Made by MSU: “Nittany White Out” Ice Cream

photoThey say, ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,’ but the Penn State Alumni Association made an exception last week when Michigan State sent over a few gallons of their Nittany White Out in honor of National Ice Cream Month. (Yes, we were shocked, too, when we learned that the Spartans have a flavor named after Penn State.) In fact, the East Lansing creamery has a flavor for all of the Big Ten rivals: Hoosier Strawberry; Badger Berry Cheesecake; and Buckeye Blitz, which is peanut butter ice cream with buckeye candies. There’s even a Husker’s Sweet Corn flavor replete with sweet corn pieces. As for the Nittany White Out—a subtle vanilla ice cream with salted caramel swirls and rounded chunks of pretzel pieces covered in white chocolate—we’ll go on the record and say we’re fans of it. Though we’ll still always be partial to our Berkey.

Amy Downey, senior editor

August 17, 2015 at 2:19 pm 1 comment

Different Digs Downtown

It’s that first—if not fleeting—moment when alumni step foot back on campus: What’s new downtown? What’s still here? The Cafe better still be here. (Oh, phew, The Cafe is still here.) And while every year alumni brace themselves for maybe one or two things different than they last remembered, those making the trek back this fall are in store for some big changes to the businesses downtown. Here are just a few.

  • Damon’s Bar & Grill, a fixture on East College Avenue for over 20 years, is now LETTERMANS sports bar and restaurant. Decked out in blue-and-white decor, LETTERMANS will also be the home to the Thursday night radio shows with Patrick Chambers and James Franklin.
  • Another mainstay on College Avenue, Mr. Charles, closed after three decades. The women’s clothing store was replaced by Anthym Running this spring, which will offer workout gear and accessories, plus fitness-related events for the community. 
  • Sheetz is inching closer to campus and is setting up (another) shop within what was formerly Duo Nightclub (which was formerly Tony’s Big Easy) on South Pugh Street. Students, rejoice: In true Sheetz form, this one will also be open 24/7. The 5,000 square foot space, which includes a take-out “beer cave,” should be ready for the fall.
  • The owners of The Deli and The Saloon opened up Liberty Craft House on prime real estate (College Avenue near the corner of Hiester Street) and with positive reviews for those looking for a non-college, college bar with a big craft beer selection.
  • Finally, Chili’s on South Allen Street closed its doors in May after 21 years of business. Champs Sports Grill—yes, that Champs—has plans to turn that space into its third location.

Amy Downey, senior editor

August 17, 2015 at 10:00 am 5 comments

“New” Bees Are all the Buzz

Photo via

Photo via

Maryann Frazier has done research on the declining honeybee population in America for years—we actually wrote about her work in our May/June 2007 issue. Frazier ’80, ’83g, a senior extension associate in the College of Ag, is still trying to figure out why these tiny-but-vital members of our ecosystem are dying off. It’s been a difficult process, but recently, members of her research team have stumbled across something hopeful: bees that could be more productive pollinators than honeybees.

According to NPR, Dave Biddinger ’93g is studying Japanese orchard bees, a type of “osmia” bee, and he claims that one of these “all-star bees” can do the work of “roughly 80 honeybees.”

“The honeybee is a little bit lazy,” Biddinger says. “It will only maybe visit one or two flowers per minute. An osmia will do up to 15 flowers per minute … We’ve seen with osmia that they can carry up to 100 times more pollen than what a honeybee can.”

These aren’t the only bees making an impact on Penn State researchers: Grad student Carley Miller is giddy over squash bees she’s observed, calling them “Wall Street bees” because of how quickly they fly around from one place to the next. There’s still a long way to go before either of these little workers can replace honeybees, but they’ve got these Penn State scientists feeling optimistic.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

August 13, 2015 at 12:33 pm 2 comments

Shannon Furman is Living the ‘Hard Knocks’ Life

HBO’s Hard Knocks returns tonight, and with Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans playing host, the new season of the NFL’s popular behind-the-scenes series holds special interest for Penn State fans. But the Nittany Lions’ former coach isn’t the only Hard Knocks star with blue-and-white blood lines: Shannon Furman ’03, a producer and director with NFL Films, is the series’ first assistant director.

Furman figures to be busy in Houston for the next month, but as the tweet above shows, she’s all over the football map, including occasionally back at her alma mater.

