The so-called “Great War” is in the spotlight this year, as the world marks the centennial of the start of World War I. For the cover story of our July-August 2014 issue, I talked to Penn State historian Sophie De Schaepdrijver, who has spent much of her career studying the war—its origins, its effects on civilian life, and the changing attitudes people have about its role in history. (That’s the opening spread of our July-August story, above.)
I also asked De Schaeprijver what resources she’d recommend for someone interested in learning more about World War I. We shared five of her suggestions in the magazine; below is a longer, more detailed list.
1. Rites of Spring, a book by Modris Eksteins.“It’s such a great cultural history of the war and what kind of thinking made the war possible. What made people think it was worthwhile? What made them stick it out in the face of so much loss? Those guys on the front came from all walks of life—chicken farmers and teachers, conservatives and socialists, Catholics and Jews—and what is absolutely baffling is how little there was in terms of protest. There’s a saying that behind every soldier is someone holding a gun to his head, but you can’t really say that here—there’s a lot of self-mobilization, people convincing themselves that they should be there.
“Eksteins teases it out, unravels the different strands. It’s a pretty complex book, but accessible and extremely well written. It is the book that sparked my interest in World War I as a societal event, and I return to it quite often.”
2. A Son at the Front, a novel by Edith Wharton. “Probably her least well-known book. It’s written from the perspective of divorced parents whose son is in the war. What I like is that it was pretty much rejected and not seen as an important book, written by a woman, and yet it shows this dual point of view: The parents share this anguish over their son at the front, but they don’t reject the war—they feel it is worth fighting.”
3. Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany, a book by Isabel Hull. “This one is pretty academic [Hull is on the faculty at Cornell University], but I like it a lot. It talks about the German military as an organization that develops a culture of its own, and why that tells us a great deal about the violence of the first World War. It allows you to grasp why the violence could get out of hand like this without having to resort to explanations like racism, or describing World War I as merely a prologue to World War II. It’s a ‘think book.’ It brings in the notion of the army as its own organization that’s going to develop its own logic—a nice bit of organizational culture, which is interesting well beyond military history.”
4. The Regeneration Trilogy, three novels by Pat Parker. “This is fantastic, a contemporary trilogy; one of the three books won the Booker Prize in 1995. The trilogy is about British soldiers, and you see them not at the front but at the home front, being patched up and treated for posttraumatic stress. The author offers a very intelligent reflection on the damage the war does, and she goes into the soldiers’ heads to understand why they want to return to the front. She wrote war books after this, but none as good as this; these are masterpieces.”
5. World War I Museum, Kansas City. “It’s a great collection, extremely intelligently exhibited. They revamped it a short while ago, and they have a great crew there; it’s just a great educational experience. The building is tremendous; it’s from the 1920s—it was built to be a World War I museum from the start, and the architecture is overwhelming. There’s a lavish circular room on the top floor that houses a panoramic French painting made at the end of World War I, called Panthéon de la Guerre. They made this room just for it. So visiting the museum is an aesthetic as well as educational experience.”
6. War Requiem, an oratorio by Benjamin Britten. “I think it’s brilliant. It was actually composed after World War II, but the text refers to both world wars. It includes the Latin ‘Mass for the Dead’ and poems by Wilfred Owen, who died at the end of World War I and who is for many people—including myself—the greatest poet to come out of that war. There are moments where it’s very jarring, and then there are the soothing notes of the Latin mass. It’s a masterpiece, and I would love to see many performances of it in this centennial year.”
7. A visit to Ypres, Belgium. “Its Flanders Field Museum is in a medieval building that was bombed to complete rubble in the war—as was all of Ypres [pronounced ‘EE-per’]—and rebuilt after the war. Typically after the second world war, things were rebuilt in a boxy modern way, but after World War I, people said, ‘We’re not going to use this as an opportunity to modernize; we are going to recapture what we had. We had gables and canals and cul-de-sacs before, and we’re going to have them again.’ So it’s really quite gorgeous. A stone’s throw away is the Menin Gate, where, every single evening at 8, they stop traffic and buglers sound the ‘Last Post.’ And around the city are major British cemeteries that you can visit on a bicycle or bus tour.”
8. Historial de Grande Guerre, a museum in Péronne, France. “In many ways it’s a completely different experience from the Flanders Field Museum. Péronne is a tiny town, much less lavish than Ypres, and all around it you have the battlefields of the Somme. The museum is a modern one, and it’s my favorite museum. It’s moving, it’s intelligent, and for me it is the exemplary war museum.
