A generous parting gift: President Rod Erickson and his wife Shari on Thursday announced a $1 million gift to the university. The donation, which coincides with this weekend’s celebration of the closing of the “For The Future” capital campaign, will benefit the Arboretum, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and the Smeal College of Business. Erickson is set to retire from the university next month.
Klosterman on ethics: I wandered over to the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on Thursday to hear Chuck Klosterman speak at the “Religion, Ethics, and Choice” symposium hosted by Penn State’s Center for Ethics & Religious Affairs. I met Chuck a decade or so ago through our mutual friend (and occasional Penn Stater contributor) Michael Weinreb ’94; if you know Chuck’s name, it’s probably from his books, his writing for the likes of Esquire and Grantland, or more recently, his role as the Ethicist for the New York Times Magazine. Based in Brooklyn, he generally makes a handful of college speaking engagements each year, but this was the first time he’d been invited somewhere specifically based on the Ethicist gig.
Speaking to a small room—a mix of students, faculty, and campus and community religious leaders—Chuck was, like his writing, often funny and always thought provoking. He read from his latest non-fiction book, I Wear the Black Hat, in which he uses real and fictional villains to grapple with the idea of good v. evil. But for this crowd, the insights into his Ethicist gig were especially interesting:
* He opened by saying he’s not remotely qualified for the job, then added that, in his opinion, “no one is.” (The Times‘ first Ethicist, he noted, was Randy Cohen, a former writer for David Letterman.)
* He was only half joking when he said that, due both to the nature of the job and the reactive tone of so much of modern culture, he’s certain “I’m going to get fired at some point.”
* He said he receives about 100 submissions each week, and that the correspondents are most likely to be “lawyers, new mothers, and academics. Also, a lot of atheists.”
* In helping people solve their ethical quandaries, Chuck says he aims to be “hyper-rational … almost Spock-like” in his responses: “I’ve advised people to do things I’m not sure I would do in my own life.” As for his process: Once he and his editor have chosen which letters to run, Chuck said he thinks about the dilemma, composes a response, and then “I spend two days thinking about all the ways I’d disagree with that response.” He then edits it accordingly. It’s a unique gig, and qualified or not, I think he’s as right as anyone for the job.
Football is back: The forecast calls for temperatures in the high 60s and blue (and white) skies—a perfect day, in other words, for the Blue-White Game. There’s all sorts of fun stuff scheduled in and around Beaver Stadium Saturday. Kickoff is at 1:30. Hope to see you there…
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Good instincts: We were all shocked and saddened yesterday morning to hear about the tragic stabbings at a high school in Murraysville, Pa., in which 24 people were injured. The few bright spots in the tragedy are the stories of students and faculty members who reacted quickly and bravely to help one another and subdue the attacker. One of those heroes is high-school senior—and future Penn Stater—Ian Griffith, who is enrolled for the the fall semester. Griffith helped Assistant Principal Sam King hold down the armed student. Griffith downplayed his hero status in an interview with The Pittsburgh Tribune: “I just acted on instinct,” he said.
Sole men: Yes, more than 100 guys walking through campus in high heels might look a little funny, but “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” is raising awareness for a very serious issue. It’s Sexual Assault Awareness month, and the student-run group Men Against Violence wants male students to show support for women on campus by donning high heels (they’re provided) and making the trek down Pollock Road today at 1 pm. Says MAV’s adviser Dylan Howser: “Sexual assault is framed as a women’s issue, and if we continue to frame it that way, men won’t see it as important.”
Pipe dreams: Here’s a fun Throwback Thursday photo, tweeted by Penn State Engineering (@PSUEngineering) this morning — a group of undergrads taking a study break, 1915-style. Who needs an iPhone when you have fancy pipes, jars of peanut butter and, um, a bunch of random pots and pans?
Mary Murphy, associate editor
Consent decree challenged: Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court may have opened the door to a challenge of the consent decree, the basis for the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State, in a ruling today in the NCAA’s challenge to a bill written by state Sen. Jake Corman that would require the $60 million fine to be spent entirely on child-abuse programs in Pennsylvania. This Patriot-News story will give you the basics, and you can click here to read the decision yourself.
BOT election starts tomorrow: The election for three alumni seats on the Board of Trustees begins tomorrow, Thursday, April 10, and runs through 9 a.m. Thursday, May 8. Before you cast your ballot, learn about the 31 candidates with our Three Questions project.
A creative thank-you: Men’s hockey coach Guy Gadowsky released this video to thank the team’s alumni for their support. And, yeah, that’s a cool gesture. But what will really keep you watching is Gadowsky showing off his juggling prowess. I couldn’t look away. I’m off to work on my hand-eye coordination.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Relief on wheels: I got home Sunday from a few days in New Orleans, one of my favorite places on the planet and the site of this year’s CASE Editor’s Forum, the annual convention for us university magazine types. So it was cool timing today to see this story from The Times-Picayune on Aaron Wertman, a Penn State undergrad trying to help revitalization efforts in the city’s storm-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward. His idea—a specially equipped trailer that would serve as a mobile design studio and tool trailer—has the support of a local non-profit, and he’s currently raising funds for the project on indiegogo. It’s an intriguing concept, and a very worthy cause.
