Before I became a Penn State student, for as long as I can remember, I came to State College with my family for just about every home football game.
That sounds really cool—and it was—but it came with some challenges, especially when I was in high school. I remember getting in the car after school dances on Friday nights and driving 180 miles straight to State College. One time, I even had to take the PSAT at State College High School on a Saturday morning before a game. As you can tell, we were really dedicated.
When we would visit Penn State, my parents, both Penn State graduates, would tell my sister Amber and me stories about when they were students. They loved to tell us about the late nights they spent studying at the library. As we got older, the real stories came out and we realized they really meant dancing at the Shandygaff.
The Penn State stories didn’t just come from my parents. I’m the 12th member of my extended family to attend this university, and my sister is now the 13th. Of course, that means there was never a shortage of people to tell me all about Penn State, from classes to roommates to intramural sports. I loved hearing about it as a kid.
Finally, as a Penn State student, I’ve been able to start making my own stories.
The three years that I’ve spent here have exceeded my expectations, and I promise you they were high. As a student, I’ve gotten the chance to work for The Daily Collegian, study abroad in Granada, Spain, meet the best friends I could ask for and, now, go to school with my sister.
This summer is a special time for my Penn State career and the Szkaradnik family (especially for my parents, who seem a little too excited to be empty nesters). Amber started in the Learning Edge Academic Program (LEAP) a couple of weeks ago. Actually being at school with my sister making our own memories is a really fun opportunity.
Now that I’ve spent three years here, I’m starting to get chances to tell my own Penn State stories. This summer I’m giving campus tours to prospective students. Though it’s an awesome job, it can be challenging. If you’ve ever taken a tour at Penn State, you know the guides walk backward the whole time. In typical me fashion, I fell while giving my first tour.
But I think this is one of the best jobs a Penn Stater could have. I get paid to walk around campus all day and tell potential students why I love Penn State. I really enjoy talking about Ritner Hall, my freshman dorm,and taking the students into the Thomas Building, where I had my first class as a student. My favorite thing to talk about on tours, though, is my family. I love getting to tell people that my parents met here and that they still love Penn State just as much as I do.
Now as The Penn Stater’s intern, I get to tell more Penn State stories. I know how much Penn State alumni love stories about their alma mater, so that’s why I hope I can keep you all up to date even if you’re miles away.
I’ve seen this university go through waves of changes. There have been ups and downs, but it‘s finally starting to seem like Penn State is in a new era. We have a new president, a new football coach and even a plan for a new general education system. I’m excited to see where Penn State is going now that it seems like we’ve gotten through a few tough years.
I hope that you’ll follow along with me this summer as I keep you updated about our ever-changing university.
Mindy Szkaradnik, intern
If you followed coverage of last week’s Board of Trustees meeting, you’ll remember that Eric Barron broke tradition in his first address as president. Instead of reading a list of Penn State’s recent accomplishments, he gave a 25-minute seminar on issues of access and affordability in higher education. He presented a lot of charts, graphs, and data, too.
I wasn’t surprised. This past March, I spent a couple of days in Tallahassee reporting a profile on Barron for our May/June issue, and his love of data and metrics came up so frequently that we titled our story Data Driven. If you’ve not read the article, click here to download a PDF of the story and learn a little bit more about Penn State’s 18th president.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Board of Trustees Report: Barron Addresses Affordability of College; Lord Wants Freeh Report ‘Finished’
The Board of Trustees meeting began with what seemed, at times, like a graduate-level seminar in finance and statistics. President Eric Barron, addressing the board for the first time, dispensed with the usual presidential address highlighting various accomplishments of students and faculty and instead presented a 25-minute talk about the issues of access and affordability in higher education, complete with 22 pages of bar graphs, scatter charts, financial data, and bulleted lists of potential ways to make a Penn State education more affordable.
When I profiled Barron for our May/June issue, he told me he liked data. Click here for a PDF of his presentation today—you’ll see he may have understated his love of data.
More than three hours later, the meeting ended with a surprise resolution introduced by newly elected alumni trustee Al Lord ’67, who called for a roll call vote on “finishing” the Freeh report. Lord contends that the report is incomplete because Freeh did not talk to seven key people and because the truth of whether Penn State officials were aware of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes is still unknown.