“It makes a couple of extremely intelligent choices—for example, the uniforms are not upright on mannequins; they’re down on the floor, spread out, and you walk around them. It shows a kind of helplessness without imposing it upon you. It doesn’t tug at the emotions; it basically asks you to take a step back and contemplate and decide for yourself what you feel. It’s a form of respect—for those who died, for those who grieved for them, and for that generation—that is very admirable.
“There’s a mystery to World War I—what made these people go on—and the more we learn, the more we know we’ll never get to the bottom of it; we can only show bits and pieces. The museum conveys that very well.”
Tina Hay, editor
This morning I came across a speech that Bailey Sanders ’14 Med gave at the Penn State College of Medicine graduation ceremony in May. Her peers, the graduating med students, had chosen her to give the student commencement address, and I can see why. I have a fondness for public speakers who are articulate, animated, confident, and funny—and Bailey Sanders is all of those things. (She has the med school dean, Harold Paz, laughing from the start, and eventually she wins over President Eric Barron too.) Can’t wait to see what kind of physician she’ll turn out to be.
Her remarks are eight minutes long and well worth your time.
Tina Hay, editor
You may or may not have seen the announcement that we’re looking for good stories from alumni of their days in the dorms.
Every so often we like to do a story that’s a collection of readers’ memories of their time as a Penn State student. In May-June, for example, we spotlighted alumni memories of classroom incidents that left an impression, and in previous issues we’ve covered everything from IM sports memories to college pranks to tales of getting engaged on campus.
Anyway, right now we’re looking for dorm memories, for a story that will probably run later this year, and on Saturday night I heard a good one. A Class of 1964 grad who came back for her 50th reunion was telling me that she and her dorm mates kept a few ducks on their residence-hall floor! Apparently the students would use towels to block the drains in the common shower area, then let the showers run until the floor was flooded, giving the ducks a pond-like setting in which to hang out. The rest of the time, the ducks lived in someone’s dorm-room closet.
Needless to say, I strongly encouraged her to send us that story. And if you have a good story from your dorm days, please send it to us. Our email address is heypennstater (at) psu (dot) edu, or you can fill out the form below. You have until July 21 to get your stories in.
Tina Hay, editor
The Creamery pitched it. His wife came up with the finishing touch. And Russ Rose? He’s just the guy they named it after.
Russ “Digs” Roseberry was unveiled Thursday morning, and as Berkey Creamery manager Tom Palchak ’80 tells us, it’s the first permanent “Hall of Fame” flavor added in more than 20 years. Its namesake is none other than Rose, the six-time national champion-winning coach of the Penn State women’s volleyball team. Dishing out the first scoops on Thursday—and yes, your intrepid reporter sacrificed himself by eating an ice cream cone for lunch—Rose handled the honor much in the way he handles receiving coach-of-the-year awards: By quietly deflecting all the credit.
The idea came from Palchak, who initially approached Rose a few years ago; a communications breakdown led to folks at the Creamery getting the mistaken impression that Rose wasn’t interested. He was, not so much for the ice cream, but for the rare company he’d keep. “To be up there with Coach Paterno,” he says, “that’s pretty special.” As for the finished product, Russ says his wife, Lori Barberich Rose ’85, is the one who figured out how to make it delicious.
Palchak finally connected with Rose earlier this year, and they began the process of figuring out just what Rose’s flavor would be. The coach’s starting points were caramel and strawberry—two great tastes that really don’t go together—and with Lori’s help, they settled on strawberry ice cream as the base. Wanting to keep the flavor fruity, they decided through trial and error to add swirls of black and red raspberry sauce; with the Roses’ four sons providing a ready-made taste-testing team, reviews were good. But there was something missing, until Lori Rose found it: flecks and small chunks of dark chocolate.
As it was served up Thursday, Russ “Digs” Roseberry strikes a wonderful balance between flavors and texture that it shares (in this reviewer’s humble opinion) with Creamery classics like Death by Chocolate and Alumni Swirl. It’s just really, really good. And while I’d argue there’s never a bad time for Creamery ice cream, its late-May unveiling seems appropriate: all that fruit just screams summer. It probably doesn’t hurt that the annual Happy Volley tournament starts Friday, meaning there will be something like 10,000 high school volleyball players, coaches, and family members in town for the holiday weekend. Most of them will probably hit the Creamery at some point.
I know what they should order.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
For the second year in a row, candidates endorsed by Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship swept the three seats in the Board of Trustees alumni election. When the new trustees take their seats in July, none of the nine alumni trustees who were on the board when the Sandusky scandal broke—and when Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier were fired—will remain.
Alice Pope ’79, ’83g, ’86g, a psychology professor at St. John’s University, finished first with 10,025 votes; Albert Lord ’67, former chairman and CEO of Sallie Mae, finished second with 9,516 votes; and Robert Jubelirer ’59, ’62g, an attorney and former state senator, finished third with 8,101 votes.
