Posts filed under ‘Famous Penn Staters’
Making the grade: In the NCAA’s annual study of graduate rates, Penn State checked in with an 88 percent graduation success rate, seven percentage points above the Division I average. The data includes students who entered between the 2003-04 and 2006-07 academic years. Especially notable: football graduated 85 percent of its players, and men’s and women’s basketball each graduated 100 percent.
Celebrating 50 years: The Pennsylvania Ballet honored its founder, Barbara Weisberger ’45, this week at the opening of its 50th season, and Philadelphia magazine’s Scene column has the scoop—and the photos, including the one at right with Weisberger posing with artistic director Roy Kaiser. The magazine writes: “She told the crowd that she had it all, a family, a career, and a loving husband for 63 years. It was hard, and she wasn’t home a lot, but they supported her love of dance, which she shared with all of us.”
The science of ice cream: Chalk up another success for the Berkey Creamery’s famous ice cream short course. The Phillipine Star covered the journey of Paco Magsaysay, founder of Carmen’s Best Ice Cream, in this story, which details how Magasaysay won the Keeney Award, which, like one of my favorite Creamery flavors, is named for course founder Philip Keeney ’55g. Essentially, Magasaysay was named most likely to succeed. His ice cream, he says, is now “a perfectly balanced product.”
A Paterno in politics? Buzz is growing that Jay Paterno ’91 may run against U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson ’81 for the 5th district Congressional seat. PennLive.com reports that state treasurer Rob McCord urged Paterno to run at the Centre County Democrat Dinner—with Paterno in the audience. “Jay is a smart, capable leader who really wants to help people,” McCord told PennLive.com through a campaign spokesman. “I believe he would win that congressional seat and make a great member of Congress. I’d love to see him get in that race.” Paterno did not comment for the story.
Big tipper: Onward State alerted us to this story from a Kansas City television station about Tamba Hali, who played a big role in Penn State’s 2005 victory over Ohio State. (It’s always a good day to click that link of “The Fumble,” and with Penn State playing Ohio State in the Horseshoe tomorrow night, it’s even more appropriate now.) Hali, now a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, and 15 friends and family members celebrated last week’s victory over the Houston Texans with a meal at a steakhouse. The bill: about $1,800. Hali’s tip: $1,000.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
From news to features, your daily dose of everything Penn State.
A “legend” passes: Larry Foster ’48, a giant of the public relations industry and one of Penn State’s most prominent and dedicated alumni, died Thursday. He was 88. Foster’s great impact on the PR world came in the early 1980s, when he guided Johnson & Johnson’s response to the infamous and still-unsolved Tylenol poisoning of 1982. It remains a case study in the right way to handle a corporate PR crisis. His impact on his alma mater has been similarly profound. Along with his wife, Ellen Miller ’49, Foster was a generous and far-sighted donor to Penn State, and particularly to the College of Communications, where they endowed faculty positions and scholarships and supported renovations to the Carnegie Building. A three-term member of the Board of Trustees, Foster also served as president of the Alumni Association, and was instrumental in creating the Alumni Fellows program.
Courting success: The men’s basketball team held its preseason media day Thursday, and while third-year coach Patrick Chambers wouldn’t be specific about how many wins he’s aiming for, or whether this squad has NCAA tournament potential, he made one thing clear: He likes this team. (more…)
“If it’s a turd, it’s a turd:” That’s the still-irrepressible Matt Millen, explaining why he didn’t shy away from discussing his … let’s be blunt, as he’s always been … awful tenure as president of the Detroit Lions in an NFL Films documentary about his career. (It’s part of the A Football Life series.) Millen talked with David Jones of The Patriot-News about the documentary, and Jones colorfully explained how unusual the NFL Films production is:
What comes across is something fairly rare among major sports figures: A guy with a fiery competitive nature driven by the sizable ego all such competitors must have, yet who speaks evenly and willingly of his failure with as much thoughtfulness and depth as his successes.
Think that’s not unique? Consider the response NBA TV would receive if its documentarians asked Michael Jordan to spend half his bio discussing his abject and continuing pratfall as chief basketball ops exec of the Charlotte Bobcats.
I’m walkin’: I love that I live close enough to campus to walk to work. It’s always beautiful, often peaceful, and good for the environment—I got an emissions waiver because I drove my car so few miles last year. So I wasn’t surprised to see that State College was ranked the No. 2 city for walking to work by MSN Real Estate. (Lots of college towns on that list, BTW.)
