whose “thefts” went without a hitch.
    • We were unhappy about this first: The year ’49-’50 was the first since the war that we had no girl cheerleaders.

    Highlighting ’50 was the arrival of the two E’s: Eisenhower and Engle. Collegian issued the second and third extra editions in its history to report the two appointments. (The first extra appeared two years earlier on the day “Prexy” Hetzel died.)

    In what was billed as the Rally of the Half Century at Penn State, half the student body turned out to the Old Main steps to see and hear President-elect Milton S. Eisenhower on February 27. It was his first visit to the campus. The happy occasion had been set partly through a prior exchange of shortwave-radio “Milkshake Letters” featuring an offer and acceptance of “enjoying a milkshake with the students.” He was later pictured in papers nation-wide, sipping a shake with Nittany coeds prior to his July 1 coming to Penn State from Kansas State.

    It was an important milestone in the history of the College—that is, the University, the arrival of this famous man who was to preside over many changes of the post-1950 era. For us students as well as the faculty and the Administration, it was also a relief that Penn State was to have a full-time president again. For most of the time of the Class of ’50 on campus—for 2.5 years, it did not.

    Like the onset of the new president, the 1950 coming of Charles A. “Rip” Engle as head football coach was preceded by intense and vocal student interest. Prompted by reports that Penn State football was to be “de-emphasized,” Skull & Bones led a student uprising calling for “A Big-Time Coach for the Big-Time College.” News wires covered us. Then “Rip” was appointed, coming from Brown University, and everyone was glad. A spontaneous roar of welcome rocked Schwab (Yes, it’s still there!) when Mr. and Mrs. Engle appeared, unannounced, at a Spring Week event. Big-Time football at Penn State seemed secure. Incidentally, Rip brought along his quarterback named Paterno.

    Long-time Penn State watchers declared in ’50 that no greater display of student concern and enthusiasm had ever blossomed on campus than that attending the advent of Dr. Eisenhower and Coach Engle. These were happy times.

    We had our share of campus controversies, though today they seem to pale when compared to the frenetic anti-establishment ’60s.

    • In ’50, several student groups, including IFC and NAACP, objected to Penn State’s granting a charter to Alpha Kappa Psi, a national commerce fraternity, because of its constitution restricting membership to “white gentiles.” After a tempest on campus, AKPsi remained chartered but the College in our year set rules against chartering any group in the future with restrictive membership clauses. And IFC launched a program to cause all 52 social fraternities in Happy Valley to examine their own national rules. There was growing liberalism on campus.
    • Receiving widest press coverage outside the College was controversy between an assistant math prof, Dr. Lee Lorch, and the College. His teaching contract was not made permanent, he claimed, because of his activities to combat discrimination in New York. The College claimed his dismissal had nothing to do with that. Students were divided, with strong sentiments expressed in Daily Collegian letters. All-College Cabinet defeated a motion to ask the Board of Trustees to renew the Lorch Case.
    • There was a student uproar in ’50 over seating at home football games. We wanted to be on the west, or home, side, where our team’s bench traditionally was; instead, we students were on the east side with the opposing team. A kind of compromise resulted in the Nittany Lion grinders, not us, making the move. They came to the east to be with us. Thirty years later, so we can see them through our bifocals, we want to be on the west and bring our team back to our side, don’t we?! Fat chance.
    • Independent men living in Nittany Dorms and Pollock Circle, born of the war, were said by their councils to be up in arms over College plans to put 1,000 new freshman and 650 upperclassmen in the modern new West Dorms. Where was seniority? So application blanks went out from AIM to all independent men to assay interest. The crusade fizzled when not many applied. Apparently they’d become accustomed to that certain color and ambience of jerry-build Nittany-Pollock.
    • Then there was that flap about who were to be named ’50 Campus Personalities in LaVie. Eight more were added.
    • A squabble took place over Panhel’s practice of “selecting” its president by rotating the office among the 19 sororities on campus.
    • Collegian caused a stir by claiming the only reason girls go to Penn State is to get a man. Isn’t that so?
    • More seriously, our student leaders found what they termed inadequacies in the College Health Service in view of the burgeoning student body. With 10,000 students, there was no College ambulance. The nearest hospital was in Bellefonte. And so on. It can be reported today that Penn State now has a Centre County Hospital—not far from the Stadium.

    And on to some other aspects and events of ’50:

    • When we were at State, there weren’t many blacks among us. Their day came later. Our football team, when it was invited to a year-end southern bowl, had to make separate arrangements for housing and feeding our few black athletes. And do you remember that in our time many southern teams wouldn’t play us if we had blacks in the lineup? Sports and the University changed.
    • The skeleton of Coaly, the mule which helped carry stones to erect Old Main, was found in an Ag Hill hayloft.
    • We had our quota of campus queens, all female. Searching for new titles, we came up with Miss Penn State for the Mid-Century Year. Where are you today, Mary Anne Hanna?
    • Penn State debaters could call 1950 one of their most triumphant in history. The men’s team captured first place in four tourneys, which topped previous Nittany efforts. But the crowning achievement came when ten of our debaters—men and women—came back from the grand national tournament with a tie for the national championship, an outright women’s championship, and five individual national titleists. One of our debaters and classmates destined to become an illustrious Penn Stater, Dick Schweiker ’50, earned a five-column Collegian headline: “Schweiker Blasts Administration.” He was unhappy with lack of college bookstore progress as All-College parliamentarian and student spokesman. He later gained headlines in the U.S. Senate.
    • There were no drive-in movies at State, nor fast food places. Some of us went to the Nittany or Penn State diner, or of course, the Corner Room. No liquor was sold or served in State College (It is now). The student “rum run” to Bellefonte was a weekly tradition before weekend parties.
    • Thespians and Players gave their usual full dose of campus entertainment in ’50. The former struck gold with “Girl Crazy” and Players celebrated their 30th anniversary by tackling “Life With Father” and “Romeo and Juliet.”
    • Sigma Delta Chi, journalism honorary, restored the campus Gridiron Banquet in which college administration, profs and anyone else within earshot were “roasted.” Replete in tails and tales, Dr. Kent Forster defended The Establishment.
    • Froth, our lamenting and lamented humor magazine, flourished in 1950. It increased circulation from 2800 to 4200 and averaged 48 pages per issue—more than any other college humor rag in the nation. The “Saturday Evening Most” issue set a record by selling 4000 copies in six hours. Do you still have your copy? Probably not. So here’s one joke from it for your laugh of today: “She passed. I saw, and smiled. She turned and smiled. To answer to my smile. I wonder if she, too, could know. Her underwear hung down a mile.” What, you didn’t laugh! Well, that’s 1950 humor. Froth was then risqué by ’50 standards, tame by today’s. A slogan printed on every page of the parody issue at hand was “You Get the Most on Saturday Night.” It was rejected by Lou Bell, then Froth advisor, so the staff had to re-make the issue. Years later, Froth really got out of hand in its humor, according to University authorities, and was banned. Then it was resurrected and banned again.
    • Many of the excessive hijinks of Hell Week in fraternities were fading—probably because of the influence of war veterans. Not much paddling of pledges’ bare behinds remained. Hell Week was becoming Work Week.

