Ready for Rec Hall: Saturday marks the Nittany Lion basketball team’s long-awaited return to Rec Hall, the program’s home from 1929–96. Penn State faces Princeton in the “Return to Rec” game, which tips off Saturday at 2 p.m., and all but a handful of standing-room seats have been sold. Knowing what a sucker I am for cheap nostalgia, the folks over at the Penn State sports blog Black Shoes Diaries asked me to write about my memories of Rec Hall, where I had front-row seats in ’92-93 and ’93-94, which just happened to be the Lions’ first two seasons in the Big Ten. I was happy to oblige — you can read my BSD guest post here.
Mission to Mars: Rachel Worth, a PhD candidate in astronomy, is in the news for research findings that suggest the massive asteroid that scientists believe wiped out the dinosaurs might also have catapulted primitive life to Mars. As the lead author of a paper published in the journal Astrobiology, Worth writes that rocks big enough to support tiny life forms were likely ejected deep enough into space to reach Mars—and even the moons of Jupiter. (There’s apparently even a word, “panspermia,” to describe organisms that might hitchhike through space on such debris.) As Worth tells the BBC, “I’d be surprised if life hasn’t gotten to Mars.”
Kate the Great: Another day, another Penn State student-athlete recognized as the nation’s best. Today it’s Katie Slay, the senior middle hitter for the No. 2 women’s volleyball team, who has been honored as the Capital One Academic All-America of the Year. This honor comes just two days after all-Big Ten football player John Urschel ’12, ’13g was awarded the “academic Heisman.” Not too shabby. (Oh, and the women face Michigan State tomorrow night in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Good luck, Lions.)
Value for money: Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine has named Penn State one of its 100 Best Values in Public Colleges for 2013–14. The university comes in at No. 41 among public college values for out-of-state students and 53 for in-state students. The ratings consider admission rates, test scores, freshman retention rate, student-faculty ratios, and graduation rates, as well as cost criteria. You can find the complete list here.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
“Academic Heisman” to Urschel: What else is there to say about John Urschel? The “mathematician/guard,” as the headline on this USA Today story called him, received a particularly prestigious honor Tuesday night—the William V. Campbell trophy, given to college football’s top scholar-athlete by the National Football Foundation. (If you need a refresher, one of the earlier long profiles about Urschel, by Frank Bodani of the York Daily Record, is good reading.) Steven J. Hatchell, president and CEO of the National Football Foundation, said that Urschel “represents everything that is right about college football.” At this point, let’s just hear from Urschel ’12, ’13g himself: Click here for this acceptance speech. It is, of course, terrific.
Workin’ on the railroad: I’m not a huge fan of Google alerts, but I will admit that when they work, they are amazing. I did not know that Penn State Altoona is the only university in the country offering a four-year degree in rail transportation engineering until I read this piece from Progressive Railroading, which details the program and why it’s important: “Penn State launched the degree three years ago at the urging of railroad and transit executives who noted the need for more education and training designed for future railroaders.” Three years ago, the program enrolled its first nine students, and with a little word of mouth, they’ve got 19 more freshmen and sophomores.
Health care back in the news: The Faculty Senate met Tuesday, and the hot topic was Penn State’s health care program, which received national attention this fall, first because it used sticks rather than carrots to spur employees toward healthy habits, then because of the controversy over whether employees were required to disclose too much personal information. That program was modified, and the university has appointed a committee to examine the issue, but the Faculty Senate still isn’t thrilled with how the committee is constituted.
Nearing the end: President Rod Erickson seems to be doing a series of end-of-semester interviews; he spoke with with Christian Heilman of the Centre County Report, and an interview with him is the top story in today’s Collegian. He says his final semester as president will be “bittersweet.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Lasting legacy: Penn State students gathered on the Old Main lawn last night to honor Nelson Mandela, who passed away Thursday. The vigil was organized by Penn State’s NAACP chapter, the African Student Association, and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Several students, including ASA member Precious Anizoba, spoke about Mandela’s legacy: “Here was a man who simply set his goals then went out and accomplished them. He had a passion for his work. We risk mediocrity if we do not find and pursue our passions.”
Harrowing details: Last week, we told you about Lone Survivor, an upcoming film based on the mission that took the life of Lt. Michael Murphy ’98, among 18 other American casualties. This morning, NBC’s Today Show featured an interview with Marcus Luttrell, the only Navy SEAL to survive. The details of how the mission (which included a three-hour gunfight) played out are intense, and Luttrell says the movie’s reenactment is accurate — and powerful.
