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Penn State, Michigan State Compete for Blood

Ashley Tidd, left, rests after donating blood. A room in the Hintz Family Alumni Center was full of Penn State students donating blood to the American Red Cross on Tuesday afternoon to compete with Michigan State’s blood drive.

The first floor of the Hintz Family Alumni Center was in rare form Wednesday, as it was transformed from its usual serene and studious atmosphere to a bustling blood donor room –– complete with the aromas of Papa John’s pizza and cookies wafting out the doors.

In its 19th annual Penn State vs. Michigan State University blood drive competition, the Penn State Student Red Cross Club scrambled to get the blood drive back in order after Superstorm Sandy caused dangerous weather in the State College area on Monday, forcing the blood drive to end around 1:30 that afternoon. The blood drive resumed Tuesday, with a heightened sense of competition –– Penn State is losing to Michigan State, with the score standing at 202-373 in successful donations as of Friday morning. But there’s plenty of time for catching up, as the competition between Penn State and Michigan State is set to continue through Nov. 15. (For the record, Penn State has won the yearly competition twelve times; Michigan State, six).

As if that isn’t enough competition, other Penn State organizations, both big and small, compete for the Alpha Epsilon Delta “blood cup” trophy, which is given to the org that provides the most donors during the drive. Anyone who donates to the Red Cross also gets a free T-shirt and a coupon to a downtown State College business.

“What’s really fun is, we’re all driven by competition,” says Divya Ghorpade, vice president of the Penn State Student Red Cross. “But at the end of the day, no matter who wins, it’s all going toward a great cause. It’s fun that competition can drive something so good.”

Ashley Tidd, a junior studying international politics, was lying on a hospital bed Wednesday after donating blood, looking a little weary but overall feeling OK (the whole process takes about one hour). She admits the free T-shirt incentive might have lured her in, but it’s ultimately the good cause and sense of competition that spurred her to donate.

“I’ve never done it before, so I figured I should try it,” she says. “Beating Michigan State is another incentive.”

So what does Penn State receive if we beat Michigan State in the blood drive this year?

“We just get pride,” says Ghorpade with a laugh. “We get to say we won.”

-Erika Spicer, Intern

November 2, 2012 at 11:10 am 1 comment

Why We Dance: The Story of THON

A documentary screening doesn’t sound like the first thing a college student would do at 10 p.m. on a Friday. So when I saw a plethora of THON student volunteers pour into the State Theatre on Friday night––many sporting dresses, high heels, ties, and slacks, no less––you could say I was surprised.

Students at the Bryce Jordan Center make the trademark diamond symbol during THON weekend — an image captured in the documentary that will debut this Thursday.

But the featured documentary,Why We Dance: The Story of THON, helps to explain what 15,000 Penn State students devote themselves to every year––the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, Penn State’s Interfraternity / Panhellenic Dance Marathon (otherwise known as THON). That’s a reason to dress up.

Why We Dance chronicles the year-round efforts put toward Four Diamonds families and the 46-hour dance marathon, which, since 1977, has raised about $88 million dollars for pediatric cancer.

THON is a culture of its own. If you walk down College Avenue and see dozens of people sporting Penn State shirts and sweatpants, you’ll see that many people wearing THON gear, too. I recently noticed that almost 200 of my Facebook friends posted the THON 2013 promo video, especially when THON “captains” were selected. The energy of these students involved is palpable; Kevin O’Connor, a Rules and Regulations captain sitting next to me in the State Theatre on Friday night, agreed with a laugh that THON volunteers are “a different breed” of people––it’s like they’re perpetually over-caffeinated and just excited about life.

Right before the film began, I heard a student volunteer blurt out that (more…)

September 26, 2012 at 10:01 am 2 comments

Posnanski and Paterno: A Lesson about Reporting

Author and journalist Joe Posnanski, right, discussed his book on Joe Paterno last Friday in the HUB. Malcolm Moran moderated the event.

We asked our intern, Erika Spicer, to attend Joe Posnanski’s talk Friday at the HUB. We’ve read and written so much over the past 10 months about Paterno and his legacy, and we were interested in Erika’s perspective—both as an undergraduate, and in particular as a journalism major. Here’s what she came away with.

As I sat in my plastic chair in Alumni Hall waiting for Paterno author Joe Posnanski to speak, I mulled over the fact I probably wasn’t going to learn anything new.

I am so tired of listening to people rehash the events surrounding Joe Paterno, I thought to myself, feeling a twinge of guilt as I sat among some Paterno supporters. With the release of Paterno in the midst of a new era for Penn State football, I knew where a lot of this discussion was headed Friday afternoon.

As I predicted, questions like, “How do you think Joe Paterno would feel about the NCAA sanctions?” popped up when moderator Malcolm Moran, director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, which sponsored the talk, gave audience members the opportunity to ask Posnanski questions. Not that I could blame them –– after all, Posnanski not only spent (more…)

September 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm 1 comment

Honoring Lt. Michael Murphy, Medal of Honor Winner

For the members of the 2011 Senior Class Gift Committee, the process was just like every other year, planning and fundraising for months—until they sat down to lunch with the family of the late Lt. Michael P. Murphy.