    So you wondered, “When is he going to get to our sports heroes?” these memoirs of ’50 maybe save some of the best for last, because we were so good in sports. Let us set them down briefly:

    • The zone-defense basketball team scored a major upset by finishing second in the pre-season Dixie Classic.
    • Jim Maurey ’50, Homer Barr, Rudy Valentino and Chuck Drazenovich ’50 captured Eastern titles in 145-pound wrestling, heavyweight wrestling, and tumbling and heavyweight boxing, respectively.
    • Outstanding Jim Gehrdes ’50 and Victor Fritts, the boy who was born with feet pointing in opposite directions, became IC4-A champions in the hurdles and high jump, respectively.
    • Gangling Marty Costa ’50 broke two all-time Penn State individual basketball scoring records: 299 points for a season and 32 points in a single game.
    • The College gained immeasurable prestige through playing host to the 1950 Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics Championships and National Collegiate Boxing Tourney. They were exciting.
    • Soccer was a “secret” sport. Few were aware, but we were undefeated, once-tied in ’50. We then tied San Francisco for the championship in the first national Soccer Bowl in St. Louis.
    • Will Lancaster ’50 equalled Barney Ewell’s Penn State mark of 9.6 seconds in the 100-yard dash. And the mile relay team of Gehrdes, Guy Kay, Bill Lockhart and Lancaster established a new Nittany mark of 3 minutes, 21.2 seconds.
    • The remarkable Drazenovich brothers achieved double prominence in the Penn State sports scene. On top of his football prowess as an outstanding single-wing quarterback and his national boxing championship in 1950, Chuck ’50 set a new all-time shotput mark of 48 feet, 7.25 inches for Penn State. And brother Joe ’50, in addition to being a foremost Nittany guard for three years on the gridiron, was a top player on the ’50 lacrosse squad.
    • Gehrdes graduated with a host of all-time Penn State track records tucked under his sheepskin. Principal ones were the 120-yard high hurdles mark of 14.2 seconds and the 220-yard lows record of 22.9. What’s more, he became the holder of every Penn State hurdles mark at every indoor distance from 40 through 75 yards.
    • Another all-time Penn State football great is Francis “Punchy” Rogel ’50. He may be the top fullback in the history of the University. Old-timers of ’50 compared him only with Pete Mauthe, captain of the ’12 team. “Rogel up the middle” was a familiar cry at football games, and he usually garnered the necessary yards.
    • We’ll remember that magnificent first half of the Army football game at West Point, when Coach Joe Bedenk’s dauntless first team withstood the onslaught of favored Army, and led 7 to 0 at half-time. And remember, in our day football was not a game of platoons. Players went both ways, playing offense and defense. There were 60-minute iron men. It was different.
    • “Beat Bucknell!” faded from the scene while we were in school. The last game was in ’48.
    • Our football team was 5–and-4 for the ’49 season. Our biggest wins were over Nebraska and two traditional foes, Syracuse and West Virginia. Our ’50 gridiron classmates—some already mentioned—had fine careers for several years at State, including the vaunted Cotton Bowl team of ’47. That team, when we were sophomores, still holds the all-time Penn State and intercollegiate records of 9-game rushing defense, 153 yards, and total defense, 691 yards.
    • After football, the most popular sports at Penn State were wrestling, boxing and gymnastics. An enthralling event was any Rec Hall doubleheader comprising two of these sports. Rec Hall was jammed. Collegian complained that a larger facility was needed. Today it still is, with triple the students! To watch a good figure-four hold on the mat or a brilliant 90 score on the bars, are they hanging from the rafters?
    • A sad note of ‘50 was the death of Leo “Fred” Houck, boxing coach.
    • Our exasperated varsity ski team had all its dual meets cancelled for lack of snow.

    We had our building boom on campus. By comparison, the decade of the ‘70s had none. Simmons and McElwain, girls’ dorms, were opened in ‘49-‘50. The magnificent Water Tunnel was built and dedicated. New Mineral Sciences and Plant Industries buildings were erected. A foods building was completed. And several Old Main offices moved over to the new Willard Hall. Then there was the newly-constructed curve in the seating plan of old Beaver Field, providing 15,000 more seats for home football games in our ‘49 season. Further, in our senior year, the University announced plans for 15 other new buildings.

    Critics cried that all this construction meant the campus would assume more and more that citified look of stone, steel and concrete. Many already lamented, “Where is the campus?” But buildings had to be built to cope with overwhelming demands on Penn State as the place, theoretically at least, where any boy or girl of this State could apply for and get an education.

    Physical changes wrought on campus after our departure would take another article. Over-all, we thought we were big but today the campus is infinitely larger. More buildings. New walkways—paved after students trod them to a frazzle in the grass. Problems of parking, intense in our day, are more acute today. The campus is so big today, it must be tough sprinting between classes from one end to the other.

    The imposing barn close-in at Curtis Road, with its beautiful cows and massive bulls, is gone—put farther out to pasture. Our Old Beaver Field, as you know, was dismantled to become New Beaver Stadium farther out. The classic Armory on the Mall is gone, replaced by offices and computers. Some things haven’t changed:

    Hort Woods, albeit smaller as it bowed to encroachment of progress, remains. You can still buy the best ice cream cone at the Campus Store as in ‘50, made with milk from Penn State cows. Remaining too is the grande tree-lined Mall—almost as much a symbol of Penn State as the Lion Shrine and Mount Nittany.

