State College may have dumped another five inches of snow on us last night, but we’re totally thinking spring here at The Penn Stater—just take a look at the sunny cover of our March/April issue. Don’t you feel better already?
The illustration by James Taylor (no, not that James Taylor) uses a mix of images from our all-time favorite warm-weather traditions at Penn State for the cover story, “Rites of Spring.” But look closely at the image: The British artist actually hand-cut these images and built them into a set, making it a 3-D collage of sorts. You can actually see the white floor—and a shadow or two—at the bottom of the page. Pretty cool.
Also in this issue is an exclusive Q&A with athletic director Sandy Barbour. Less than a year into her time here at Penn State, she sat down with senior editor Ryan Jones ’95 Com and opened up about Franklin, Paterno, and the NCAA, among other things.
Ryan was busy this issue, as he also penned a piece on alum, poet, and Penn State Brandywine prof Cameron Conaway ’07 Alt. Conaway’s poems on malaria, and mindfulness, are catching the attention of literature critics around the world.
Another highlight is a two-page story on the late Grace Holderman ’34 Edu by Vicki Glembocki ’93, ’03 MFA Lib. “Amazing Grace” was just that—and this performer spent a lifetime captivating audiences on and off the stage.
And if you haven’t already heard, Roger Williams ’73 Lib, ’75 MA Com, ’88 DEd Edu will soon retire from his longtime post as executive director of our alumni association. We get some parting words from him on page 23.
You’ll also find stories on the new Primanti’s in town, plus a recap of when State College resident Sarah Koenig spoke on campus about her smash hit podcast, Serial.
Look for it in your mailboxes soon!
Oh, and by the way—I’m a new senior editor here at The Penn Stater. Would love to hear from you, and especially if you have anything to say about the new issue. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
—Amy Downey, senior editor
You might remember a feature in our July/August 2014 issue on Ryan McGarry ’05, a doctor-turned-documentary filmmaker whose debut, Code Black, was a festival hit. In our interviews with him, McGarry mentioned his hope of turning the documentary—focused on young doctors in a legendary Los Angeles emergency room—into a TV drama. Well, that hope is now awfully close to reality.
Last month, industry outlets reported that CBS had ordered a pilot for an hour-long scripted medical adaptation of Code Black, and that McGarry—who remains on faculty at New York’s Weill Cornell Medical College—will be one of the show’s producers. On Tuesday, it was reported that veteran actress Marcia Gay Harden will be one of the show’s leads. Per Deadline, the show, “like the documentary it was inspired by, are set in the busiest and most notorious ER in the nation—L.A. County Hospital—where the extraordinary staff confronts a broken system in order to protect their ideals and the patients who need them the most.”
Doctor, med-school instructor, and now a full-fledged Hollywood producer? Here’s hoping McGarry finds a hobby to keep himself occupied in his free time.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Penn State president Eric Barron addressed the media for about 20 minutes this afternoon, talking about the agreement that repeals the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State. Here are a few of his comments:
—”I’m pleased we can close this chapter,” he said, “and look ahead to the important challenges and opportunities that face Penn State.”
—In addressing “a few key details” of the agreement, he mentioned that the $60 million fine imposed on Penn State “remains in the state of Pennsylvania, first and foremost.” Of that, $48 million goes to the Commonwealth, and the other $12 million “will remain at Penn State, to create an endowment, which is a long-term investment in [programs] … to help eradicate child abuse.”
—Asked about the fate of the Paterno statue, and other calls for Penn State to honor Joe Paterno’s career, Barron said: “Those who know me know that I prefer not to talk about things that will be a topic of discussion [publicly] … before chatting with lots of people. [But] there will be a time and place.”
—Asked what becomes of the Big Ten sanctions, including the sharing of football bowl revenues, Barron pointed out that the Big Ten is a party to the Athletics Integrity Agreement that will be renegotiated under the terms of the settlement. “I will discuss it with my fellow presidents,” Barron said. “They’re expecting that discussion to occur.”
—Barron was asked if, with the 2012 consent decree now erased, this might be a good time for academia to take a fresh look at the NCAA and its powers. “Hindsight is a fascinating thing,” Barron began. “I’ve talked to many of my fellow presidents, and did so to my ACC representative when I was at Florida State, suggesting that the NCAA moved too quickly. At the same time, they came to their decisions with the best possible motive—of not wanting to have such things occur, and with the notion that they had a responsibility to look … at institutional control. I see little purpose in trying to fault them.”
—He was asked to talk about how much communication there was with the Board of Trustees in the negotiations with state officials and the NCAA. He wouldn’t say much, except that “I hear frequently from my trustees, and that’s a good thing … but negotiation of details is first and foremost with the attorneys. … Then, when you have a sense of what agreement is possible, that’s the best time to bring it to the board. Then they can make the best possible decision. And, as you can see, the vote was unanimous.” He added that the negotiations were going on “right up to that moment,” presumably meaning right up until the start of the trustees’ meeting this afternoon.
