Posts filed under ‘Famous Penn Staters’
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
To describe him merely as a designer of book jackets is pretty inadequate—something I discovered some years back when I was speaking to a group of Lion Ambassadors and telling them about some famous Penn Staters. I said, “And then there’s Chip Kidd, probably the world’s foremost book-jacket designer,” and they all looked at one another as if I had scraped pretty far down the barrel to come up with that one.
But the reality is that he’s pretty much legendary in the design world, and that in his career at Alfred A. Knopf he’s worked with some big-name authors (including Michael Crichton, John Updike, and Oliver Sacks), and that he’s a terrific speaker—not only inspirational but also funny as hell. If you’ve got 17 minutes to spare, watch his 2012 TED talk and you’ll see.
Anyway, I went out to the Penn Stater conference center last week to hear Chip speak at the Forum Luncheon, and he didn’t disappoint. I’m not going to try to give you a comprehensive overview of his talk, but here are a few nuggets:
—He referred to his more-than-25-year career at Knopf as “technically, still my first job out of school.”
—He summed up his philosophy of design in a quote from Samuel Beckett: “Try. Fail. Try Again. Fail Better.”
—He showed the evolution of some of his book-jacket designs and talked about the many layers of people who have to approve the design. He was surprised that his design for Oliver Sacks’ The Mind’s Eye (shown here) wasn’t shot down by the reps who would be out selling the book: ”All it takes is one sales rep to say, ‘It looks like O. Liver Sacks,’ and it’s dead.”
—Someone asked where he got his loud striped jacket. “Four British schoolboys gave their lives so I could have this jacket,” he answered. “Well done, lads.” (Actually, he said, he saw it hanging in the window at a Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.)
—He talked a lot about the education he got at Penn State, and one piece of advice from Lanny Sommese, head of the university’s graphic design program, stood out for me: ”Lanny taught me that the better you understand a problem, the closer you are to the solution.”
—Asked if he ever met Julia Child (one of the authors Knopf published), he straightened his shoulders and said, proudly, “I once got Julia Child a Diet Coke.”
—He talked about two upcoming projects: One is a book about design for kids, the other is a book version of author Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech, a commencement speech last year at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. And Kidd quotes a thought from Gaiman’s speech that really jumped out at me. It’s about freelance designers, but it applies to all of us in the working world, I think:
People keep working, in a freelance world … because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They’ll forgive the lateness of the work if it’s good, and if they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.
Kidd talked about the challenge of turning a graduation speech into a book, especially when you can already watch the speech on YouTube or read a transcript of it online. But, judging from the images he shared from the book (which is due out in May), I suspect it’ll do just fine.
One of Chip Kidd’s next speaking engagements is an Alumni Association “City Lights” event in New York City on May 9. Information about that is here.
Tina Hay, editor
Have you seen trailers for The Call?
A teenage girl is walking through a parking garage when she’s suddenly captured by a shadowy figure and thrown into a car’s trunk. From there, she makes a frantic call (the call?) to a 911 operator, played by Halle Berry. The rest of the commercial is a dark, jolty montage of breaking glass, ringing phones, and screaming. So, basically, all the ingredients for any good action thriller.
Turns out, there’s a Penn Stater behind The Call. Bradley Gallo ’99 is head of production and development for Troika Pictures, the movie’s producer. Gallo has also worked in TV, including a stint as associate producer for Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN.
The movie stars Berry and Abigail Breslin (remember the cute little girl from 2007’s Little Miss Sunshine?) and opens Friday. The Call is already getting good reviews, like this one from The Hollywood Reporter.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
Seems like every October, I go to the Alumni Fellows dinner half-thinking, “Here comes another banquet” … and every year I come away impressed with the people being honored and the heartfelt things they say. Tuesday night was no exception.
In the course of the evening, the Alumni Association and the academic colleges honored 19 Penn Staters—men and women who have accomplished some pretty cool things. There was a guy who commissions new operas for the Metropolitan Operas, a guy who worked with Penn State to develop a better softbox for pole vaulting, the co-founder of a national patient-advocacy organization, and lots more.
The themes that echoed throughout their remarks were humility and gratitude and, especially, pride in Penn State. In some ways it felt perfectly normal and ordinary to hear people say how much Penn State has meant to them, but then you realized how good it felt to hear those things after the year we’ve all been through.
The best-known of the honorees was probably (more…)
Someone posted a terrific link to the Alumni Association’s Facebook page last night (thank you, Nick Skias, whoever you are), and I wanted to pass it along to you.
It’s a video about the commissioning on Oct. 6 of the USS Michael Murphy, the Navy’s newest destroyer. The ship is named for Michael Murphy ’98, a Navy SEAL who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005 and who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in that fatal battle.