They spent the afternoon reminiscing about Murphy’s time at Penn State: how he always got good grades, loved going to the Rathskeller, and was once chased by a squirrel on the Henderson Mall. They also talked about how Murphy ’98 was humble, how even as a student, he always put others ahead of himself.

He did the same thing as a Navy SEAL. He was killed in Afghanistan during a reconnaissance mission in 2005, but before he died, he exposed himself to the enemy to give his men time to get to safety. (Read more about his heroic efforts here.) He was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration.

Murphy’s family opened up to the committee about their son after learning the forthcoming class gift, a Veterans Plaza, would be constructed near Old Main to honor Penn State veterans and their son, Penn State’s only Medal of Honor recipient. To many veterans and community members, a military memorial on Penn State’s campus was long overdue.

“Having the opportunity to sit down with his family and talk about Michael and his time at Penn State and what the gift would mean to his family—it was very touching,” says Geoff Halberstadt ’11, gift development chair for the Senior Class Gift Committee. “It was really rewarding to see how meaningful this gift was for not only their family, but also other Penn State families. The whole process was just remarkable.”

The committee raised more than $250,000 from students, alumni, and people in the State College community, the highest amount in class gift history.

“Seeing how many students felt a connection to this gift and were willing to give so much to make it one of the better gifts—that made it one of the most successful gifts in the history of the program,” says Ben Witt ’11, overall chairman for the committee.

Murphy, left, is Penn State’s only recipient of the Medal of Honor.

The committee got creative with fundraising for the plaza when they hosted the Warrior Games in 2011 with the Penn State Veterans Organization. The event was based on “The Murph,” which was the workout routine Murphy practiced: a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats, topped off with another one-mile run. “Half Murph” and “Mini Murph” versions of the workout were available for students to participate. Witt says it was one of their most successful events.

After many months of hard work, construction for the plaza, located off the northeast corner of Old Main, is almost complete. It will feature a circular walkway with a stone wall surrounding a representation of a warrior’s shield. With its central location on campus, Witt said the plaza is a convenient spot for students to relax, study or meet with friends.

From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday on the Old Main patio, visitors, alumni, and students can learn more about the plaza and pay respects Murphy. Among the speakers at the dedication ceremony will be President Rodney Erickson, trustee and former Navy SEAL Capt. Ryan McCombie ’70, university archivist Jackie Esposito; and Lt. Murphy’s father, Dan Murphy. Seating is limited, but all are welcome.

Erika Spicer, intern

September 13, 2012 at 10:43 am 3 comments

Introducing Our New Intern

Our intern for this fall semester is senior Erika Spicer. We asked her to introduce herself, and here’s what she wrote:

I remember my parents waking me up at 7 a.m. on fall Saturday mornings. Though groggy and squinty-eyed, I would meticulously pick out my blue and white outfit for the day, stick a few paw print stickers on my cheeks, and secure ribbons in my hair. It would be another football Saturday in Beaver Stadium.

Since before I could remember, my family has spent several weekends each year loading up the car with what seemed like 70 bags of chips, wings, a mini grill, drinks, and Penn State-themed plasticware in preparation for daylong football celebrations. When I wasn’t attending dance lessons or marching on our Bubbler football field –– the fact that my high school mascot is a bubble is another story for another time ­­–– my parents, both spirited Penn State alumni, made sure I was tailgating and rah-rah-ing at Penn State football games. (Humiliating photos of 3-year-old me wearing a Penn State cheerleader uniform are still lurking around the house.)

I loved how grown-ups acted like kids and the half-mile radius of the football stadium was a blanket of blue and white. And when we took a break from tailgating and cheering for the Nittany Lions, we were exploring what I thought was the big city of State College, with convoluted, confusing streets and magical toy stores.

It’s hard to comprehend how much my perception of this place has changed.

I grew up in tiny Carlisle, Pa., where car shows are the annual attraction and the local Walmart is considered a hot spot. Graduating with about 150 classmates, I had friendships that are still not rivaled as I enter my final year at Penn State.

But once I started my freshman year here, the “big city” of State College morphed into a small town, and it felt even more like a second home. The transition was so smooth, and I really understood why my parents always called this place Happy Valley. But nothing is perfect –– so I discovered last November during my junior year.

I was serving as an editor at The Daily Collegian when the Sandusky case broke. Even when I didn’t want to, I had to know every sickening detail of the case that was released and, when necessary in my role as an editor, be critical of my second home. I don’t know how long I’ve known the name Joe Paterno, mostly because I don’t know if I ever didn’t know it. Like many other alumni and students, I felt as if my community had shattered.

I’ve had only a handful of classes so far this semester, but three of my professors have already given the “good decision-making” lecture; partying and drinking just isn’t worth it, they say, because our university’s reputation is at stake. To work at The Penn Stater, I had to fill out an agreement form stating whether I knew anything about suspected abuse on campus. As we were warned, things are changing.

These are reminders of what has happened in the past year. But I still can’t shake the feeling I had as my parents drove me down Atherton Street for my last college move-in day. I felt giddy, finally being reunited with the infectious energy of this place. As a journalist, I’m always looking for all sides of the story. I know some bad things have happened here. If needed, I’ll cover them. But I’ll also make sure that alumni will stay updated on the lively campus activities and classes. There’s a lot to be proud of, and I’ll be sure to bring that, too, to the forefront this fall.

Erika Spicer, intern

August 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm 3 comments


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