    So there you are, a nostalgic look at ‘50. It has been claimed that our creative ‘50 Class was unique at Penn State. Be that as it may, one thing is certain: Our Class possessed the Penn State Spirit. Perhaps dimmed a little after 30 years, it’s still recognizable in many of us.

    Now on to the ‘80s!

    T.E.M. 2/29/80

  • Penn State’s ‘State of State’ Conference

    I spoke to Penn Staters at this year’s “State of State” conference about the “spirit of place” that pervades the Nittany Valley and what Penn Staters (and every friend and visitor) can do to conserve that spirit and pass it along to new generations.

  • Penn State and State College in their early years

    Penn State and State College in their early years

    Eric Porterfield, a friend of the Mount Nittany Conservancy, recently shared these historical State College photos. These photos show in a dramatic way the development of State College from something less than a speck on the map into the place we know it as today. They’re a witness to our community’s past, to Pennsylvania’s past, and to the “splendid isolation” and enchanted seclusion that still define places like Mount Nittany:

    1876- College Avenue and Beaver Avenue as taken from Old Main tower. The frame house on the left, along East College Avenue, was the John Foster home. This house remains today at 130 East College Avenue:

    1890- South of West Beaver Avenue. A child stands in a field on the William Foster farm, the site of present day Memorial Field and Central Parklet:

    1924- A view of our growing town from the Old Main tower:

  • In Search of Evan Pugh, or, a Challenge for Penn Staters to Honor Their Founder

    In Search of Evan Pugh, or, a Challenge for Penn Staters to Honor Their Founder

    Three Penn State presidents have been laid to rest here in Centre County.

    President Atherton is famously interred right along Pollock Road adjacent to Schwab Auditorium, while Milton Eisenhower finds his final repose in Centre County Memorial Park along the Benner Pike. Evan Pugh, Penn State’s founding president and one of the most consequential personalities in the Valley’s history, whiles away eternity just a short journey from the flowering campus whose humble seeds he planted. He is memorialized as a scholar, scientist, and leader at his gravesite in Bellefonte’s Union Cemetery.

    Soon after his arrival here, Pugh began courting, and eventually married, Rebecca Valentine, daughter of one of Bellefonte’s most important families. He is buried alongside her in the family plot. Once a hub of power and influence throughout the commonwealth, attractor of wealth and exporter of governors, modern Bellefonte retains much of its historic character, but only a fraction of its practical significance. So it is with the gravesite of its once-famous socialites. In their time, Pugh and Valentine were the Nittany Valley’s original power couple; now their place of honor lies in silent neglect. The community that inherited their legacy bustles on ahead, its founder largely forgotten.

    The first president of Penn State deserves better.

    Over its 160 years, Old State has weathered wild turbulence blowing in from the wider world—civil war and world war, social revolution and heart-breaking scandal—more than once it has teetered on the brink of extinction, yet always it has persevered. Pugh deserves to be remembered as the progenitor of that hardy nature, our penchant for defiant survival.

    While barely remembered or recognized today, Pugh is the perfect central character for Penn State’s origin story. Erwin Runkle, the University’s first historian, painted him as possessing “a rugged, energetic physique, a straight-forward common sense manner, combined with the heart of a child, and the integrity and moral robustness of mature manhood.” A bull-necked he-man built to tame the wild, but with a keen, inquisitive mind better suited to conquering a more esoteric landscape.

    When he assumed the presidency of a fledgling agricultural college situated in what, to most, seemed like the middle of nowhere, but Pugh called “splendid isolation,” the entire notion of bringing the baser study of agriculture and industry to the hallowed enterprise of higher education was itself a risky proposition. Only through Pugh’s dogged leadership and dedication to a revolutionary vision for American education did the Farmers High School find its footing, and though he tragically died young, so impactful was his short time that its influence echoes through the ages.

    The man deserves a statue or memorial on campus. As things stand today, we’ve failed even to honor his memory by caring for his burial place. Seemingly abandoned by the family line, the Valentine plot has fallen into disrepair over the decades. The tombstones have become grimy and covered in lichen; the landscaping, such as it is, overgrown and unkempt, and the once-ornate wrought iron fence enclosing it crumbles. Intermittent efforts have been made throughout the years to rectify this neglect, for which former trustee George Henning deserves a great deal of the credit. However, none of these has been long sustained.

    A challenge exists for those Penn Staters willing to take it up: systematically repairing the aesthetics of Evan and Rebecca’s resting site. While the simplest tasks—bagging leaves, cutting grass, washing off the grave stones—are accomplished easily enough, the issues of repairing the fencing and routinizing the maintenance will be heavier lifts. The work will be rewarding, and if the Penn State Alumni Association and others work together, the work could come to serve as one the most powerful public witnesses to the depth of respect and honor that Penn Staters have for their founders.

    The journey of exploring Pugh’s back story has revealed much that might not be expected: Finding an original handwritten copy of Rebecca Valentine’s will at Bellefonte’s Pennsylvania Room, encountering the Bog Turtle Brewery in Pugh’s hometown of Oxford, PA and their limited run of Evan Pugh Vanilla Porter, discovering a forgotten memorial marker placed by the University on family lands still inhabited by Pugh’s distant descendants.

    We can take pride in restoring some luster to the memory of our Penn State family’s “first couple,” and we enjoy the pleasant surprises along the way.

    Why all the fuss? If, today, so few people venture out to honor Evan Pugh’s memory that his grave has fallen into disrepair in the first place, why bother with some long-dead historical figure whom it seems most people can’t be bothered to remember?

    Because whether you are an individual or a community, knowing your story—and honoring its heroes—builds confidence and strength. There is an intrinsic quality to humbling ourselves by acknowledging our place within a community and its continuum, a process that is best experienced with sacred retreats where this reverence may be felt most keenly.

    Roger Williams, former Penn State Alumni Association executive director and author an upcoming Evan Pugh biography, has called him, “Penn State’s George Washington.” That seems someone worth remembering, even if by only a few.