Listen up: The list of spring commencement speakers is out, and it includes a couple of names that might be familiar to Penn Stater readers, including Beverly McIver ’92g, the fascinating painter and educator we profiled in our Nov/Dec 2011 issue. McIver will speak to Arts & Architecture grads. You can find the complete list of speakers, including those at campuses and at each of the colleges at University Park, here. Commencement ceremonies are scheduled the weekend of May 9-11.
From THON to Quidditch, leaders in their field: Our student media outlets have served up a couple of cool profiles to start the week. The Collegian features the story of Megan Renaut, a junior who was inspired to get involved in THON after a childhood friend was diagnosed with cancer. She was recently named executive director of THON 2015. And over at Onward State, there’s an in-depth profile of Matt Axel, the starting “beater” for Penn State’s club Quidditch team. The piece is loaded with information on the sport itself, which gets more popular by the year on college campuses, and also gives some insight into what makes Matt one of the best beaters in the country.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
What is “Should I watch Jeopardy tonight?” This answer is “yes,” if you want to see a fellow Penn Stater compete for top honors on the classic TV quiz show. Michelle Leppert ’92 of Danvers, Mass., will begin what we hope is a long run of success when Jeopardy starts a new week of shows Monday night.
A big night in the Big House: Michigan announced Monday that the Nittany Lions’ visit to Michigan Stadium on Oct. 11 will be a 7 p.m. kickoff, making it the first Big Ten night home game in Wolverine history. Of course, Penn State and Michigan have some history playing under the lights, including memorable home wins at Beaver Stadium in 2010 and 2013. As for the Big House, there were temporary lights up for the 3:30 kickoff back in 1994. Hopefully you remember how that one ended.
Joining the dance: THON’s spread isn’t just limited to the mini-THONs held at a growing number of middle and high schools. The Alumni Association’s Washington-Greene Counties Chapter recently held its “We, too, Can Dance” charity social. Inspired by Dance Marathon, the event raised $4,750 for the Four Diamonds Fund.
An honor for Mary Jo: The United States Basketball Writers Association announced over the weekend a new award will be named for Mary Jo Haverbeck ’76g, the women’s sports media pioneer who died in January. The Mary Jo Haverbeck Award will honor those who provide special service to writers covering women’s basketball.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
He’s got CLASS: Tim Frazier ’13 was named a First Team Senior CLASS Award finalist yesterday. The award, which stands for “Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School,” honors seniors who excel on the court and in the classroom. Finalists are selected by Division 1 coaches nationwide.
Spreading the love: Got spirit? That’s what it’s all about next week, during Blue & White Society’s PSi(heart)U week, a seven-day celebration of Penn State pride. Themed events throughout campus will get alumni and students psyched up for Blue-White Weekend. Check out the full schedule of events here.
Young at heart: Speaking of spirit, have you read yesterday’s post about 102-year-old birthday girl Peg Barnard Chalfant ’34? She’s the second-oldest Penn State alumna in the world, a former May Queen, and a current Kindle lover. I think Peg’s memories from her college days—and her thoughts on growing older—will definitely make you smile.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
Peg Barnard Chalfant, who graduated from Penn State 80 years ago, says she hasn’t been up to anything very new lately. “I try to keep up with the old things,” she says, chuckling.
Though she doesn’t use most technological advancements like email, she says she loves her Kindle.
And perhaps that’s just it. Perhaps keeping up with the times and not letting nostalgia get the best of you is how you chug forward in life. Chalfant lives for the present, and perhaps that’s why she’s still so happy and healthy as she celebrates her 102nd birthday Friday.
Like many who are living a long life, Chalfant ’34 Edu couldn’t pinpoint what exactly has kept her going, but she says maybe staying active has helped. She used to love playing golf, even though she says she wasn’t very good. The last time she played was when she was 98. She also drove her own car until that age.
She’s still active. Every Sunday, Chalfant walks three blocks from her home—a row house she has lived in since 1935—to her church. (Her bedroom is on the third floor, but going up and down the steps doesn’t seem to bother her a bit.) The First Presbyterian Church in West Chester, Pa., is where she met John Carrigan, a local real estate agent. Chalfant shared a pew with his family, and they have become friends.
Carrigan wanted to make his friend’s birthday special, so he contacted the Penn State Alumni Association. He learned that Chalfant is Penn State’s second oldest graduate, and the association sent him scans of Chalfant’s graduation photo and a picture of her being crowned as the May Queen from the 1934 La Vie.
Chalfant remembers the May Queen ceremony and walking up the steps of Old Main wearing a long veil and holding a saber and flowers. It was “quite an event for women,” she said. She was surprised Penn State doesn’t celebrate May Day festivities anymore.
A bit of nostalgia broke through as she said she’s “too old” to go back and she hasn’t been back to Penn State in a while. She was shocked to find out sorority houses were no longer on campus. Chalfant was a sister of Chi Omega.
“I would be lost on campus now,” she says. “I wouldn’t come back now—I would be heartbroken. I’m happier with my memories.”
To Chalfant, memories are intended to provide solace and joy when looking back, but nothing to linger on. Her memories of being at Penn State and her choice to attend the university do bring her joy. “Penn State was right for me,” she says, “and I was right for it.”
Kelly Godzik, intern