When you are a World Campus student you sometimes wonder about your association to the University as a whole. Being on campus generally provides that feeling of community that binds the students together in the Penn State family. It is a little more difficult to have those same feelings as a remote student. I can tell you after this last month however that there is a very real connection between the World Campus students and Penn State.
As the last month has unfolded, I realized as I fielded a nonstop barrage of questions from friends and family that I was in a very tangible way both representative of and connected to the University. Not only that many had come to me for explanation but that I felt the range of emotions that I’m sure many on campus did—from anger, to disappointment, defiance, to condemnation, I rode the storm with Penn State. And like thousands of you I took a stand—one of support for the institution we are a part of.
Though it might seem improbable, being born and raised in Utah, I have always been a Penn State fan. I remember as a young boy asking why Penn State did not have names on the back of their football jerseys. The answer was presented to me that Joe Paterno didn’t believe that one individual should overshadow the accomplishments of the team and so the names were kept from the jerseys to promote team unity, team sacrifice, team accomplishment and a brotherhood where no one person was better than another. From a young age I can remember wanting to be a part of something like that. The synergy that was and is Penn State, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, as Joe demonstrated in his football team, where no one man can bring us down.
It is a tragic thing that one individual can singlehandedly shift the course of lives of so many for the worse. As the parent of young children, it is your worst fear that the actions that have been alleged could have taken place. A short five years ago my daughter’s third grade teacher was taken into custody for similar allegations. He was tried and convicted of inappropriate acts with his young students. The investigation was gut-wrenching. The community at once felt fragile and unsafe. Thankfully my daughter was not a direct victim but nonetheless her outlook on life has been forever changed.
As eerily similar to Penn State’s ordeal as it can be, it had been alleged several years earlier that an inappropriate action had taken place but no conclusions were rendered. The perpetrators of these crimes are often the masters of disguise. They are often the most kind, the most giving, rendering their crimes too heinous to be believed. It was that way for us. And so history has repeated itself on a grander stage.
Whatever your position on the events and the people involved remember why you are a Penn Stater and who you have become as a result of your affiliation with this great university. I would echo Phil Knight who eulogized Joe a hero, reflecting on a lifetime of steady, uncompromising excellence and integrity. That is what this University stands for. That is why we wanted to become Penn Staters. That is why we continue as Penn Staters. That is who the University would have us become.
Because WE ARE…PENN STATE!