  • Penn State Football Remixes Its Past

    Suffering through a prolonged period of frustration and despair, the Penn State football team faces a do-or-die moment in an early Big Ten contest: Trailing in the fourth quarter and needing an unlikely game-extending play to keep hope alive, the Lions thread the needle, capping off a precarious come-from-behind win with an explosive score from their star playmaker. This escape turns a potentially season-unraveling disaster into the catalyst for the program’s return to glory.

    Two weeks later, following a blowout home victory, the Lions score a destiny-altering upset win over a highly-ranked Ohio State team under the lights, sealed with an unforgettable play sure to grace highlight reels for years to come. The team then blossoms into the sort of powerhouse that recalls Penn State’s tradition of gridiron dominance, quickly obscuring memory of a decidedly lackluster recent past. The denizens of Nittany Nation are treated to one of those unforgettable Autumns for the ages—everything from merchandise sales and hotel reservations to alumni donations and season ticket renewals pick back up—as Penn State cruises to an improbable conference crown, one made all the sweeter for just how completely unlooked-for it was before the season began.

    While that passage perfectly describes this year’s exhilarating football season, it applies equally to another unexpected comeback campaign from a decade ago, when the 2005 Nittany Lions rescued the program from its early-decade doldrums. Back then, it was Derrick Williams scoring on Northwestern instead of Saquon Barkley against Minnesota. This year, Marcus Allen and Grant Haley combined for the Ohio State game’s signature play rather than Tamba Hali and Scott Paxson.

    Just like in 2005, it is probably true that the crowd inside the Lasch Building—Penn State’s players and coaches—had an inkling of the squad’s potential. It is equally fair to say that they were probably the only ones. So the ’05 comparisons may be the most obvious—especially for me, perhaps, as I wrap up work on a book about that season—but in this year’s climb back into college football’s highest echelons, the Nittany Lions offered other echoes of the program’s rich past. Let’s try this one…

    After back-to-back uninspiring seasons with identical winning, but underwhelming records, grumbling and skepticism about the head coach is bubbling to the surface with increasing frequency and volume. Into the fold steps a dynamic, but previously unheralded dual-threat quarterback who’d shown the first hints of his potential in the team’s last bowl game. He replaces a multi-year starter, a prototypical pocket passer (wearing number 14) who arrived on campus as an elite recruit, but went on to frustrate and confuse observers with on-field struggles. Despite lacking his predecessor’s recruiting star power, the young man proves to be a heady winner, running and passing his way into the school record books and fans’ hearts as he commands a potent offense that leads Penn State to the Big Ten title, but the bittersweet finish of a Rose Bowl loss to USC.

    Did I just describe Daryll Clark succeeding Anthony Morelli for the 2008 Nittany Lions or Trace McSorley’s ascension following the rocky tenure of Christian Hackenberg? Appropriately for this age of the remix, the mashup, and ‘The Force Awakens,’ parallels and callbacks to the past abounded for Penn State this year, as a new generation of Lions inspired nostalgia for the program’s winning ways.

    Although 2016 was an up-and-down year for Old State’s defense, in its brightest moments, the unit seemed to channel the very best of their predecessors, such as the stalwart 1986 national champions (right down to linebacker Jason Cabinda’s neck roll). Not since that ’86 season, when the late John Bruno was arguably the Fiesta Bowl MVP, has a punter meant as much to a Penn State team as Blake Gillikin. An invaluable weapon all year in the crucial battle for field position, the true freshman’s heady dash to track down an errant snap and prevent an Ohio State touchdown meant just as much to his team and its season as any time Bruno pinned the Hurricanes deep that night in Tempe.

    Penn State’s last outright Big Ten championship came in 1994 (Ohio State earned a share of the 2005 and 2008 titles despite losses to PSU), a year when the Lions unleashed a potent, score-from-anywhere offense. With Trace McSorley playing a more mobile Kerry Collins and Mike Gesicki a rangier Kyle Brady, Joe Moorhead’s group made a fair impersonation of that legendary crew from ’94. But then, as now, the running game powered the juggernaut, and sophomore sensation Saquon Barkley is the team’s most superb tailback since the electrifying Ki-jana Carter. And not since ’94 (and maybe even then), when Carter was joined by Mike Archie and Stephen Pitts, has State enjoyed an assemblage of backfield talent like the current crop of Barkley, Andre Robinson, Miles Sanders, and Mark Allen.

    An early season clash with Temple this year marked the 50th anniversary of Penn State’s 1966 opener against Maryland, which commenced Joe Paterno’s head coaching career and brought his first of 409 career wins. But one win this season managed to reach even deeper into the memory bank, back to the days of Rip Engle.

    The 2016 campaign went to another level when an unranked Penn State upset the number two team in the nation, duplicating a feat the Lions had accomplished only once before, also against the Buckeyes in 1964, except that time in Columbus. It should be noted that the connection did not go entirely unnoticed in the lead up to the game (and if damage from the post-game celebration this year was disappointing, at least nobody dumped a car into the duck pond at Hintz!). Echoes of the past, but with a twist. Appropriate for a season that opened the door to reclaiming the program’s cherished history while simultaneously launching it into a new epoch.

    But for the whims of a fickle playoff selection committee, the Big Ten champs could have joined their counterparts from 1978, 1982, 1985, and 1986: Penn State teams that finished the season with an opportunity to capture the national title by winning it on the field. Instead, group them in with the ’68, ’69, ’73, and ’94 squads that staked a legitimate claim on championship contention, but for various reasons, lacked the chance for a decisive game (the wisdom of 1994 New York Times computer analysis notwithstanding). What’s exciting now is the chance that they’ll be back – and soon.

    Unlike the memorable squads of 2005 and 2008, this year’s team does not represent a “last, best shot,” an all-or-nothing opportunity for a senior-laden roster to leave its mark with an unforgettable final act. In one other important way, this season reminds us of those past: In the talent that returns or is soon to arrive via recruiting, the current state of Penn State football recalls the halcyon days when Joe’s teams would reload, not rebuild. Even as it rekindled memories of a rich legacy, 2016 also brought with it promise for the future.

    Coach Franklin said it best. “This is just the beginning.

