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
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
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
In a busy and often contentious five-hour meeting Friday afternoon at the Penn Stater Hotel, the Board of Trustees ended months of heated debate by adopting a proposal to expand the board’s membership to 36 voting members. The board also voted to postpone action on a proposal to join a lawsuit against the NCAA—news that was tempered Saturday by the announcement that President Eric Barron will personally conduct a review of the Freeh Report.
The governance changes passed on a 16-9 vote, with the nine alumni-elected trustees voting against expanding the board. Under the approved proposal, the board will now include 38 trustees, 36 of whom will have voting rights. The new additions will include a student trustee, an academic trustee nominated by the Faculty Senate, and the immediate past president of the Alumni Association. In addition, there will be three at-large trustees elected by the board. All new trustees will begin their terms in July 2015.
Opponents of the board argued that a larger board would be too complex to function efficiently. Alumni trustee Al Lord ’67 was representative of his fellow elected board members when he said, “I find it hard to believe that a 30 to 40 member board will be effective. That certainly has not been the case.” The addition of the Alumni Association seat was particularly contentious for some, with Alice Pope ’79, ’83g, ’86g among those arguing that the seat created a potential conflict of interest. Alumni trustee Anthony Lubrano ’82 also argued the board should heed the request of state senators Jake Corman ’93 and John Yudichak ’93, ’04g to hold off on reforming the board until the recently elected gubernatorial administration was in office.
The majority cited the board makeup of peer institutions, some of which have dozens more members than Penn State’s, as proof that there was nothing inherently problematic in increasing the membership. Business and industry trustee Rick Dandrea ’77 said, “I think our board functions well on a wide range of issues. We have disagreements on a very few important issues. On this issue, our board function is not what it should be because we have a majority and minority agenda. I don’t think it has anything to do with size.”
After the vote, board chair Keith Masser ’73 called the expanded board “a more comprehensive reflection of the Penn State community.”
Given the established voting lines on the board, it was the expected outcome from a long and increasingly tense afternoon session. Citing threats made toward some board members, the university increased security for the meeting; visitors passed through a metal detector, and as many as two dozen officers from the State College and Penn State police departments were visible in the conference room, in the hallway outside, and outside the hotel entrances. Masser opened the meeting with a reference to outbursts at the board’s Oct. 28 special meeting, when three audience members were removed from the room, and reminded the standing-room crowd that “members of the public are here as observers, not as participants.”
Some of those observers got their chance to participate at the public comment segment, and about half of the 10 listed speakers used their time to upbraid the appointed trustees involved in the dismissal of Joe Paterno and the acceptance of the Freeh Report. That session followed a proposal from Lubrano that Penn State join Sen. Corman’s lawsuit against the NCAA. That proposal, inspired by the release of emails last week highlighting apparent conflicts in the NCAA’s handling of sanctions in the wake of the Freeh Report, was voted down, 14-10, but not before alumni trustee Bob Jubelirer ’59, ’62g argued that “with all that’s going on, to kick it down the road to January, I think we’re making a terrible, terrible mistake.” Gubernatorial appointee Kathleen Casey ’88 countered that the board would be better served by having more time to consider the resolution and revisit it at the next scheduled meeting in January.
On Saturday, President Barron added an unexpected twist with the announcement that he would “conduct a thorough review of the Freeh Report and supporting materials produced during the course of the investigation.” Barron’s statement offered no timetable for the review, but noted that he “assured the board I would move with all deliberate speed.”
Barron’s scheduled address Friday focused on student engagement, a topic he addressed last week in an open forum with students at the Hintz Family Alumni Center. Barron highlighted the many reasons that more engaged students—those who study abroad, intern, take leadership roles, and have the opportunity for one-on-one engagement with faculty—have better GPAs and make stronger candidates for internships and jobs. His proposals for improving the environment for student engagement ranged from the creation of an engaged student medal to greater funding for international experiences. He noted, “Just going in and out of class is no way to go through this university.”
Executive VP and Provost Nicholas Jones address trends in faculty makeup, particularly the decades-long rise in non-tenure-track faculty. While acknowledging concerns about about the decline in tenure-track professors, Jones highlighted a number of non-track instructors whose work has been honored for teaching and research awards.
University scholarship was also highlighted Friday, with presentations from Schreyer Honors College Dean Chris Brady, Eberly College of Science Dean Daniel Larson (highlighting the Millennium Scholars Program) and Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. Welch focused on the Paterno Fellows program, and her presentation included clips from a 2009 video of Joe and Sue Paterno ’62 explaining their inspiration for the program they endowed.