Gotta be the shoes: I’ve got a pair of plaid Chuck Taylors for strict fashion purposes, and I have no idea how anyone ever used those flimsy shoes for serious athletic competition. I bet they wouldn’t score very well on the tests that Penn State’s Center for Sports Surface Research does on athletic shoes. Interesting piece here from The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Musical chairs: This is fascinating. The student section for football games is oversold, thanks at least partly to a Ticketmaster glitch, so the athletic department offered some pretty amazing deals to students willing to move their seats for Saturday’s Homecoming game to the Upper South Deck.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
From news to features, your daily dose of everything Penn State.
Icebreaker: When I toured the Pegula Ice Arena back in February, Joe Battista ’83 painted an amazingly vivid picture of all the amenities (a synthetic practice rink! skate-repair rooms! Subway!) that had yet to be built. So checking out this slideshow, posted yesterday on pennlive.com, felt a little like deja vu. So cool to see it all come together.
Sorry, sunbathers: Construction on the HUB-Robeson Center is in full swing, and the bookstore is…on the lawn. While the Barnes and Noble-operated bookstore is undergoing renovations, 28 trailers on the HUB lawn will serve as the temporary location until July, giving former sunbathers and frisbee-lovers plenty of time to catch up on their reading.
Book talk: Speaking of books, two new titles from Penn Staters are making news. Chip Kidd’s latest, Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, is an intro to graphic design for
kidds kids. “I was out of my comfort zone,” Kidd ’86 tells Wired mag in this Q&A. “but it helped me to rethink everything about graphic design again—never a bad thing.” Also, Penn State Harrisburg prof John Haddad‘s new book, America’s First Adventure in China, explores the origins of America’s relationship with China. Haddad researched the book during his Fulbright grant experience in China in 2010-11, where he taught American studies, pop culture and literature at the University of Hong Kong.
Sunrise, sunset: Mount Nittany (@MtNittany) has been sharing some fantastic photos on Twitter lately, like this lovely sunrise, taken by meteorology student Dakota Smith (@weatherdak). Almost makes you want to wake up early and see it in person, doesn’t it? Almost.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
There’s nothing like traveling abroad to make you more aware of culture and politics in different parts of the world. And I experienced that in a big way this year—not just when I traveled with a group of Penn Staters to Bhutan, but after we got back as well.
I’ve mentioned before that one of the highlights of our trip was the chance to meet Bhutan’s chief elections commissioner, who happens to be a Penn Stater. The Alumni Association had invited Kunzang Wangdi ’80g to the Penn State reception at our hotel in the capital city of Thimphu, and even though he had to have been up to his eyeballs with work—the national primary elections were about 10 days away at that point—he showed up. It was a fun and thought-provoking evening, as we peppered him with questions about his country’s very young democracy and also got to hear a bit about his time as a grad student at Penn State.
The election was also of special interest to us because Bhutan’s first democratically elected prime minister—another Penn Stater, Jigmi Thinley ’76g—was up for reelection. Wangdi knows Thinley, as you might imagine; they each earned a master’s of public administration degree under Robert LaPorte at Penn State, and Wangdi worked for Thinley in the Bhutanese government at one time.
I remember Wangdi telling us (as did our travel director from Odysseys Unlimited, Yeshey Wangchuk, who lives in Bhutan) that Thinley might be vulnerable—that his reelection was not a sure thing by any means. And they proved to be right: Although Thinley’s party was one of two to survive the May 31 primaries, it was ousted fairly decisively in the July 13 general election. Thinley is no longer the prime minister; instead, he’s now the head of the opposition party.
It made me want to find out more: How could Thinley, who was so well known internationally as an ambassador of “Gross National Happiness,” who had appeared in a CBS 60 Minutes segment about his charming little nation, been tossed out of office? The answers turn out to be pretty interesting.
From what I’ve been able to read, I get the impression that Thinley’s efforts to put Bhutan on the map internationally, and especially his globe-trotting advocacy for the concept of Gross National Happiness (that sustainability, fulfillment, and other ideals trump commercial growth), didn’t play so well back home. Although Bhutan has done well economically under Thinley, the country has also struggled at times with debt, unemployment, and government corruption—so much so that, according to the BBC, some Bhutanese sarcastically refer to GNH as “Government Needs Help.” That’s not a phrase we ever heard in the course of our 10 days over there, but then again, the locals in any country always put their best foot forward for the tourists, so who knows.