The video covers much more than the commissioning ceremony in New York harbor. It captures a bit of who Michael Murphy was and shows you his parents’ grief and their obvious pride. It also takes you to Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island, where, the day before the commissioning ceremony, the crew members of the Michael Murphy paid a visit to the grave of the man whose name is on their ship.
I love the fact that the ship will be known informally by Murphy’s own nickname: Crew members say they’ll tell others that they’re serving on “The Murph.” And I about lost it when, in the video, Murphy’s mom gestures toward his headstone and tells the crew in her unmistakeable Long Island accent: “Thank you for not forgettin’ my Mike.”
You can read more from the photographer/videographer about the making of the video here. And Murphy’s hometown newspaper (he grew up in Patchogue, N.Y.) has some cool photos of the ship’s interior here.
Tina Hay, editor
Remember the July/August 2011 issue featuring Rosey Grier ’56 H&HD?
The cover shot was a play on Rosey’s Forrest Gump-like ubiquity in American history. From a friend to Jackie and Robert Kennedy in the 1960s, to a frequent guest star in ’70s sitcoms, to a player in the O.J. Simpson trial in the mid-’90s, Rosey just seems to pop up everywhere.
So it shouldn’t have surprised me, really, when Rosey’s name surfaced in a Wired magazine feature I read yesterday afternoon. The story explains the unlikely way the CIA helped smuggle six American embassy workers out of Iran in 1980. The plan was fascinatingly elaborate; the Americans were disguised as a Canadian film crew for a fictional production company, supposedly scouting out locations in Tehran for a fake sci-fi flick. It’s the true story behind Ben Affleck’s new movie, Argo, which opens today.
Where does Rosey Grier fit in? Well, the escape plan was so detailed that the fake movie required a real script. A Hollywood makeup artist hired by the CIA suggested a project he’d been approached about months earlier — a big-budget adaptation of a zany fantasy novel called Lord of Light, complete with robots, spaceships, and levitating cars. One of the film’s prospective stars: Rosey Grier.
The real movie fizzled out during the production stage in 1979, but the script, with its painstakingly detailed scenes and concept drawings, was a perfect candidate for the CIA’s ruse.
Makes me wonder if Rosey’s name comes up in Argo. Planning to see the movie this weekend? Let us know if Rosey gets a mention at email@example.com.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
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.
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
A pair of interesting stories in the Carlisle, Pa., newspaper caught my eye this week. The home where famous siblings Frank, John Jr., and Jean Craighead grew up is still standing, and there’s a move afoot to preserve it.
The 120-year-old Victorian house in South Middleton Township, Cumberland County, was where the three siblings first learned to love nature—a love that would inspire their careers. All three went on to attend Penn State; Frank ’39 and his twin brother, John ’39, would become renowned wildlife scientists and conservationists working in the Rocky Mountains, while Jean Craighead George ’41 became an award-winning writer of nature-oriented books for young adults (My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves being her best-known).
John Craighead is still living; Frank died in 2001; and Jean Craighead George died this past May—her obit will appear in our Nov-Dec issue.
And below is something I found from our 2004 profile of Jean Craighead George: a sidebar in which she listed her own favorites of the more than 100 books she had written. Click on it to get a bigger version that you can actually read.
Tina Hay, editor
It’s not often that scripted television makes me laugh out loud. As a full-fledged reality TV junkie, I’m far more likely to crack up watching the latest Real Housewives blowout or a melodramatic rose ceremony on The Bachelor.
So you can imagine my shock when I found myself in hysterics during Key and Peele, a new sketch comedy show on Comedy Central. The sketches are smart — politically incorrect, but not mean-spirited. And both title stars are very, very funny.
Some of our readers might remember that the “Key” in the title is a Penn Stater: Keegan-Michael Key ’96g earned his MFA at Penn State, and doubly cool, he’s buddies with Ty Burrell ’97g, from ABC’s Modern Family. Both actors have roots in Utah. In this interview from The Salt Lake Tribune, Key mentions their connection, and Burrell made a cameo in a recent Key and Peele sketch.
Key and Peele premiered in January, and it’s been earning rave reviews, like this one from the Los Angeles Times. It airs Tuesdays at 10:30 on Comedy Central.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
It was a perfect night for Rick Santorum.
The former Pennsylvania senator once again shook up the race for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday, winning the Minnesota and Colorado caucuses and the Missouri primary in a single night. With presumed frontrunner Mitt Romney still struggling to convince social conservatives to get behind him, the sweep by Santorum ’80, ’86g further muddied what many had seen as a clear-cut GOP nominating contest.
What Santorum’s victories mean for the long haul remains up for debate. Results in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri are “non-binding,” so Santorum didn’t actually secure a single delegate. But those three wins give Santorum undeniable momentum for upcoming primaries, and also bode ill for Romney even if he ultimately secures the nomination.
For his part, Santorum insists he’s thinking bigger than his party’s nomination. “I don’t stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney,” he said Tuesday night. “I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.”
Ryan Jones, senior editor