You can see a trailer for the the new Hard Knocks season here. As for tonight? Here’s hoping OB keeps it clean.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

August 11, 2015 at 1:42 pm Leave a comment

Ryan McGarry Is Heading To CBS This Fall


McGarry (center) is joined by cast members Melanie Chandra and Harry Ford (via

Back in our July/August 2014 issue, we told you about ER doctor-turned-filmmaker Ryan McGarry ’05, who directed the acclaimed documentary Code Black. In our last update, it looked like a dramatic adaptation of Code Black was headed for a prime-time TV run. Now, it’s confirmed: Code Black will debut on Wednesday, Sept. 30 on CBS, and will feature a loaded cast, including Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden.

Code Black made a cameo at Monday’s annual Television Critics Association event, where several of the show’s stars gave a brief overview of what we can expect. Harden called the medical drama “real” and “gritty,” while co-star Luis Guzman said “I’ve been doing this for a long time, but this show is different in that … you’re showing up to do a real shift,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Per The Reporter, the show “is set in the busiest and most notorious ER in the nation, where the staff confronts a broken system in order to protect their ideals and the patients who need them the most.” You can check out a preview right here.

Code Black

Oh, and McGarry was on his way to the TCA event Monday when he sent us this shot of a downtown L.A. billboard promoting the show. Pretty cool.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

August 11, 2015 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

What’s In A Name? For Penn State Football Players, Not Much

(c) Annemarie Mountz

(c) Bill Zimmerman

The Penn State football program’s decision to remove the names from its jerseys was received with a ton of enthusiasm, not just from fans and coaches, but from the players as well. Soon after the decision was announced, multiple players took to Twitter to express their approval, with offensive lineman Angelo Mangiro even penning a lengthy note that perfectly sums up the way many of the team’s older players reacted.

But as we found on Thursday during the team’s annual preseason media day, for some of the younger Lions, it wasn’t clear why this was such a big deal. Take sophomore defensive back Christian Campbell. The Alabama native wasn’t sure how to respond when he was made aware of the move, but says that the positive reaction by fans and alumni gave him a deeper understanding of the program’s rich tradition.

That sentiment was echoed by redshirt freshman linebacker and California native Koa Farmer. Like Campbell, he wasn’t as aware of Penn State tradition, although he did know about the iconic uniforms. So when told that the uniforms would be sans nameplates going forward, he respected the decision, which he called “old school.”

“It’s bigger than ourselves,” Farmer says. “It’s bigger than the name on the back, so there’s nothing I could have done to disrespect it.”

Even some players from the commonwealth had a hard time adjusting to the move. Take, for instance, redshirt freshman DB Daquan Worley. “The name on the back of the jersey, it meant something to my family, but in the bigger picture, this means something to everybody,” the Coatesville native says. “It means something to Adrian Amos ’14, who wore this number before me. I feel like I’m playing for him every time I step out on the field. When I get my chances, I feel like I’ve gotta make this number look good. I can’t let him down. It’s a pride thing, all the things that he taught me, trying to mentor me, I’ve got to show out for my big brother.”

The now-nameless Nittany Lions will kick off the 2015 season on Sept. 5 against Temple at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

August 6, 2015 at 4:13 pm 1 comment

Lions in the Limelight

We’re in the final week (or so) of production on our Sept./Oct. issue, and among the stories we’re putting finishing touches on is a feature package on alums working in New York and national theatre. As it happens, a couple of the Penn Staters featured in the piece—musical theatre grads Caroline Bowman ’10 and Natalie Weiss ’07—have popped up in the news in the past few days.

maxresdefaultBowman currently stars as Elphaba, the misunderstood green witch, in the Broadway smash Wicked. She and co-star Kara Lindsay were featured last week in a behind-the-scenes segment on New York’s WPIX-TV. (Among other things, you get a sense of just how much time she spends every week covering herself in green paint.) Weiss, meanwhile, recently wrapped a headlining concert at New York’s Highline Ballroom, which is featured in a new post at Among the highlights: A very funny, pop-inflected six-minute version of Les Miserables. There are more videos at the Playbill link, but you can see that one below:

For much more on Bowman, Weiss, and a slew of similarly talented Penn Staters, keep an eye out for our Sept./Oct. issue in a few weeks.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

August 5, 2015 at 2:30 pm 1 comment

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