Snow days galore: Lots of snow days for students at Penn State branch campuses this morning, thanks to some serious snow in Southeastern PA. At last count, the Mont Alto, Berks, York, Lehigh Valley, Abington, and Brandywine campuses closed today due to inclement weather. Check @psutxt on Twitter for updates, and stay safe out there.
Splurge control: Here’s some timely research news from Penn State’s S. Shyam Sundar, distinguished professor of communications. According to an online study, long transactions can cause online shoppers to become more impulsive with their purchases, a result of “decision fatigue”— which, for me, goes a little something this: Monogrammed? No. Overnight shipping? No. Gift-wrapped and dipped in chocolate? FINE! Fortunately, according to Sundar’s research, shoppers can regain some self-control when their decisions express their personalities — for instance, when someone concerned about the environment is given eco-friendly options that “affirm their green identity.” Interesting stuff.
Somehow, I managed to let almost three years go by between the first time I photographed a Penn State wrestling dual and the second one. In January 2011, I shot the Penn State-Iowa dual in Rec Hall, and yesterday I spent the afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center photographing the historic meet against Pitt.
Part of what was cool about yesterday’s meet was that the mat was on an elevated platform. Usually the wrestling takes place at floor level, and photographers have to either sit or kneel mat-side for the whole meet. (The really dedicated ones lie on their stomach to shoot.) I had brought one of those Crazy Creek folding portable camp chairs for back support, but when I walked in and saw the chest-high platform, I knew we were in for a different experience. The photographers spent the afternoon bellied up to the edge of the platform; some shot with their elbows on the platform, while others (more…)
We’ve got a hawk of some sort who’s a frequent visitor to the grounds outside the alumni center. Today he (or she?) spent about a half hour on a tree branch outside Ryan Jones’ office, and then it moved to the top of the pergola outside our main entrance, where it sat for another good hour. There were plenty of students walking along the sidewalk below it, but the hawk seemed unconcerned about the students—and vice versa.
I took this photo with my back to the Electrical Engineering Building. The stone building you see is the old president’s house, which is part of the Hintz Family Alumni Center.
As always, click on the photo for a bigger and crisper version.
And if you can ID the species of hawk based on what little is visible here, I’ll be very impressed.
Tina Hay, editor
A record weekend: Senior guard Maggie Lucas scored 30 points Sunday in a 77-68 win at Georgetown, in the process becoming just the fifth player in Lady Lion history to reach 2,000 points. The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and a preseason All-American, Lucas (below) is on pace to pass Kahadeejah Herbert ’86, Tyra Grant ’10, and Susan Robinson Fruchtl ’92 en route to second place on the Penn State scoring list. The school record—2,919 points, set by Kelly Mazzante ’04—is probably safe.
Meanwhile, the top-ranked Nittany Lion wrestlers capped a 2-0 weekend with a 28-9 victory over Pitt—a “home” win, but not in the usual sense. Instead of grappling in their usual Rec Hall digs, the Lions hosted the Panthers in front of 15,996 fans at the Bryce Jordan Center, setting records for both the largest crowd to see an NCAA dual meet and the largest crowd to see a sporting event at the BJC. If you missed it, our resident wrasslin’ expert Lori Shontz ’91 has you covered.
More from Mitchell: Late Friday, former Sen. George Mitchell released his fifth quarterly report on Penn State’s progress in meeting the Athletics Integrity Agreement—and once again, the university received a glowing review. (more…)
For some people, getting ready for a wrestling match in the Bryce Jordan Center probably meant some changes in routine. The ticket office, for instance, had more than double the number of tickets to sell compared to regular old matches in Rec Hall. And the fire marshal apparently had to determine if enough people to break the NCAA record for dual match attendance could fit safely into the BJC.
For the wrestlers and coaches? No big deal, unless you count weighing in at Rec Hall and then taking vans to the match across campus. “A wrestling mat’s a wrestling mat, wherever it is,” coach Cael Sanderson said. “Whether people are watching you or not, you should be the same person.”
That said, Sunday’s 28-9 victory over Pitt at the BJC was hardly routine.
It did have an NCAA atmosphere, with a the mat on a raised platform (“It makes a pretty sweet sound when you pick the guy up and slam him down on it,” said 184-pounder Wes Phipps, who knows because he did it), the wrestlers being followed by a spotlight as they ran onto the mat, where the Nittany Lions’ names were beamed onto the mat (last names except for Nico Megaludis and Zain Retherford, who were apparently too long), and athletic trainer Dan Monthley wearing a tie, the kind of wardrobe adornment he saves for the biggies.
The weather likely kept some fans home—not every seat was filled—but the announced attendance, 15,996, not only broke the NCAA record for a dual-meet crowd (15,955, at a 2008 match between Iowa and Iowa State), but it was also (more…)