You can find information on additional items from Friday’s agenda here.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Michael Berube handled the introduction, emphasizing his guest’s rare standing as a giant in both the fiction and non-fiction worlds—”not just an acclaimed and accomplished writer,” said Berube, the literature professor and director of Penn State’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, “but also a brilliant contemporary critic.” He went on, and one got the impression Berube could’ve talked about Margaret Atwood all afternoon.
Instead, he ceded the stage to one of his literary heroes, a woman whose career seems to justify such a gushing intro. Atwood was in town this week to accept the IAH’s 2014 Medal for Distinguished Achievement. (You can read more about the award, and find a list of past winners, here.) She’s best known as a Booker Prize-winning author, but is much more than “just” a giant of modern literature: poet, children’s book author, environmentalist and, as she showed Wednesday, a dryly hilarious speaker.
Her speech was titled “Genre and Gender,” and it covered the history, evolution, and often complicated intersection of the two in literature both classic and obscure. I think I wasn’t alone in not always following exactly where Atwood was going, but I laughed a lot, and thought about more than a few things I’d never considered—for example, the gender themes in The Wizard of Oz, where all the “whole,” powerful characters are female, and the men are cowardly, unfeeling, brainless, or frauds. Like so much of Atwood’s writing, it was sharp, often funny, and nearly always compelling.
Her newest book, the novel MaddAddam, is the third in a trilogy that she described as “a fictional saga set in the near future, on this planet, and within the realm of possibility.” (The trilogy is set for an HBO adaptation.) Like much of her fiction, it’s described as dystopian, a mix both gloomy and funny of science fiction and science that’s perhaps not so fictional after all. It’s here, in the overlap of observation and speculation, especially about the environment, that Atwood’s work holds so much power. As she said Wednesday, she’s fond of posing (and answering) the question: “Do you really want to go there? If not, change the road.”
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Two very different cinematic responses to the Sandusky Scandal will premiere this weekend at the State Theatre in downtown State College.
Friday night sees the debut of Happy Valley, a documentary from director Amir Bar-Lev billed as “the story behind the Penn State scandal.” Best known for his films My Kid Could Paint That and The Tillman Story, Bar-Lev filmed in and around State College for a year following Jerry Sandusky’s arrest; the end result is an attempt to explore the scandal’s aftermath, and the climate that allowed it to happen in the first place. Sue ’62, Jay ’91 and Scott Paterno ’97, ’00g were all interviewed and feature prominently in the film, which will be available through iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play and other digital platforms on Nov. 21.
The People’s Joe debuts Saturday evening, and as the title implies, its focus is the life and legacy of Joe Paterno. It’s the third post-scandal documentary from the State College-based Porterfield Group, which also produced The Joe We Know and 365 Days: A Year in Happy Valley. The film traces Paterno’s life from his Brooklyn childhood to his decades at Penn State through archival footage and interviews with former players, fans, and friends. DVDs of the film are available to purchase at peoplesjoe.com.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
For nearly 10 years, Justin Brown ’03 has suffered from an incurable disorder that he and his family attribute to a surgery gone wrong. Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome is a nervous system disorder that causes extreme, chronic pain; Justin told the Ambler Gazette that the pain he feels “is bone-crushing; I feel like my bones are being crushed throughout my body.”
A benefit to raise money for Justin’s therapy will be held this Saturday, Nov. 15, in his home town of Fort Washington, Pa.
After complications from a 2006 surgery, Justin and his family spent years and more than $600,000 searching for a diagnosis and relief for him. They haven’t found a cure for his pain, but according to the Gazette story, they have discovered that warm water therapy is the best next step for his treatment.
“This is really just a dire, dire situation at this point,” his mother, Joan told the Gazette. “Everything is an issue and everything is hard and the only thing that can help is to get warm water therapy until medicine catches up.”
The nearest location with warm water therapy is located 45 minutes from the Browns’ house, and the journey is difficult for Justin to handle. The family is looking to install a warm water pool in their home, an addition that would cost about $85,000. This Saturday, they’ll hold a benefit from noon to 4 p.m. at Magerks, 582 S. Bethlehem Pike, in Fort Washington. The benefit will feature live music and a free buffet, and the football game against Temple will be shown.
For those who can’t attend the benefit, donations can be made on Justin’s youcaring.com page.
Mindy Szkaradnik, intern