New prime minister Tshering Tobgay says he doesn’t plan to promote Gross National Happiness to other countries the way Thinley did. But Thinley’s work will likely live on: The United Nations now promotes an International Day of Happiness every March, and according to an excellent profile of Thinley in Asia Times, world leaders will gather in Thimphu next June to adopt a New Bretton Woods agreement, further cementing the importance of a happy citizenry in each nation’s economic goals.
The other factor that appears to have hurt Thinley in his reelection bid was an interesting foreign policy move he made in June of 2012. Bhutan’s geographic location is strategically important because it lies right between two rival countries—India and China—and for years Bhutan has been more closely allied with the former than the latter. Bhutan and India signed a friendship treaty in 1947 stipulating that India wouldn’t interfere in Bhutan’s internal affairs, but that Bhutan would look to India for advice on foreign policy. So when Thinley went last year to Rio+20, a UN conference on sustainable development, and met with China’s premier Wen Jiabao while there, India was not pleased. And, when India discontinued its oil and kerosene subsidies to Bhutan right in the middle of the national elections this year, some observers think it was a calculated move to weaken the electorate’s support for Thinley. Whether that’s true or not, it’s clear from reading stories in India-based news media that that country is happy to see Thinley gone. See for example the story called “India Breathes Sigh of Relief as with Elections, Bhutan Returns to the ‘Fold.’“
Meanwhile, it’s not clear what Thinley—whom Penn State has honored as both a Distinguished Alumnus and an Alumni Fellow—will do next. Earlier this week, he resigned from the country’s parliament, and I haven’t been able to figure out what that’s about. (I didn’t even realize that a prime minister could also serve in the parliament.) I’ve set a Google Alert to his name, so I’ll be able to find out what the next chapter in his career will bring.
Tina Hay, editor
A couple of weeks ago, after two days of admiring the art at Icefire Glassworks in Cannon Beach, Ore., my husband and I finally chose a bowl for our anniversary present to each other. Buying something special on summer vacation has become a tradition for us, and the Pacific Northwest, our favorite outdoor playground, has such a great tradition of glass blowers that we’ve recently splurged on some beautiful pieces.
This time, as we filled out the shipping form, one of Icefire’s artists, Jim Kingwell, jumped up from the register and ran to the back of the gallery, where the artists work. This seemed a little odd, until he came back clutching a well-worn paperback book.
“I love meeting people from State College,” he said, smiling.
Why? Because of the book. It’s called Coloured Glasses, and it was written by Woldemar A. Weyl, “Professor, and Head of the Department, of Mineral Technology, Pennsylvania State College.” Kingwell told us the book is the bible for glass blowers, by far the best resource for understanding the properties of colored glass—even today. The book was first published in 1936.
Kingwell loves to talk about the art—and the science—of glass blowing. His gallery is set up so that anyone browsing the glass can watch the artists work, and if he’s not creating himself or assisting one of the other artists, he often comes out to explain the process to onlookers. (If you’re ever visiting the Oregon Coast, which is one of my favorite corners of the country, stop by. It’s fascinating.)
Much of the science, it turns out, comes from Weyl’s book, which Kingwell said was inexplicably out of print for a long time. It took forever for him to track down a copy, and the first time he got his hands on one, he wasn’t allowed to take it out of the Multnomah County Library. That’s because libraries had trouble hanging onto it; Kingwell said Coloured Glasses was, for a time, the book most stolen from libraries. He was allotted 45 minutes with the book and, he said, “I spent all of my money copying it.”
It turns out that Weyl was a glass prodigy in his native Germany, which he left—for a visiting professorship at Penn State—at about the time his soon-to-be classic book was published. He returned for one year to settle his affairs at home, then settled in full-time at Penn State in 1938. This interesting piece by Michael Bezilla ’75g, ’78g calls Weyl a “living legend” in his field.
Kingwell has no doubts. He’s trained in ceramics, but he said if he went back to school, he’d study a different area of materials science—glass. Probably at Penn State.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
In the latest installment of Cool Perks That Come With This Job, I got to spend the better part of yesterday with Jim Stengel ’83g, who is a longtime Procter & Gamble marketing guru, now a fulltime consultant, and a respected thought leader in the business world.