“I want the board to agree that we’re not done. That’s all,” Lord said after the meeting. “It’s very simple—that we’re not finished. There are a lot of people that complain there’s misinformation in the report. I don’t know. I do know it’s not finished.”
Discussion was suspended because Penn State general counsel Stephen Dunham advised that it would need, for privacy reasons, to take place in executive session. Lord said the board had decided to have the discussion at its next meeting in September, and then the board briefly debated whether it needed to table the resolution to assure that the meeting did not end with a resolution on the floor. Although newly elected alumni trustee Robert Jubelirer ’59, ’62g said he believed the motion was tabled with the intent of killing it, board chair Keith Masser ’73 Eng said it was merely a formality. The motion was tabled.
It’s a lot to digest. So here are some of the details on both:
Barron’s report: He identified six major areas of emphasis for the university: excellence, student engagement, economic development and student career success, diversity and demographics, access and affordability, and technology and curriculum delivery.
Barron spoke in intricate detail about what he called Penn State’s “evolution into a tuition-driven university,” and showed a chart that made clear how few state budget dollars Penn State gets in comparison with the other Big Ten universities. He broke down how students pay for college and provided a table that showed how family income affects graduation rates: For every additional $10,000 in family income, a student’s chance of graduating rises 6 percent.
He discussed the rising level of debt college students face—66 percent of students graduate with some debt, and the average debt has grown from $20,000 to $35,429 in the past decade. Worse, Barron said, some students don’t have enough money to finish, so they are saddled with debt but don’t have a college degree. (This topic was fleshed out in a recent study by the Brookings Institutions, written about here by the New York Times.)
Barron said the university must focus on helping students to graduate in four years; an extra year of college, he said, is the “biggest tuition increase.” Among the ideas he floated: emphasizing the summer semester, possibly through “online summers” with reduced tuition for students with financial need or a “cost-contained” summer on campus, once the university could determine the break-even point for expenses.
He also said that he’d like Penn State to raise money to cover the “unmet need” many students have in paying for college after loans, scholarships, and grants. He noted that those students work to make up the money, and that extra time on the job can cause difficulties in the classroom. He would like to find a way that students don’t need to work more than 20 hours a week—he calculated that would cost the university $25 million for all in-state students at Penn State. He called it the Penn State Promise.
“Some of these things won’t work,” he said. “I’m talking a little bit out loud—let’s get strategic, let’s focus on these things.”
Several of the trustees praised the report, and Barron indicated he would tackle the other five issues in upcoming meetings.
Lord’s resolution: Generally, the way Penn State’s board has worked is that resolutions come up through the committees. Lord introduced this resolution, however, to the full board.
He said the trustees haven’t done anything with the Freeh report—except to fulfill the recommendations Freeh made and hand the report over to the NCAA, which in turn used the findings to impose sanctions. “By virtue of the fact that we didn’t reject it, the board tells me that they didn’t accept it,” he said. “To me, the absence of a rejection is acceptance.”
He said that “everyone has been sitting on their hands” waiting for the criminal trial of Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz ’71, ’75g, and Tim Curley ’76, ’78g. “I’m afraid that case is going to be dismissed,” he said, “and it’ll be ‘Penn State got out of it because of a technicality.’ I want the truth. I am hopeful of where it leads. I have very strong beliefs of where it will lead. But if any of those guys were guilty, then they belong in jail.”
Lord said he would be happy to provide specifics of incomplete parts of Freeh’s report, but he wanted to refresh his memory of the details before he did so. “I’m sort of brain dead after that mind-numbing conversation all afternoon,” he said.
Freeh did not have subpoena power; in his report, he indicated that was why he did not speak to the primary figures in the Sandusky scandal, among them Schultz, Curley, Joe Paterno, and Mike McQueary ’97. (Spanier did meet with Freeh’s investigators.) Said Lord: “Louis Freeh would tell you that, Look, I couldn’t talk to this guy because he’s part of a criminal investigation. But you’re talking about seven people, the seven key people who know what happened or as much as anybody knows about what happened—he never talked to anybody. I understand that some of them have claimed privilege because they’re in a criminal case, but that means [Freeh is] not finished.”
