|I took these photos than 5 years ago.|
You see, Penn State wouldn't be what it is today if not for Joe. When he arrived at the University in 1950 it was just a cow-town farm school. Today it is a top tier research university, churning out hundreds of thousands of exceptional graduates and dominating fields like engineering, meteorology and nursing. Those achievements might not have been possible if not for Joe Paterno and his emphasis on winning football games while educating boys and turning them into men of character.
Penn State consistently had the highest graduation rate of football players among all Division 1 championship level programs. Joe did not ever allow his players to even skip a single class, something I and all other students do routinely. If he caught a player in their room when they were supposed to be in class, they got benched. He made it clear that school was the first priority. Joe was grossly underpaid relative to his peers for decades and yet he poured millions of his own money into academics at Penn State, including building a massive library which bears his name. His "Success with Honor" mantra became the PSU brand and attracted millions, maybe even billions, in research money across numerous fields of study. There are currently more than half a million PSU alumni spread out across the US and the globe and every single one of them has been impacted, whether they acknowledge it or not, by Coach Paterno.
It would take me more time than I have to explain to you why this is true but ever Penn Stater knows it is. When I chose Penn State over several other excellent schools it wasn't because of the football team. My high school didn't have football, I had no interest in watching it, and I didn't even buy season tickets. I chose to come to State College for the globally recognized Scholars program and for their top five Chemical Engineering department, yes, but also for a certain family pride vibe I felt during my first campus visit. They called it being "Penn State proud" and I liked it.
I was fortunate enough to live in a building where I had breakfast with the football team every morning for three years. Joe didn't come to breakfast every day, but he did very frequently. There were many occasions when he'd be leaving the building around the same time I was, only to stop and chat with a handful of students including myself. His smile was infectious and in all seriousness he would usually tell us something like "Study hard." and "you'd better get to class, you're going to be late".
"Believe deep down in your heart that you're destined to do great things."
My affection for Joe Paterno and his wife Sue run deep, as if he were my own grandfather. I even stopped by Joe's house just last summer on my short visit to State College. The last few months have only solidified the feeling of family that we as a deeply wounded Penn State community feel for one another. So together we mourn and together we celebrate the legacy of a man who encouraged us to be better. We Are Penn State.