Stengel was last on campus in 2008 to be honored as a Penn State Alumni Fellow, and since then, a few of my colleagues in the Alumni Association have forged an ongoing relationship with him. Someone got the idea to invite him here to spend a day with key Alumni Association staff leaders, talking about how his thoughts and research might apply to our own work.
Stengel is into what some call “purpose-driven marketing.” He talks a lot about purpose, and content, and ideals. The most concise way to describe it is probably what Stengel himself said in the introduction to his 2011 book Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies: he wrote that “…companies with ideals of improving people’s lives at the center of all they do outperform the market by a huge margin.”
That book resulted from a 10-year study involving about 50,000 brands. Stengel identified the top 50 brands that “have created more meaningful relationships with people”—and beat out their competitors financially in the process. The so-called Stengel 50 includes companies ranging from Accenture, Airtel, and Amazon.com to Wegmans, Zappos, and Zara.
During the sessions with the Alumni Association yesterday, Stengel and a brand strategist who works for him, Matt Carcieri (another former P&G guy), talked about why this concept of “ideals” has become so important in today’s business world. One reason, Stengel says, is that it’s what attracts talent: “The companies that are seeking to make the biggest difference in people’s lives are the ones attracting energy, attracting talent.” Carcieri thinks we may also be seeing a little bit of pullback in consumerism. “Now people don’t want to buy things,” Carcieri said; “they want to buy into things.” And Stengel added that the rise of social media has really exposed businesses and brands to the spotlight: “It means that if you’re not authentic, if you’re not coherent, it gets discovered quickly.”
Early on in the discussion, it hit me how lucky I was to have these two guys in our building for a day, to be able to listen to and learn from such respected thinkers. Plus there’s a lot to be said just for pausing once in a while to reflect on what you do. And to have someone ask you questions like, “What was the key thing you learned from the scandal?” and “What’s the burning issue in your strategic plan? What keeps you up at night?” and “Where do you look for inspiration for what you do?”
Over the course of the day, Stengel and Carcieri said a number of things that stuck with me. Some were things I need take to heart in my role as a manager; others were good advice simply in my role as a human being. I thought I’d pass along some of the takeaways, in no special order:
(1) When Stengel explained his ideals-based approach to one group of Alumni Association staff, I thought his words ought to be framed and put on the wall of every manager and every HR person: “People work best when they work with people they love and admire and respect, and are working for a higher ideal.”
(2) Stengel attended a session at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference last month in which the CEOs of successful startups (YouSendIt, Survey Monkey, and others) talked about the importance of focusing on the people working for them. ”Half of their time is spent on talent,” Stengel said of the CEOs. “Recruiting, retention, reward structures, communicating, compensation, Friday meetings. They had a constant finger on the pulse of the organization.”
(3) Stengel recently had a chance to ask the famed investor and business owner Warren Buffett for advice on behalf of a group of corporate CEOs. Buffett told them, perhaps surprisingly, that “The most important decision you make in your life is who you’re going to marry.”
But Buffett’s second piece of advice was pretty good too: “Always surround yourself with people you love, admire, and respect.” Buffett and Brazilian partner Jorge Lemann worked out the $28 billion deal to buy Heinz earlier this year on the basis of a fairly short telephone conversation—”no bankers, no lawyers,” Stengel says. The point: That’s what trust can do for you.
(4) Stengel and Carcieri both talked about the importance of making time to foster creativity. We were talking about how the ongoing institutional crisis at Penn State has made it hard for us in the Association to step away and just brainstorm, and I know that’s been true at The Penn Stater for sure. Stengel said that every organization has trouble finding time for this, but that it’s important. Carcieri said something to the effect that companies can get by, maybe even achieve 2 percent growth, ”just by doing whatever you’re doing. But to get a step-change,” he said, “you need the big lightning bolt.”
Stengel echoed that sentiment. “Are you giving people time to be creative?” he asked. “I’ve seen the power, so often in my career, of opening up people’s creativity a bit more. Expecting it, channeling it, rewarding it.”
(5) At one point Stengel asked us a question about the Alumni Association, a question that I assume he often asks his business clients. It’s one that I think is perhaps useful to ask ourselves on a personal level:
“If you went away tomorrow, what would people miss? What would the world lose?”
