When Catie Benson stopped by the Hintz Family Alumni Center a couple of weeks ago to pick up a box of our May/June issue, I asked her about preparations for her final collegiate rugby game. The fifth-year senior played up the quality of the opposition, a Central Washington University team in its first year of varsity status but loaded with experienced transfer players. On paper, it looked pretty evenly matched, like the Lions would have their hands full.
So much for that.
On Saturday, the Penn State women’s rugby team won its fourth straight national championship in typically dominant fashion, dispatching CWU 61-7. Katie Mueller (that’s her at rear left on our cover) was named MVP of the title game, while Hope Rogers (front and center, cradling the ball) scored a pair of tries in the romp. It’s the 10th overall championship for the Lady Ruggers, a run of dominance we had in mind when we used the word “dynasty” on that cover.
Kate Daley ’09, the former All-American who took over as the Lions’ interim coach last fall, flinched when she heard that word. Perhaps, like Catie and the rest of the team, she really thought Penn State might struggle against CWU. Or maybe she didn’t want to be seen taking an opponent lightly. Our guess? She just didn’t want to ruin the suspense.
Regardless: Congrats to Kate, Catie, Hope, and the rest of this terrific team, and thanks for making us smart.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
In our May/June issue, Gary Werkheiser ’81 Bus talked to us about the Los Angeles Alumni Chapter’s benefit known as Lights Camera Cure: The Hollywood Dance Marathon. The event, which raised over $101,000 this spring, has been a labor of love for the PSULA Chapter president and his wife Valerie Hudak Werkheiser ’81 Bus. “The first year, we hosted about 80 people at our house, which is near the Hollywood sign, and raised a couple thousand dollars,” says Werkheiser, adding that it wasn’t until after that event when they decided to create a formal committee. “My wife and I, together with a group of younger alumni, came up with the idea to do a miniature version of THON, but put a Hollywood spin on it.”
Now in its fourth year, the Hollywood Dance Marathon has evolved into, well, a Hollywood production. The six-hour dance marathon happens in a historic nightclub named the Avalon located in the heart of Hollywood. There’s non-stop entertainment from DJs to dance performances. There’s press. And a red-carpet procession before the event. And those in attendance—about 1,000 people—could hit up the open bar, photo booths, and silent auction.
And, naturally, there were some celebs. Lindsay Arnold from Dancing with the Stars taught the line dance. Actor Ty Burrell ’97 A&A sent a video message for the group, which they aired on screen. And Tom Bradley ’78 Bus, ’86 MS H&HD—who is now with the UCLA football staff—popped in, staying until the very end. “He asked if he could hold up one of the numbers at the final reveal,” says Werkeiser.
But underneath all of this glitz and glam is, of course, the Four Diamonds Fund and helping kids with cancer. Dancers raised a minimum of $300 each to participate and didn’t sit down during the duration. There was a family time, and cancer survivors and their families spoke to the crowd. Proceeds benefitted THON, but they also went to programs at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, which helps to fight pediatric cancer in the local community. “Our alumni base out here is much smaller than back east,” says Werkheiser, adding that this event really connects younger alumni with older alumni. “But the Hollywood Dance Marathon is getting bigger every year.” To date, the event has raised nearly $300,000.
Amy Downey, senior editor
There’s a great piece in Friday’s Washington Post on Ali Krieger ’07, a member of the 2011 and 2015 U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer teams. Krieger, also a star for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, suffered a concussion in a league match three weeks ago, a health scare that also put a dent in her hopes of starting at the World Cup this summer. But at a time when head injuries in sports are in the news more than ever, Krieger is benefiting from heightened caution about just how much care—and time—these athletes need before they can safely retake the field. Here’s wishing Ali luck in her continued recovery. Can’t wait to see her back in red, white, and blue this summer.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Look for more of Steve Waithe in our May/June 2015 issue.
A few short years ago, Steve Waithe couldn’t have imagined his future. If anything, his future wasn’t something he thought much about.
“I didn’t have much of a mentality to do well in school—I didn’t really think I had anything to work for,” Waithe says. He’s thinking back to his high school days in Maryland, when by his own admission, he didn’t take his academics or athletics seriously. “Honestly,” he says, “I was just kind of playing around.”
Waithe is hardly the only 15- or 16-year-old kid who lacked motivation, but when he finally found it, it was almost too late. In his final two years of high school, Waithe realized he had the potential to be good—maybe even great—in the long and triple jumps. He quickly became one of the best prep jumpers in the nation, but having dug himself into a hole academically, he couldn’t get his grades up in time to qualify for a Division I college. When he landed at Shippensburg University, it was with a very different mindset. And a plan.