  • Bog Turtle Brewery’s ‘Evan Pugh Vanilla Porter’

    Bog Turtle Brewery’s ‘Evan Pugh Vanilla Porter’

    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.

  • Yule Ales Add to Advent Spirit

    Yule Ales Add to Advent Spirit

    Today, it is not unusual to enter a bar and find a laundry list of exotic beers on tap or to hear news of a local brew pub or microbrewery opening up. Such was not the case in 1984 (only five years after the legalization of homebrewing) when the editor of the Centre Daily Times approached local lawyer Ben Novak about writing a bi-weekly beer column for the paper. The following excerpt appears in The Birth of the Craft Brew Revolution published by Nittany Valley Press, which collects those columns, the very first of their kind in the United States, and makes them available for the first time since their original publication. They harken back to a time when only a small American subculture had discovered the endless, delicious possibilities of good beer.


    ‘Tis Advent, that holy time of the year when we begin to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Infant. In ancient days this time of year was exciting in a much different way than excitement is generally experienced today.

    Nowadays, it seems, excitement is experienced as something that is thrilling because it is new, unknown, risky, sexy and dangerous. Today’s young people seem to look for excitement at the edge of life.

    But the ancient excitement of Christmas was something quite different. Christmas wasn’t something which happened at the edge of life, but something that happened at the heart of life. It wasn’t a search for something new and dangerous. On the contrary, Christmas was as predictable as clockwork, and as familiar as one’s most favorite feeling. Each year Christmas came on exactly the same day, and everyone tried very hard to do the same things in the same way they had done them in the past.

    To today’s young people that might sound boring. And yet … and yet … in those days it had seemed so very exciting. To me, Christmas had always seemed like a challenge without equal. It was an adventure in time. Every year people tried to see if they could rekindle and pass down the same feeling that had been felt on that first Christmas morn.

    They all knew and believed with childlike simplicity that something wonderful had happened on that hallowed night almost 2,000 years ago. They believed that hearts had been opened and changed in a way that had never happened before. They naively believed through all the years since then that the original joy had been rekindled again and again each and every year at Christmas, just as it had been experienced on that first blessed eve.

    Oh, the excitement of it all! Each year they wondered: Could it happen again? Would it? Could the magic still work? The anticipation grew to the highest levels of expectation and awe: If they did all the same things, heard the same stories, ate the same foods, drank the same drinks, rejoined in the same ways, would they again feel the excitement of their own first Christmas when they were children? Did they still have it in them to unlock all that joy one more time?

    The wonder of it! Could their joy be great enough to renew again for one more year the tremendous joy of that first blessed eve in the year One, when the time of our time began? And so, on the 4th day after the winter solstice, when they were absolutely sure that the sun had begun to rise again in the heavens, they celebrated Christmas.

    In ancient days everyone had worked so hard to make it happen again each year. They bought presents which they believed would bring out each person’s most childlike joy. They baked Christmas cakes and cookies, worked for weeks to prepare festive decorations for every room and window, searched out old recipes for Christmas goose or turkey stuffing, hung mistletoe in their hallways, hauled in the Yule logs, and brushed up on the ancient Christmas stories and carols to tell over again to their children and themselves. Old fights were ended, debts forgiven and friendships renewed in this season.

    One of the smallest and least significant contributions to the annual challenge to rekindle the ancient joy was made by the brewers of Europe and early America. In those days everyone felt the obligation to contribute whatever they could to the annual renewal of the community’s joy. Each year the brewers made their small contribution by brewing special Christmas ales and holiday beers for the season.

    The ancient tradition is undergoing a rebirth in America. Since the early 1970s, when there were only one or two remaining Christmas ales available in America, both small and large brewers are taking up the challenge to deepen the joy of the Christmas season by bringing out special seasonal brews.

    Christmas ales and holiday beers are normally brewed deeper and darker than beers for other seasons. At Christmas time, one was expected to sip slowly to enjoy the deep contentment of the season and the memories of childlike joy.

    As I write this column in advance of the season, most Christmas ales and holiday beers have not yet come on the market. But here are some names you might look for to taste the challenge of Christmas past:

    – Aass Jule 01 (pronounced “Arse Yule Ale”) from Norway. This is a special, rich, malty, dark lager developed specially for the winter holiday season.

    – Noche Buena Cervesa Especial from the Montezuma Brewery in Mexico. This is a Marzen-style brew in the old tradition of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This is a dark brown, medium-bodied beer with a delicate malt taste.

    – Anchor Christmas Ale. This is a special ale brewed to a different recipe each year. It is always a real ale, brewed especially dark, heavy and hoppy for the season.

    – Newman’s Winter Ale. This is brewed in Ithaca, New York, as a “winter warmer,” and is a real ale, truly dark and different.

    – Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. This is brewed in Chico, California, by two of the most traditional-minded, dedicated micro-brewers in America.

    – Boulder Christmas Ale, made by the “second largest brewery in the Rockies,” but nonetheless a very small micro-brewer. It is modeled after 17th and 18th century English mulled ales.

    – F.X. Matt’s Traditional Season’s Best from Utica, New York. This is an amber, Vienna-style holiday special made by true craftsmen. It is trucked right through Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C., Virginia and Colorado, but is not marketed here in the Keystone State. Perhaps we must be more sincere this year in extending holiday greetings to our neighbors in the empire state.

    Some other Christmas ales and holiday beers one might encounter in one’s travels are: Hudepohol’s Christmas Beer from Cincinnati; August Schell’s Xmas Beer from New Ulm, Minn.; Fred Koch Holiday Beer from Dunkirk, N.Y. (The Koch Brewery was recently purchased by Genessee); and Grant’s Christmas Ale from Yakima, Wash.

    It is hoped that the Spirit of Christmases past will inspire many more brewers to introduce new Christmas ales and holiday beers in 1985 to reawaken the ancient joy of the season. And it is hoped that we all should imbibe them in the spirit in which they are brewed.

    Ein Prosit der Gemutlichkeit!

  • A Salute to Veterans and the Veterans’ Education and Advancement Fund

    The great stories of any age are often best understood by tracing the tiny threads of personal experience. In following these winding strands, seeing where and how they intersect, we come to understand how the collective weight of countless individual acts underpins the forces that shape our world.