As if all that weren’t enough, here are a few additional—shorter—items from the meeting:
—Masser ran unopposed for chair and will serve for another year. Kathleen Casey ’88, a gubernatorial appointee, defeated Bill Oldsey ’76, an alumni-elected trustee, for the vice chair position. As usual, vote totals were not announced.
—Casey’s election as vice chair opened up an at-large position on the executive board, and the trustees voted to fill the spot with Ryan McCombie ’70. He is the first of the alumni trustees elected post-Sandusky scandal to be appointed to the executive committee.
—The board granted emeritus trustee status to Samuel Hayes and Paul Suhey ’79, with all nine alumni trustees abstaining. Anthony Lubrano ’82 suggested again that emeritus trustee status be delayed until governance reform is enacted.
—The board approved a $4.6 billion budget for 2014-15 with a tuition increase of 2.99 percent for University Park and increases ranging from zero to 2.4 percent for other campuses.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Some of what happened at Thursday’s meeting of the Penn State trustees’ governance and long-range planning committee—which began to get into the nitty-gritty of additional reforms—was predictable:
Veteran members of the board spoke in favor of keeping it the same size; newer members, elected by the alumni in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, insisted that a smaller board would be “more nimble” and “more engaged.” Agricultural trustees didn’t think cutting back the number of ag trustees was a good idea. Students said they need a permanent seat on the board, with the trustee being chosen by the students themselves, not the governor or the board itself.
But for the first time in public, the trustees went beyond the basics. Representatives from the Alumni Association, the faculty, and the students made their cases for permanent seats on the board. And among the issues the trustees considered Thursday were these:
How do the trustees define whether board members are “engaged”? Would having a faculty member—a university employee—on the board present an insurmountable conflict of interest? And how many board members should be alumni—not just trustees elected by the alumni, but alumni?
Additionally, Eric Barron, who is attending his first board meeting after taking over as Penn State’s president on May 12, weighed in.
He was careful to say that he wasn’t making recommendations and didn’t want to choose who his boss would be (the Board of Trustees is responsible for selecting the president). Barron said only that he wanted to let the committee know of his experience, and that he was familiar, as Florida State’s president, with having student and faculty representation on the board. He repeatedly used the word “voice” to describe what those trustees provided.
“If I got nervous about anything in this conversation, it wasn’t the notion of numbers and placement,” he said in the meeting. “It’s the notion of representing someone. My view is that this has to be a group of people that are here for one purpose: to ensure the success of the institution, not representation.”
As he spoke, governance consultant Holly Gregory and her assistant, Paige Montgomery, nodded their heads vigorously. Gregory had opened the discussion by saying, “Reaching agreement on these issues is difficult because it’s not quite as clear [as other reforms the board has already enacted]. There are issues of both power and trust. The trust among members of this board is already under some degree of tension. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about it. I know some are frustrated that we haven’t moved faster.”
Barron elaborated on his experience with student and faculty trustees, saying that in addition to the voice they provide, he found that the chance for additional back-and-forth about the issues was important. “Lo and behold,” he said, “a student will vote for a tuition increase because they participated in an in-depth discussion about the budget and understand what the university is up against, and they don’t want to give up quality any more than anyone else. A faculty member will vote on benefit changes because they realize that between health insurance and benefits, it’s going up at a clip of $25 million a year and that’s unsustainable. So the voice is not just that, but an opportunity to give input and have it go in reverse.”
As usual, there’s no easy way to sum up what happened during the meeting, which lasted for 90 minutes and moved briskly. Even at that pace, the committee didn’t discuss all of the reform items it had previously discussed in small groups that were closed to the public in May. Here are some highlights from today’s meeting:
Alumni trustees: Alumni Association president Kay Salvino ’69, in making the case for an Alumni Association seat on the board, highlighted the association’s “mission of service” to its 174,379 members and 631,000 living alumni. “We have responsibility for serving the largest constituency of the university—substantially larger than students, faculty, and staff combined, and growing larger every year.” She noted, as well, that Alumni Council, the association’s governing board, includes alumni society presidents from each college and campus.
[In the interest of full disclosure: The Penn Stater magazine and this website are both published by the Alumni Association.]