“Before I even started to compete at Shippensburg, I told my coach, ‘I believe I’m a Division I-caliber athlete,’” Waithe recalls. “He was just happy to have me there in the first place, and he was really supportive. We came up with a program to make sure my academics were where they needed to be. There was no hostility. It was a good experience.”
Waithe spent a year and a half at Ship, where he set school records in the triple jump and earned DII All-America honors. While there, he also competed in the Junior World Championships for Trinidad & Tobago, where his parents and two older brothers were born. Both experiences were launch pads to bigger dreams: A transfer to Penn State, with its world-class facilities and coaches, and a chance to represent the nation of his roots at the Olympics.
With his academics in order, Waithe adapted to the higher DI competition in no time, winning the Big Ten outdoor title last spring in the triple jump, his top event, and placing fourth in long jump for good measure. He posted top-six finishes in the triple at the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships, earning All-America status in both events. He’s aiming for more of the same this spring.
As for the Olympics? Waithe says he’s already earned a slot on T&T’s 2016 team; assuming he hits the standard distance, he expects to be in Rio next summer. “It’s becoming less of a goal and more of a reality,” he says. “I just need to keep progressing the way I’ve been progressing. I know I have so much more potential.”
Ryan Jones, senior editor
The May/June 2015 issue of The Penn Stater is en route to your mailbox, and we think you’re going to like it. The Penn State women’s rugby team made the cover and for good reason: They may just be the greatest college sports dynasty that you’ve never heard of. Ryan Jones ’95 Com spent some time with the legendary program — luckily, he wasn’t hurt during the reporting process — and found out there’s a lot more behind its success besides a flawless record. For the images on the cover, shot for us by photographer Bill Cardoni, we saw value in not Photoshopping out the bumps and bruises on these tough student-athletes.
Another highlight in this issue is the “College Jobs” feature on p. 32, starring … you! We asked readers to tell us about their most interesting college jobs — and we weren’t disappointed. From working in the kitchen of the Nittany Lion Inn to driving the Loop around town, we learned that there are plenty of ways to earn a buck in a college town.
You’ll also find a Q&A with Steven Zarit, one of the leading researchers of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other elder-care issues. The Penn State distinguished professor offers invaluable advice and resources for caregivers.
Also in this issue: The professor who helped shape the Shake Shack burger empire; an anthropologist who is featured in a PBS series; the first Nittany Lion to make it to the NHL; a track and field star with Olympic hopes; and more.
Have you already received the new issue? Let us know what you think. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Downey, senior editor
I have no idea what’s going on here. I only know it means that spring has sprung.
Working in University House, our favorite reminder of the end of winter is the sign of newly hatched ducklings appearing suddenly, right outside our windows, around the Hintz Family Alumni Center pond. But a close second is the sign of students taking over the alumni center lawn. Once the weather’s warm enough—and we’re looking at perfect blue skies and a high of 68 today—the grounds surrounding Hintz become the setting for small study groups, lounging clusters of friends, and even entire classes relocated from nearby Willard or Sackett buildings.
And then, sometimes, we get students who we’re not quite sure what they’re doing.
This was the scene outside my office window earlier this morning. Experimental theater performance? Political statement? Caped calisthenics? Not a clue, but I do know that any sign of life emerging from another long, cold Happy Valley winter is a welcome one.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Back in 2012, when a record 86 alumni were running for a seat on the Penn State Board of Trustees in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, we introduced a project designed to help voters sort through all those candidates. We patterned it after the voters’ guides that the League of Women Voters pioneered, and we called it “Three Questions for the Candidates.”
We’ve continued the project every year since then, even as the number of candidates has declined: 39 alumni running for a seat in 2013 and 31 last year. This year saw an even more dramatic drop, and in fact the race is essentially uncontested: Only three candidates are running for the three available alumni-elected seats.
We talked about it in-house, and decided that even with three unopposed candidates, the project is still worth doing. Alumni still need to know where their trustees, or potential trustees, stand on the issues. So we invited Anthony Lubrano, Ryan McCombie, and Robert Tribeck to answer this year’s three questions.
Tribeck sent us his answers, and you’ll see them on our site. McCombie responded that he wouldn’t be in a position to participate: “I am on travel until Easter Sunday with only my IPad to compose on and little thoughtful time,” he replied. “I don’t believe I will be able to frame these questions worthy of your publication and editor’s eye satisfactorily in time. I’m afraid you are going to do this without me this year. Sorry.” Lubrano didn’t respond at all.
Still, we’ve assembled the site, including not only Tribeck’s responses but also links to all three candidates’ bios and official position statements on the trustees’ website. Information on election dates and eligibility is on the site as well. We hope that you’ll check it out—and that you’ll vote.
Tina Hay, editor