    On the afternoon of April 11, 1945, General George S. Patton’s 6th Armored Division, including a young soldier from western Pennsylvania named Albert Edward Matyasovsky, rolled in to liberate Buchenwald, one of the largest of the Nazi concentration camps. Among the 21,000 prisoners set free that day was a teenage boy named Elie Wiesel.

    In a bustle of thousands of anonymous faces that day, the two never met. For a brief and meaningful moment though, the threads of their life stories intersected.

    Wiesel, who passed away earlier this year, counted among the lucky few to survive the horrors of the Holocaust; he grew up to author over 50 books and win the Nobel Prize. Elie Wiesel was able to share his gifts with the world because of the sacrifice and bravery of American and other Allied soldiers. One of them, Matyasovsky, returned from war with a lifetime’s worth of experiences spanning Normandy to the Ardennes and beyond, fortunate enough to have come back home at all. He did not gain great wealth or notoriety in his post-war life, but as a father, he created a legacy and influence that will positively impact the lives of future Penn State students.

    Al Matyasovsky, Jr., who recently retired from Penn State after decades overseeing the University’s waste management and recycling programs, has established the Veterans’ Education and Advancement Fund (VEAF), a scholarship endowment with the Penn State World Campus. He and his wife, Sharon, cite their parents, particularly Al’s father and mother, as their inspiration in launching this effort, which will provide financial assistance to veterans, active duty military, and their family members who are enrolled in the University’s online programs.

    “We lived in a coal mining town for six years, very meager surroundings. My father used to have to carry water from a community pump up to our house that we drank, bathed in, and cooked with, and I never heard him complain,” the son recalls. Al absorbed the lessons of his father’s work ethic, but also the man’s oft-repeated core values: “Treat people with respect. Be fair. Be honest. Don’t lie. Don’t cheat.”

    The “American Century” that blossomed in the wake of Allied victory in WWII brought widespread educational and economic opportunity to a generation of Americans. Despite an impoverished upbringing, Al’s commitment to following his father’s example brought on the academic achievement necessary to open those doors. As a senior, a meeting with his high school guidance counselor put Matyasovsky on the path to a college education.

    “She said, ‘We send guys like you to college,’ and she got me all the money that I would go to college on… that changed my life. It demonstrated to me how people outside the family who have faith in you can affect your life in a tremendous way.”

    Matyasovsky graduated from Lock Haven University, and after a few job and location changes, he obtained a position with Penn State that turned into a long career. Over more than 30 years of service, Al was in charge of many of the University’s solid waste management and recycling efforts. He managed gameday operations at Beaver Stadium for a quarter century, including post-9/11 security measures, and he also implemented some of the school’s most innovative and recognizable sustainability efforts.

    These include the now-ubiquitous blue recycling bags that dot the tailgating fields during football season and, probably most notably, the annual Trash to Treasure sale at Beaver Stadium, where departing students donate items they would otherwise discard that are then sold to benefit the county United Way. Matyasovsky proudly notes that, since its inception, the event has raised over $750,000 for the charity while repurposing “stuff that was going to the landfill.”

    After retiring, Al sought to finally make good on a long-held ambition to philanthropically support veterans, thinking of the inspiring role his father had played throughout his life. While considering the creation of a new foundation, he also spoke with staff at the University about his idea. Those discussions led to the creation of the Veterans’ Education and Advancement Fund scholarship within the Penn State World Campus. “The logic is that a veteran and their family don’t have to uproot themselves to come to University Park. They can receive a Penn State degree from anywhere in the world.”

    An especially unique facet that distinguishes the VEAF, according to Matyasovsky, is the flexibility to also support family members of service members and vets.

    “The love and admiration that we have for our parents is still very strong today. We feel that the family also deserves credit for supporting the veterans who defend our freedoms and support our way of life. Our fathers were in the military, and our mothers taught us the way of keeping family together and being part of the neighborhood and so on.”

    The VEAF will hold its first fundraising event, a dinner at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, in April 2017. The fund is now a permanent part of the veterans’ support programming offered by the World Campus, which has been consistently ranked as the top online education program for veterans and active-duty military in the nation. As the lead donors, Al and Sharon are dedicated to growing the fund continually to amplify its impact.

    “I’m not a hero for it. My father was the hero. I just did what my father and mother advised me to do. My mother used to say, ‘Being poor has nothing to do with who you are as a person.’ Both my parents told me, ‘Study hard. Get good grades, and good things will happen to you.’”

    Follow the thread.

    Through courage and fortitude, a generation of Americans like Al Matyasovsky, Sr. won battlefield victories that changed lives for millions, including a young Elie Wiesel. He returned home to support and inspire a son who went on to make a lasting impact on life here in the Nittany Valley, first as a long-time Penn State employee and now again with the VEAF.

    Motivated by the memory of veterans who so strongly influenced their lives, Al and Sharon Matyasovsky’s efforts will enable the dreams of education and opportunity for future generations of America’s service men and women and their families. Until all is said and done, who can know how many more lives they will touch, how many more threads will cross their own and end up better for it?

  • The Penn State-Wisconsin Rivalry That Never Was

    Recently, I found myself caught in Park Ave traffic behind a car adorned with an obnoxiously large Ohio State Buckeyes magnet. With merely a glimpse of it, my pulse quickened and my palms tightly gripped the steering wheel. As an ardent Nittany Lions fan, I recoiled at the unwelcome reminder of our rival.

    And there it was, that loaded term.

    A lot of ink, real and virtual, has been spilled debating what defines a genuine “rivalry” in college football. Because we have imbued the term with a certain sacred quality, participation in a recognized rivalry is its own form of cultural currency. Fans even seek to insult one another by denying that they consider an opposing school their “rival.” So what makes a rivalry?

    When your new coach gives his introductory press conference, a rival is the team against whom he goes out of his way to promise wins (the lack of such most likely contributed to the recent job opening). When Jim Tressel arrived at Ohio State, he guaranteed wins against Michigan. Urban Meyer did the same. A couple years later, Jim Harbaugh returned the favor. In the ESPN documentary Trojan War, about the powerhouse USC teams of the early 2000’s, a newly-arrived Pete Carroll is shown listing his top priority for rebuilding the program: Beat UCLA.