“We do have nine new people in three years, and I think that should put to rest the idea that the concerned alumni are a vocal minority,” Pope said. “The Alumni Association survey showed that the alumni who are concerned about the leadership of this university are not a minority. So now it’s really time for us to be taken seriously and to work together in a very genuine way. It is over the time to be saying ‘us’ against ‘them.’ That time is gone. We must do whatever it takes to bridge that divide.”
A divide does exist. Jubelirer, who said he was involved in about a dozen elections as a politician, said this campaign was both the most difficult—because of its length and structure, and the importance of social media—and the nastiest in which he was involved. “People can say whatever they want,” he said. “My whole personal life was laid out on Facebook. … There’s a handful of people who made it that way. I want to make that clear. Not everybody’s nasty.”
Board turnover isn’t limited to the alumni trustees. Two new gubernatorial trustees, Cliff Benson ’71 and Todd Rucci ’92, were confirmed by the state legislature April 9 and took their seats at this meeting, replacing Ira Lubert ’73 and Al Clemens ’59. Business and industry trustees Linda Brodsky Strumpf ’69 and Jim Broadhurst ’65 stepped down; they’ll be replaced by Daniel Mead ’75, ’77g, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, and Walter Rakowich ’79, retired CEO of Prologis.
Pope, Jubelirer, and Lord (who did not attend the meeting) were endorsed by PS4RS, which has criticized the board for its firing of Paterno and Spanier, its acceptance of the Freeh report, which they say led to NCAA sanctions, and the board’s unwillingness to keep pushing to find the truth of what happened in the Sandusky scandal. But Pope and Jubelirer say they also bring additional qualities to the board.
Jubelirer says he has “relationships in Harrisburg that I think will benefit the university,” and Pope, as a college professor, says her understanding of higher education is particularly important on a board that has far more trustees with corporate backgrounds than higher ed backgrounds.
“The business of education is not like other business,” she said. “The products are not the same. Yes, corporate models have some place in universities, but the educational mission has to be put first and foremost.”
The PS4RS candidates won their seats handily. The fourth-place finisher, Ted Sebastianelli ’68, was 2,400 votes behind. The only incumbent running, Joel Myers ’61, ’63g, ’71g, finished seventh with 3,511 votes. The other two incumbents, Marianne Ellis Alexander ’62 and Jesse Arnelle ’55, ’62g, decided to not run for re-election. Arnelle served as a trustee for 45 years; he was first elected in 1969.
Overall, voter turnout was down, with 29,791 ballots cast. More than 33,000 alumni voted in 2013, which was in turn down from more than 37,500 in 2012, immediately after the Sandusky scandal.
Other notes from Friday’s meeting:
—Agricultural trustees Keith Masser ’73 and Betsy Huber were re-elected, but trustee M. Abraham Harpster ’94 said that a candidate had complained about voting irregularities in one county. He added that election officials had not been able to confirm this, and so the election results stood.
—The resolution to add a permanent student trustee—selected by students—was withdrawn because governance chair Keith Eckel said Gov. Tom Corbett will appoint a student to replace Peter Khoury ’12, who is graduating with a master’s degree this weekend, before the board votes on tuition in July. Should the appointment not materialize, the board will call a special meeting to assure there is a student on the board for the tuition vote. The possibility of a permanent seat for a student will be considered with the rest of the governance reforms, not separately.
—Speaking of governance reform, Eckel said that consultant Holly Gregory has a sense of the issues that trustees want to address after Wednesday’s small-group sessions of the governance committee, which were not open to the public. He hopes to present the full board with recommendations at its July meeting, making it possible to vote on the package at the September meeting. This will likely involve an interim committee meeting between now and then, and trustees have said that will be an open meeting.
—In his final presentation to the board, retiring president Rod Erickson gave updated application numbers: As of May 5, Penn State had received more than 81,000 undergraduate applications, 14 percent higher than 2013 and 5 percent higher than 2012. Including grad school, law school, and medical school applications, Penn State has received more than 120,000 applications, 600 more than in 2013 and 1,200 more than in 2012.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
When Board of Trustees chair Keith Masser opened Friday’s meeting, he noted that Rod Erickson would be giving the president’s address for the last time before he retires. There was a round of applause, and Masser noted that there would be plenty of opportunities to honor Erickson throughout the meeting.
He wasn’t kidding.
Erickson, who is retiring after 37 years at Penn State, the last 31 months as president, was unanimously voted president emeritus and professor emeritus of geography and business administration. He received an additional $50,000 to a $100,000 bonus in his contract. He had the Food Services Building—home of the Berkey Creamery—named after him, also by unanimous vote. The resolution naming the building saluted Erickson’s tenure as executive vice president and provost.