In addition, Salvino said, the Alumni Association is “one of the largest cumulative donors” to Penn State with more than $15 million in gifts for scholarships, fellowships, programs, and facilities since 1988. And in the just-concluded capital campaign, Alumni Association members donated nearly $800 million, meaning “90 cents on the dollar of all alumni giving came from members of the Alumni Association.”
She finished by showing the scope of the Alumni Association’s programs, which involve students, showcase the university’s academic prowess, and communicate with alums: “We touch and serve Penn State and our alumni in a way that no other organization can do, and we do it every day, in countless ways.”
Trustee emeritus David Jones ’54, for one, was skeptical. He said he had “great respect and admiration” for the Alumni Association, but pointed out that alumni already elect nine trustees and noted that “historically, in recent years, at least two-thirds of our trustees have been alumni.” He called that proportion of trustees who are alumni “really full, if not too full.”
He added: “I sometimes think we would benefit by having more outside voices on the board.”
Alumni trustees Anthony Lubrano ’82 and Barbara Doran ’75 spoke up for the current system of elected alumni trustees; Doran called the alumni election “one of the most robust, transparent processes you can run.”
Business and industry trustee Richard Dandrea ’77 floated the idea of reducing the number of alumni-elected trustees, saying that election turnout is low and that so many of the other trustees are alumni that perhaps alumni are overrepresented on the board. Lubrano disagreed repeatedly, saying “no one” is more invested in the success of the university than alumni, but board chair Keith Masser ’73, an ag trustee, agreed with Dandrea, saying that the business and industry trustees may be misnamed. He said he isn’t aware that a non-alum has ever been named a business and industry trustee.
Faculty: John Nichols, professor emeritus of communications and chair of the Faculty Senate’s special committee on university governance, which issued this report in 2013, made the case for a faculty representative on the board. He stressed two things: first, that his committee’s report had been unanimously approved by the Faculty Senate, which is a particularly rare feat; and second, that he was proposing not a faculty trustee, but an “internal academic trustee.” The distinction, he said, is “very important.”
A “highly specialized institution like a university,” Nichols said, needs trustees who have a “deep understanding” of its mission. Penn State’s board has two members with a background in higher education: elected alumni trustee Alice Pope ’79, ’83g, ’86g, a psychology professor at St. John’s University, and Bill Oldsey ’76, who has worked in academic publishing.
Additionally, he said, a university is “essentially a professional association, and professional institutions are best governed with considerable governance by the internal professionals that deliver the goods. … Not to have that happen is a serious disconnection between the core mission of the university and the governance of the university.”
Jones said he had reservations about having employees on the board; ag trustee Betsy Huber noted that Pennsylvania law prohibits schoolteachers from serving on the school board in their own districts for just that reason. But Dandrea (who was chairing the meeting in Keith Eckel’s absence) said having one faculty trustee out of 30 meant that any conflict of image could be managed.
Students: University Park Undergraduate Association president Anand Ganjam and vice president Emily MacDonald spoke on behalf of students, and they made largely the point that their predecessors have made in previous meetings: that students don’t want to rely on the whim of the governor to have representation on the board and should have a representative who is chosen by students themselves. (For years, the governor has used one of his appointments to include a student on the board, but there’s nothing saying he has to.) They also detailed the procedure by which they assure student input.
Lubrano said he was in favor of the governor continuing to appoint a student trustee, but Masser said Gov. Tom Corbett had agreed to give up one of his appointments and allow the board to choose a student.
The tension surrounding reform was evident earlier in the day at the outreach committee meeting, when alumni trustee Ted Brown ’68 questioned Mike DiRaimo, the university’s governmental affairs representative, about a letter DiRaimo had written to the Senate’s state government committee asking that a bill sponsored by state Sen. John Yudichak, which would cut the board to 23 members, be tabled. Brown said he was upset that the letter indicated that the Board of Trustees did not support the bill because that is not, in fact, the case.
DiRaimo explained that he objected to the committee taking action on the bill for two reasons: because the bill would apply only to Penn State, and the university had been assured that would not be the case, and that the bill stipulates that only the General Assembly can make changes in the board’s size and composition in the future. He said, “That I know to be against the interest, against the position, against the actions of the trustees.” (The Senate committee did vote, unanimously, to approve the bill, which still needs to be considered by the full Senate.)