    Rivals face off on a regular basis; they play meaningful games at key points in the year. Rivals ruin each other’s seasons. Rivalries develop over time, organically; they thrive on geographic proximity (familiarity breeds contempt). They get nicknames, like the Civil War, the Apple Cup, the Red River Shootout, and the Iron Bowl. Speaking of which, sometimes great rivalries get a little out of hand.

    And so I got to thinking, “Would a Penn State magnet in Buckeye country elicit a comparably visceral reaction?” When we classify Ohio State as a rival, do their fans reciprocate? Probably not. They’re still settling scores from the War for Toledo.

    Ditto, Michigan. The M Club measures success in victories against the hated Buckeyes. What about traditional end-of-season foe Michigan State? Nope. Despite the best efforts of George Perles, Spartans fans will always care more about defeating the in-state Wolverines. Minnesota and Iowa have certainly played the role of antagonist at certain points in program history, but few, if any, of Penn State’s many wins over the Gophers and Hawkeyes carried similar significance. So do the Nittany Lions actually own a piece of that national conversation? Does Penn State have an undisputed, reciprocal “rival?”

    Once upon a time, such a question would never be asked. Between 1896 and 1993, Penn State played 96 times, their Thanksgiving weekend clash resonating with media and fans nationwide. We got a glimpse of that again when the two teams staged their epic prize fight last month, the first of four meetings scheduled out until 2019. Pitt-Penn State was once a rivalry, and perhaps it can be again (here’s hoping). But at best, this latest renewal looks like no more than a fleeting echo of the past. The series is set to expire with no sign of further renewal on the horizon. The changing landscape of the sport conspires against it. True gridiron animus needs to flow through regularly-scheduled antagonism. The Lions still lack that one special somebody to clash with year-in and year-out in games of consequence. In the modern era, such consistency can only be found within your school’s athletic conference.

    So what about Wisconsin? The Badgers, really? Stay with me here. It could have happened, and here’s how it almost did.

    In 1993, Penn State completed its historic transition from football independence and began competing in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions arrived bearing one of the sport’s great brand names, an asset that carried surprisingly little cache in a discriminating club with a century’s worth of tradition whose members had embraced the change with obvious reluctance. Most Big Ten teams had been facing off since the Depression, and Penn State was the new kid in the old neighborhood. The fit was (some would say “is”) awkward at times.

    Three years earlier, in 1990, Wisconsin had hired head coach Barry Alvarez, a man destined to quickly lift the program out of three decades of malaise that its Wikipedia entry charitably terms “Limited successes.” While JoePa and the Lions were earning laurels and playing for titles as independents, the Badgers had been languishing as an afterthought in the conference often known as “The Big Two and Little Eight.” In the 22 years following Alvarez’s arrival, the Badgers would claim the Big Ten crown six times. Almost immediately, these two “square pegs” found, in each other, a reliable measuring stick in their mutual efforts to overthrow the regime of Ohio State and Michigan:

    1995 – In their first conference meeting, Alvarez and the Badgers humbled the sixth-ranked defending conference champions with a 17-9 win at Beaver Stadium.

    1996-97 – Two of the nation’s best runners, Curtis Enis of Penn State and Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne, faced off in two slugfests won by the Nittany Lions.

    1998 – With Enis gone to the NFL, Dayne got his revenge, leading the Badgers to a 24-3 win.

    2001 – A somber pall hung over the proceedings in the first week of games after 9/11, and an 18-6 victory for the Badgers denied Joe Paterno a chance to tie Bear Bryant’s all-time wins record in front of the home crowd.

    2002 – Penn State scored a hard-fought 34-31 victory at Camp Randall Stadium, highlighted by four field goals from Robbie Gould.

    2004 – Quarterbacks Zack Mills and Michael Robinson were knocked out of the game with injuries while Wisconsin fullback Matt Bernstein, fasting for Yom Kippur and running only on IV liquids, gutted the Lions’ defense for 123 rushing yards in a 16-3 win.

    2005 – The last meeting between Barry Alvarez and Joe Paterno, a contest for sole possession of first place in the Big Ten, became a Senior Day to remember for the likes of Michael Robinson and Tamba Hali, who helped advance Penn State’s incredible comeback season with a 35-14 victory.

    2006 – Wisconsin won 13-3, and new coach Bret Bielema earned the enmity of Penn State coaches, players, and fans by abusing a short-lived kick off rule to run out the first-half clock. Both events were obscured by a sideline collision that sent Joe Paterno to the hospital with a broken leg.

    2007 – Unranked Penn State again reclaimed bragging rights in the series by pasting the #19 Badgers 38-7 in Happy Valley.

    2008 – Derrick Williams took a punt to the house; Aaron Maybin burst onto the scene, and Daryll Clark created an iconic image. Badgers fans probably just wanted it to end, as Penn State grabbed the national spotlight with a 48-7 road win in prime time.

    In 2010, the Big Ten welcomed Nebraska in a move that shook college football to its foundations and once again disrupted the equilibrium of the staid conference. For the first time, “the B1G” would divide its teams into divisions whose winners would play in a championship game. With Michigan State sorted into the other division, newly-minted division rival Wisconsin filled the void at the end of Penn State’s conference slate. By that time, these two programs – both outsiders in the kingdom of Woody and Bo, the newcomer and the nouveau riche – had staked their own claims to a share of that vaunted Big Ten tradition. From the very beginning, their new arrangement yielded excitement:

    2011 – Battered and reeling from the Sandusky scandal firestorm, Penn State traveled to Madison playing for a berth in the inaugural Big Ten championship game. Russel Wilson and Co. claimed that spot decisively, winning 45-7.

    2012 – Badgers tailback Montee Ball set the FBS career touchdown record, but the Nittany Lions won the day. Emotions ran high as one of Old State’s greatest teams honored injured leader Michael Mauti by wearing his number 42 on their helmets and leaving their hearts on the field. When a Wisconsin field goal attempt fell short in overtime, embattled sophomore Sam Ficken’s successful try from the previous series became the winning points in one of the most memorable victories in program history.