Tina Hay, editor
Steven Levy ’74g went to New Zealand to report his latest story for Wired—a tale of how Google is trying to bring Internet access to some pretty remote locations using a pretty wild scheme. It involves putting antennas into solar-power balloons and launching them into the stratosphere. Google calls the idea Project Loon, because it’s kind of crazy. But it just might work.
Levy writes that Project Loon could “provide Internet to a significant chunk of the world’s 5 billion unconnected souls, enriching their lives with vital news, precious educational materials, lifesaving health information, and images of grumpy cats.”
Levy’s story is accompanied by some cool photos of the project.
Tina Hay, editor
USA Today has a sweet story online about the death on Monday of Deacon Jones, one of the L.A. Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” of the 1960s. The story extensively quotes Rosey Grier ’56, who is now the sole living member of that foursome.
“It was a heavy blow for me, like losing a family member,” Grier says of Jones’ death. “We four were family.” Which may seem obvious—but, as the article points out, it was an unusual family for its time: three blacks and a white Mormon. Says Grier: “The four of us set out to prove that it wasn’t about the color of the man, it was about the desire of each individual to work together as a team.”
Something interesting I learned from the story: Despite his nickname, Deacon Jones was not a particularly religious man. It was Grier who encouraged him—even as recently as three weeks ago—to get in touch with his spiritual side.
(We did a cover story on Rosey Grier two years ago; you can read it here.)
Tina Hay, editor
When I tell you that I’ll be leaving in less than a week for Bhutan, I’m guessing you’ll have one of two reactions: either “Where the heck is that?” or “I am sooooo jealous.”
Those have consistently been the responses I’ve gotten when I’ve told people that the Alumni Association has asked me to accompany a group of Penn State travelers on a tour called Bhutan: The Hidden Kingdom. Some people, understandably, have barely ever heard of the place—it’s a small, landlocked Asian country, bounded on the north by Tibet and on all other sides by India. Others, though, know that its location in the Himalayas makes it a place of stunning beauty, and that its Buddhist history and culture make it a fascinating place to visit.
Bhutan has added interest to Penn Staters because its prime minister, Jigme Thinley ’76g, earned his master’s in public administration from Penn State. Thinley was featured in a 60 Minutes segment five years ago on Bhutan and its vision of “Gross National Happiness,” a concept puts such qualities as sustainability and cultural values ahead of economic development.
My colleagues in the Alumni Association who put this trip together (it’s one of about 30 or 40 trips they’re offering this year) had hopes that perhaps our group would be able to arrange a meeting with Prime Minister Thinley. But as it turns out, he’ll be in the thick of campaigning for reelection at the time we’re over there, so we’re not holding out a huge amount of hope for a get-together. Interestingly, Bhutan’s chief election commissioner is also a Penn Stater: Kunzang Wangdi ’80g, who also has his MPA from our College of the Liberal Arts. We have possibly a better chance of meeting him, which would be pretty cool.
The trip involves visiting some of the country’s historic sites, including a lot of dzongs, or Buddhist monasteries. There’s also a rafting trip on the Mo Chu River near Punakha (that’s OK—I never heard of it either), a visit to a place where paper is made by hand, a visit to a center honoring the sacred and endangered black-necked crane, and a trip over the Dochula Pass, described this way on our tour itinerary:
Then we embark on the three-hour drive to the former capital of Punakha via the Dochula pass (alt. 10,000 feet), which affords stunning views of the Himalayas. We stop to follow the sacred tradition of raising prayer flags for peace and wisdom at Dochula, where the bracing winds will help spread the prayers’ spiritual power to all sentient beings.
The big finale of the trip is a hike up to Taktsang Monastery, also called the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. That’s the building clinging to the side of the mountain in the photo at the top of this page. It’s a two-hour hike with a nearly 2,000-foot elevation gain, from about 7,500 feet to more than 10,200 feet. I’m currently trying to tame a bout of plantar fasciitis (heel pain), so between that and the altitude, this oughta be interesting. But I’m determined to hike to the top.
I may try to blog a bit from over there, as our schedule permits. I’ll be curious to see what kind of Internet access we have. There’s one place, for example, about which the itinerary says: “Phobjikha is slowly being electrified, though service can be highly inconsistent. Please be aware that the availability of both electricity and hot water may be limited during our stay.” Hmmm, what do you think are the chances they’ll have wi-fi?
Tina Hay, editor