—Asked again about the Paterno statue, he said: “Same answer. [I’m a] boring guy. There’ll be a good time and place.”
—In November, President Barron said he was committed to personally reviewing the Freeh Report. At today’s news conference he said today’s events don’t change that plan. “I am very appreciative that we’ve hit a tremendous milestone today, and that’s what we’re going to focus on,” he said, “but I don’t think my responsibilities change.”
—Asked if he had a message for students who might be inclined to celebrate today’s news, he referred to the spontaneous—but peaceful—rally that took place when Penn State’s bowl eligibility was restored last fall. “Our students acted with a high level of enthusiasm but with a great deal of respect,” Barron said, “and although I think I told you I was always worried about such an activity, I was very pleased by their behavior. And I’m hoping from every inch of my body that I can be equally proud today. This is something to be very happy about; this is not something that should promote destructive behavior in any way, shape, or form.”
Tina Hay, editor
Keith Masser ’73 stuck to the script when he opened the Penn State Board of Trustees meeting today, saying he had some good news to report: that Penn State’s World Campus scored a No. 1 ranking in the U.S. News rankings of online programs.
But a few moments later, President Eric Barron took the podium and announced the day’s truly big news: that Penn State, the NCAA, and state officials had reached a tentative agreement to roll back the sanctions against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. And not long after that, the trustees voted unanimously to approve the agreement.
The NCAA issued a news release spelling out the terms of the agreement, the major points being that (1) 112 vacated wins—111 belonging to Joe Paterno, and one to Tom Bradley ’78—are restored (or, to quote a tweet by Charles Thompson of the Harrisburg Patriot-News, “And move over Bobby Bowden!”), and (2) the $60 million in fine money stays in Pennsylvania.
But State Sen. Jake Corman ’93, in a Harrisburg news conference, was more blunt: “The consent decree is hereby repealed,” he said, and “all remaining sanctions against Penn State are voided.” You can read a news release from Corman’s office here.
The trustees’ vote on the settlement was quick, with no discussion or debate before the roll-call vote, and the vote was unanimous.
Trustee Anthony Lubrano, who invited reporters to an impromptu news conference in the hallway outside the meeting—while the meeting was still in progress, with President Barron giving a report—said that the agreement isn’t perfect, but is still a win overall.
A point of contention with some in the Penn State community had been the possibility that, in order to see a rollback of the sanctions, the university would have to acknowledge that the NCAA had the right to impose the sanctions in the first place. The wording of the agreement appears to be very carefully phrased in that regard; it says that “Penn State acknowledges the NCAA’s legitimate and good faith interest and concern regarding the Jerry Sandusky matter.”
The restoration of Paterno’s wins has already prompted calls to return the Paterno statue to its spot outside Beaver Stadium. Corman, asked about it at his news conference, said it’s a decision for Penn State to make, but added, “In my personal opinion,” it should be put back. Lubrano also called for the university to return the Paterno statue, suggesting Homecoming might be a good target date.
The Paterno family issued a statement calling today “a great victory for everyone who has fought for the truth in the Sandusky tragedy.” The advocacy group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship was less pleased, thanking Sen. Corman and state Treasurer Rob McCord but adding, “Unfortunately, we cannot support an agreement that does not require the NCAA to acknowledge its wrongdoing.”
Penn State has posted a news release about today’s settlement announcement, with comments from President Barron and Chair Masser. Barron, Masser, and attorney Frank Guadagnino ’78 will speak with the media after today’s meeting.
Tina Hay, editor
If we were really going to do Meya Bizer justice, we would have found someone for her to tackle.
Alumni Association members will find Bizer on page 23 of our Jan/Feb 2015 issue, where she’s the lead story in our sports section. She’s a senior and star on Penn State’s powerhouse women’s rugby team, winners of the last three national collegiate championships and nine titles overall. The consensus college player of the year in each of the past two seasons, she’s also the youngest member of the U.S. women’s national rugby team.
But about that photo on page 23: There’s Bizer in full stride, pitching a perfect pass at (or, hopefully, just above) our photographer’s camera. Bizer is an all-around talent, so we might accurately have shown her displaying all sorts of rugby skills. But if we’d really wanted to capture what sets her apart, we would have convinced some poor, unwitting soul to let Bizer use them as a tackling dummy.
We could have volunteered ourselves, of course. But we know better.
The hit against West Chester, around the :55 mark? You can feel that one through your screen.
With form that Nittany Lion linebackers might envy, Bizer has become the biggest hitter in her sport. The gridiron comparison is intentional: Bizer went out for football in middle school, was the placekicker on her high school team and even earned a scholarship to play for the University of St. Mary, a tiny college in Kansas. But along the way she fell in love with rugby, ultimately transferring to Penn State for a chance to be a part of the Lions’ burgeoning dynasty.