Brown wasn’t satisfied: “You said the Board of Trustees is opposed to this bill. I don’t remember any discussion to that, ever.”
New alumni trustee Robert Jubelirer ’59, ’62g chimed in, suggesting that DiRaimo could have phrased his objections better—and more accurately. He said that Yudichak ’93, ’04g and co-sponsor Jake Corman ’93 had previously agreed to hold the bill through May 2014 to see what progress the board made itself on reform and that the bill had been amended so to extend the time period to two years to allow the board to pursue reform itself.
“I think that’s significant,” Jubelirer said. “There’s plenty of time if this board is intent on reforming.”
He added that not only did the full board not discuss or vote on its position on the bill, but that he would not have opposed it had the board done so. Therefore, he said, the letter to the legislature was inaccurate. DiRaimo did not respond.
Here’s what comes next in the process:
Dandrea said that any committee members interested in working on a formal proposal to vote on at the next committee meeting would work with university attorney Frank Guadagnino ’78, who will “labor over” the draft. The committee will schedule an additional meeting within the next month to vote on recommendations to bring to the board. The idea is to have the board in position to vote on a proposal at its next meeting, Sept. 19 at University Park.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
The July/August 2014 issue of The Penn Stater is hitting mailboxes this week. If you’ve already received your copy, you know that the cover features a striking image of war-torn Belgium during World War I. In the cover story, “World War I Revisited,” associate professor Sophie De Schaepdrijver talks about the lessons we can still learn from the Great War. With the centennial now approaching, De Schaepdrijver’s insights are both timely—and surprising.
In another feature, titled “Critical Condition,” you’ll learn about physician-turned-filmmaker (not to mention cancer survivor) Ryan McGarry ’05. His documentary, Code Black, chronicles life in Los Angeles County Hospital’s overcrowded ER. Released in June, the film is already earning buzz on the film-festival circuit.
“Plant Life” focuses on the career of Holly Shimizu ’76, who spent 14 years as executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.. Along with some lovely photos, the story features Shimizu’s best tips for amateur gardeners.
Other good stuff in the issue: A fun look at all the ways the university’s latest capital campaign is helping Penn Staters; a Q&A with a labor relations prof who thinks we should all put in fewer hours (really!); and a short profile of Pennsylvania’s official wine expert, Denise Gardner ’07.
Have you received the July/August issue yet? Let us know what you think. Comment below or email email@example.com.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
As a Penn State linebacker, Ben Kline knows all about the pressure of living up to a legacy of greatness. It’s good experience for his other role: president of Penn State’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes.
A redshirt junior linebacker, Kline is the latest Nittany Lion to lead the founding Uplifting Athletes chapter, a charity benefiting rare disease research which was started in 2003 by former Lion Scott Shirley ’03, ’04g. In the time since, UA has expanded into a national organization with student-run chapters at nearly two dozen college football programs. But Penn State still sets the tone: When the Lions host their annual Lift for Life event on Saturday, July 12, they’re expecting to surpass $1,000,000 raised for kidney cancer research.
“It’s really grown, and it’s something our team has really rallied around,” says Kline, the featured athlete in our July/August issue. “It’s become one of those traditions that’s built into Penn State football.” Much like Linebacker U., it’s also a tradition of excellence whose departed greats have left very big shoes to fill. In the case of Uplifting Athletes, the biggest belong to Eric Shrive ’13, the former offensive lineman who preceded Kline as president, and who raised more than $100,000 for UA during his time at Penn State.
“I was close with Shrive, and all the guys that were doing it before, and I saw what they did and how they put their hearts into it,” Kline says. “The guys on the executive board this year, we’re all close, and we’re thinking about it constantly—how we can grow it, how we can make it better.” Next week’s Lift for Life event is the chapter’s primary fundraiser, but thanks to that constant brainstorming, the team has hosted other events—popping up at Nittany Lion basketball games, or kid-friendly activities at local parks—that provide more opportunities to raise precious funds.
Kline’s on-field status this season is unclear: He missed about half of the Lions’ games last season with injuries, and an unconfirmed report last month implied he might miss more time this fall. But regardless of his impact on the field, Kline has already established himself as one of Penn State’s most valuable players.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
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