    2013 – O’Brien’s Lions walked into Madison as 24-point underdogs; they left with a 31-24 win that derailed Wisconsin’s hopes for a BCS bowl. The stunning upset, which brought the all-time series to 8-9 in favor of Wisconsin, also saw Penn State equal the series’ longest winning streak – two games (if you don’t count the Badgers’ three-game “streak” carried over from the early 1950’s to their ’95 win).

    The pattern was established. Penn State and Wisconsin, Big Ten party crashers both, would close out against one another, with bowl berths, and potentially division titles, on the line; already in the short series history, each had handed humbling losses to the other.

    That scheduling move to end each year’s campaign with the Penn State-Wisconsin game was the key to shifting the matchup from proto-rivalry to genuine article. Virtually all of my key ingredients for a bona fide, both-fanbases-agree, referenced-as-such-on-GameDay college football RIVALRY were there: regular meetings, consequential outcomes that cut both ways, bad blood that develops over time. Yes, proximity worked against it, but in the coming age of the “super conference,” rivals will increasingly be found as close as the nearest airport. The Nittany Lions and Badgers were just on the cusp of playing an often meaningful, usually unpredictable, and gloriously contentious annual capper to their regular seasons. Both were perhaps only a few more meetings away from finally finding a year-in, year-out rival they could both love to hate. It was that close.

    For a few fleeting moments, all of this was possible, and then, like so many things in life, it was ruined by Rutgers and Maryland.

  • Why Honoring Joe Paterno Still Matters

    Why Honoring Joe Paterno Still Matters

    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.

  • Why Learn the Penn State Story?

    The creation of a Penn State undergraduate course on the university’s history is a source of great excitement and pride for many who dwell in body and in spirit in Mount Nittany’s gentle shadow.

    In early 2013, Sean Clark and Zach Zimbler suggested that Penn State ought to offer a class on the history of the University itself. This prompted discussions with faculty in Penn State’s History department that eventually sparked development of a full course curriculum. Although final approvals will take some time, the near future will see the availability of a three-credit course on Penn State history, History 148 (appropriate, as it corresponds to the number of Centre County’s Civil War regiment, which was led by future Penn State President James Beaver). We were happy to have helped catalyze what we believed to be a worthy endeavor, but we wanted to do more.

    Steve Garguilo stepped up to make an extraordinary financial commitment to establish the Stephen D. Garguilo Nittany Valley Society University History Endowment in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts. This endowment will provide sustaining financial support year-in and year-out for the course—funds are intended to defray expenses associated with the academic examination and teaching of the institution’s history, including, but not limited to, enrichment and support for the course.

    This will be the first such class ever offered at Penn State and only the second of its kind to be found in the Big Ten. I expect the course, while suitably rigorous, will also be a lot of fun and instantly rank among the most popular options come scheduling time. Penn State has never suffered from a shortage of school spirit, so the subject matter should certainly help keep students engaged. The key is what happens after you have their attention. A studied examination of Penn State’s past has a lot of practical utility here in the present.

    In a 2015 talk, Penn State Lunar Lion mission director Michael Paul spoke about how striving to reach the Moon is opening up incredible opportunities for the institution and its students. Hands-on learning and connections with the global aerospace community are invaluable byproducts of what is, in itself, ground-breaking work. By identifying new innovations and cost efficiencies in lunar exploration, Penn State could make significant, tangible impact on how humanity reaches for the final frontier in the 21st century.

    After Michael’s talk, I commented that, in their quest to land a lunar module, his team represents a modern extension of founding president Evan Pugh’s vision for a college where practical pursuits would be afforded the same serious study as the humanities were in classical universities. Perhaps more than any other single undertaking at Penn State, the Lunar Lion captures the pioneering spirit upon which the school was founded.

    It is easy to forget now, when the STEM fields are in such high demand and, as a result, the darlings of politicians and academics, that conventional thinkers once scoffed at the notion of teaching agriculture and engineering in the same hallowed halls as art, literature, and philosophy. The sentiment animating the land-grant movement of the late 1800s, which recalled self-made Renaissance man Pugh from Oxford to his native Pennsylvania, once seemed hopelessly provincial. “Farmers and thinkers belong in different rooms, and never the twain shall meet.” So went the conventional wisdom.

    Pugh’s vision for teaching the advanced study of agriculture and the mechanic arts in the “splendid isolation” of the Nittany Valley was, in its time, a radical experiment in democratizing higher education. Yet history teaches us that the rise of the public research universities laid the groundwork for the American Century, and as they grew, these schools became places that both reflected our society and challenged it to change and grow.

    As we struggled to reconcile our national identity, college campuses often led the charge in breaking boundaries and incubating new ideas. We see this play out in microcosm throughout the University’s life cycle, sometimes with a progressive sensibility and sometimes not. There is a lot to learn, not all of it pretty, but there is plenty in which Penn Staters should take pride. Penn State was the first institution of higher education in the Commonwealth to admit female students; football star Wally Tripplett came to Happy Valley on an academic scholarship at a time when many black Americans were denied entry to universities on any grounds.

    In learning these stories, which are grounded in the people and places that surround them during one of life’s most exciting times, students will gain perspective on national history in a way that tethers abstract concepts to something closer to home, something more real. There is more.

    We hope that becoming more familiar with the details of the University’s history will help strengthen students’ sense of themselves as Penn Staters, as inheritors of a distinct narrative that is unique to this community they have chosen to join. It is an incredible saga full of remarkable stories:

    How our “Second Founder” George Atherton revived a failing college by believing in the “university that was to be,” how Milton Eisenhower sought the favor of his brother, the President of the United States, to build it up, or how Joe Paterno used the occasion of a football championship, not to demand a higher salary or better facilities for his team, but to challenge the University’s trustees to raise the money needed to elevate Penn State’s academic standing.

    The endowment’s legacy statement explains that we seek “to provide future generations of Penn Staters with a stronger sense of themselves and our world through studied consideration of their University’s story.” Thanks to the leadership of administrators and faculty in the College of the Liberal Arts, particularly in the History department, this new and exciting learning opportunity will soon become reality.

    As we continue to add new chapters—perhaps even one day making the “Nittany Nation” the fourth nation to land on the Moon—the Stephen D. Garguilo Nittany Valley Society University History Endowment will provide the sustaining financial support that ensures we never forget our story or its valuable lessons.