Bizer was her typically dominant self last month as Penn State hammered rival Norwich to win the USA Rugby Division I fall championship. The Lions are heavy favorites for a 10th national title this spring, and while Bizer isn’t the only reason—the Penn State roster is loaded with talent—she’s probably the biggest. Certainly, she’s the most impactful.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
I’ve been thinking a lot about yesterday’s historic announcement that the U.S. and Cuba are taking steps to normalize relations. It’s huge news, on so many levels—not the least of which is tourism.
For decades, the U.S. prohibited its citizens from traveling to Cuba except under certain circumstances, such as academic research. (Penn State Hemingway scholar Sandy Spanier ’76g, ’81g and telecommunications expert John Spicer Nichols have who’ve been to Cuba many times, for example.) More recently, the U.S. government began allowing citizens to visit under specially licensed “people to people cultural exchanges.” I went on one such exchange in 2012 via the Santa Fe Photo Workshops, and the Alumni Association has offered several trips under a similar umbrella. Our former senior editor Lori Shontz ’01, ’13g went on one such Penn State trip and wrote about it here.
Basically, the people-to-people trips have a heavy emphasis on understanding the culture—on my trip, for example, we visited a dance school and a boxing academy, and interacted a lot with Cuban photographers. On other trips you might visit a school, an orphanage, or a tobacco farm. (I remember that on our trip there was talk of visiting a cockfight, and when some of us grimaced at the thought, the Santa Fe Photo Workshops guy chastised us, saying, “You’re here to experience, and photograph, what is uniquely Cuban.” He was right—but, nevertheless, I was glad when the cockfight plans fell through.)
Yesterday’s announcement doesn’t exactly throw the doors wide open for U.S. tourists. It’s not like you’ll be able to book a flight from Dulles to Havana on USAirways anytime soon. People-to-people cultural exchanges are still the only legal way to get there. But a few things will change: For one, you’ll soon be able to take your credit cards and ATM card with you. Currently, U.S. travelers have to figure out how much money they’ll need for everything—hotel, meals, taxis, admission fees, you name it—and take that amount in cash. That’s because U.S.-issued ATM and credit cards won’t work in Cuba; just one example of the embargo. That’s changing—although Cuba is still a pretty cash-oriented society anyway.
Another change is that Cuban cigars and Cuban rum will soon be legal in the U.S. Not that anyone will be selling them in retail stores, but people who visit Cuba can now bring back up to $100 in alcohol and/or tobacco products.
The backstory leading up to yesterday’s announcement is interesting, and familiar to anyone who’s already visited Cuba. We heard a lot when we were down there about the five-decade history of the embargo, about Fidel Castro, about the prospects that Fidel’s brother Raul might take less of a hard line with the U.S., about what everyday life for Cubans is like under communism. There was talk even back then that President Obama would move to normalize relations in his second term. We also heard a lot about Alan Gross, whose imprisonment in Cuba has been a huge bone of contention with the U.S.—and likewise about the “Cuban Five,” whose imprisonment in the U.S. has been a huge bone of contention with Cuba. Yesterday, Gross and the remaining three of the Cuban Five were all released.
Cuba estimates that 100,000 U.S. citizens already visit the island nation every year, and that number is sure to go up as the restrictions are eased. It’ll surely skyrocket if the travel embargo is eventually lifted completely. And I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. There’s something very special and unspoiled about Cuba, and hordes of U.S. tourists could easily change that. It makes me want to go back—and soon, before the place is changed forever. Whatever the case, it seems certain that a new era is about to begin.
Tina Hay, editor
‘Tis the season for deep-pitched brass instruments, apparently.
Last Thursday I went to see the Penn State Trombone Choir do its annual Christmas concert in Eisenhower Chapel. The next day, the Alumni Association had its annual holiday party, and the entertainment turned out to be … the Penn State Trombone Choir! (Or a subset of it, anyway.) Then, on Saturday, I saw a notice on Facebook about something called TubaChristmas, a free performance to take place that afternoon in the Business Building Atrium on campus, so I figured, “Why not?”
Turns out that TubaChristmas happens all over the world every year, and has been going on since 1974. There’s been a TubaChristmas at University Park since the 1980s, I think, and this year marked the 13th TubaChristmas at Penn State Behrend. Basically, all local tuba and euphonium players (a euphonium is similar to a tuba, only smaller) are invited to join in a program of Christmas carols arranged specifically for those instruments. Here’s a short clip of them playing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” in the Business Building on Saturday:
The woman conducting the 35-some players is Velvet Brown of the Penn State School of Music faculty. We profiled her in the magazine some years back. Since Saturday, I’ve discovered that she conducts the Penn State Tuba/Euphonium Studio in other specialty concerts during the year, like OctTUBAFest and TUBAWEEN. Who knew?
Saturday’s performance included not only Penn State students but also people from the community—there was at least one 11-year-old and one 14-year-old among the musicians, and the prize for the oldest performer went to a guy who’s 78.
Below are a few photos from Saturday’s concert.
Tina Hay, editor