It was announced that more than $500,000 had been raised in his honor to fund the Erickson Discovery Grants, which will allow undergraduate students to conduct individual research outside the classroom, attend professional conferences, or travel for additional study. The program, according to this news release, is designed to “address an unmet need of several students who cannot afford the associated costs, or the sacrifice of time that might otherwise be spent in paid work, to pursue such engaged scholarship opportunities.”
And Erickson also received the Penn State Medal, which the board adopted in 1957 to honor people who “made an outstanding contribution to higher education in Pennsylvania,” according to this news release, and then modified in 1987 to honor anyone whose accomplishments, in or out of higher education, inspire Penn State students. Since the change, it has been awarded to only two people—former presidents Bryce Jordan and Joab Thomas.
Erickson was also the subject of this tribute video, which includes good wishes from everyone from Essence of Joy director Anthony Leach to students at various Commonwealth campuses to Mike the Mailman. The best part, in my opinion, is an old family photo in which Erickson is supporting a trendy 1970s hairdo—i.e., long and a little wavy … and possibly with sideburns?
Erickson said repeatedly that he was honored and privileged to have served at Penn State and said that two Penn Staters expressed his feelings better than he could. He quoted the late William Schreyer, who said, “It feels good to be a Penn Stater. You feel like you belong to a great institution that is only getting better.”
He joked that the Food Services Building was a fitting tribute because of his love of agriculture (he and his wife, Shari—who was also honored—live on a 52-acre farm, and he told me in 2012 that he believes he’s the only university president who owns a bulldozer) and his love of ice cream. And when he received the Penn State medal, he said, “I accept this on behalf of the faculty, staff, student, and alumni who have made Penn State the great institution it is.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor
It’s a small irony that, while riding the bus on a Coaches Caravan trip that is understandably focused on football, I’m indulging in the chance to talk at length about soccer. That’s “football” to most of the rest of the world, of course, and as men’s soccer coach Bob Warming has jokingly reminded every Caravan crowd thus far, it remains the most popular sport on the planet. Warming knows as well as anyone that most Penn Staters are more interested in “American” football, and he’s okay with that. He knows his sport is on very solid footing in the States.
Certainly it’s in great shape in Happy Valley. In Warming and Erica Walsh—both of whom are on the bus this week and speaking at every Caravan stop—Penn State unquestionably has two of the best college coaches in America. Warming, a two-time national Coach of the Year during stints at Creighton and St. Louis, has led the Nittany Lions to the last two Big Ten regular season titles. Under Walsh, who doubles as an assistant coach with the U.S. women’s national team, the women won six straight Big Ten titles from 2007-2012.
As a regular at Jeffrey Field since my undergraduate days—for a lot of reasons, it remains one of my favorite spots on campus—I’d catch most of the men’s and women’s games even if the teams were mediocre. Happily, they’re terrific, and Warming and Walsh have a lot to do with that. Being able to pick their brains on this trip—even as James Franklin jokingly yells at us to take all the soccer talk to the other end of the bus—has only clarified why they’re both so good at what they do.
From Warming, it’s insights into the strangely adversarial relationship between Major League Soccer and the college game, and anecdotes about how soccer savvy today’s young players are about the international game. From Walsh, it’s insider knowledge about the challenges of the recruiting process and the workings of the national team set-up. From both of them, it’s good humor and an appreciation (or tolerance, at least) for a passionate soccer fan who can’t get enough of hearing all they know.
As cool as it’s been, I can say I haven’t been surprised. A couple of years ago, I sat in on a class for area soccer coaches looking to add a certificate to their resume: It started with an X’s and O’s session with Warming, who previewed that night’s game with Indiana, arguably the Lions’ biggest regular-season match. He detailed key matchups against the Hoosiers, told us certain players’ tendencies to keep an eye on, and explained the high-tech video system the program uses to fine-tune its scouting and game prep.
After watching the first half of the match at Jeffrey Field, we were joined in the bleachers by Walsh—she was in the midst of her own season, remember—who proceeded to give us an incredibly detailed halftime breakdown of what was and wasn’t working for each side. Based on her knowledge, you’d have thought she was coaching one of these teams, not running a top-10 women’s program of her own.
In both cases, these coaches gave generously of their time, showed off a remarkably thorough understanding of their sport, and conveyed that knowledge in a way that illuminated the game for all of us. Sitting across from them this week on the bus, I’ve been lucky to soak up more of that soccer intelligence. It’s been a blast.
Ryan Jones, senior editor