Prior to Penn State taking on USC in the Rose Bowl, a B-2 bomber flew over the stadium while the Blue Band played the National Anthem. The common thread: the man piloting the bomber was a Penn Stater.
The pilot—who asked that we not share his name for security reasons—attended Penn State for two years before deciding to join the Air Force. He comes from a family of Nittany Lions, and when describing the experience of the flyover, called it “a true honor and a dream come true.”
Several pictures were taken by the boom operator who refueled the plane, and as you can see in the photos above, the pilot made sure his alma mater was represented during his flight. You can watch a clip of both the Blue Band’s performance and the flyover below.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor
In the Jan./Feb. issue, we asked readers to share memories of the mail they received in college. The feedback was many more letters than we were able to publish in “Sent With Love.” Here are just a few more memories (and mementos) about campus mail.
My wife and I are from Johnstown, Pa. We met and started dating in the summer of 1966. Upon returning my sophomore year, we started writing letters. We each wrote a letter every day until graduation. I graduated in December and we married in January. We still have a few of those letters and are happily together after 47 years.
David C. Long ’69
I received a letter from a girl I had met during the summer of 1964. The letter was addressed as follows: Larry Husbands Penn State. Somehow it found its way to my mailbox in the dormitory.
Lawrence N Husbands ’68
You wouldn’t know by looking at her or hearing her speak in her soft voice, but Nicole Medvitz lives dangerously.
Well, maybe she doesn’t live dangerously, but when she’s on the balance beam, Medvitz pulls off a move so risky that it’s only performed by one other person on Earth.
It’s her move – it’s literally called the Medvitz-Jarred (you can find it at the 46-second mark of this video) – and the senior Penn State gymnast has been doing it since her sophomore year of high school.
“So I did the base of the move before the actual move,” Medvitz said. “It’s pretty much a turn with one leg in the air. I did it with my beam coach, Jen Zappa, who I’ve worked with my entire life before I came here. And she was like ‘Why don’t you just try it to a scale?’ and we looked and it hadn’t been done before. So I tried it and it worked out and then started competing it.”
What makes this so difficult is that doing a move like this on the beam gives her no margin of error. In fact, Medvitz said it’s rated at the highest degree of difficulty. This kind of expertise on the beam has made her one of the top gymnasts in the conference – Medvitz was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2016.
Her success, especially on the beam, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. From 2009-13, Medvitz was a Level 10 gymnast, a classification in which the top meet is the Junior Olympics. The only level above this is Elite – the top meets for that one are World Championships and the Olympics.
She was a three-time Junior Olympic national champion on the beam. She racked up wins over U.S. Olympians like 2012 alternate Elizabeth Price and Gabby Douglas, who won the gold medal at the 2012 Games in the all-around.
And yet when the opportunity to move up and potentially become an Elite gymnast came about, Medvitz declined.
Instead, she thought it was important to focus on things like her education. Becoming an Elite gymnast requires a strict dedication to the sport, something that Medvitz knew about and decided wasn’t for her – she cited the fact that this level of gymnastics usually requires being homeschooled.
Medvitz was, however, competing at a college level for years. Level 10 is essentially the same level of competition as college gymnastics, although there are some differences.
“Three times a week we come in at 6 a.m., I never did that in club,” Medvitz said about her collegiate training regimen. “So we’ll come back later at 1:30 and practice the rest of the events. Club we did a lot more drills and stuff because we were still learning new skills, but here it’s a lot of perfecting the skills that we already have because we don’t really need to learn too much more.”
In addition to being technically sound, Medvitz is one of the toughest athletes on Penn State’s campus. For proof, look no further than her freshman year, when she suffered a torn labrum in her shoulder. Instead of getting surgery, Medvitz decided to compete in two events: balance beam and uneven bars. She competed in every meet, all the way through NCAA Championships.
That summer, she got the surgery she needed. Medvitz did only beam as a sophomore while working her way back before feeling like she was “fully better” as a junior. Now a senior, Medvitz feels all the rust that may have built up while getting to full health is gone. With this comes the optimism that she can compete in more events during her senior year. Medvitz hopes to try her hand at the vault and the floor exercise (which she admits are not her strongest events).
When she’s not on the beam, Medvitz is a standout in the classroom, as she was an Academic All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore and a junior and earned the title of Big Ten Distinguished Scholar last year.
She is a management major who wants to combine her love of sports and entertainment after she graduates, and this past summer, Medvitz was a global sales intern for Nike, where she worked with the organization’s integrated marketplace team. Medvitz is also the secretary and oversees the communications and media committee for Penn State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Board.
Penn State women’s gymnastics team begins its 2017 campaign – one which Medvitz hopes will end with a conference championship – on Jan. 7.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor
It’s safe to say that Renee Frohnert will never forget her appearance on Let’s Make a Deal. Frohnert ’16, who graduated last week and was a member of the Penn State weightlifting team, went on the show and squatted its host, Wayne Brady.
Frohnert wore her weightlifting singlet, which fascinated Brady. So he did what anyone would do: asked how much she could lift. Once he found out that Frohnert squatted 325 pounds at nationals, he asked if she would squat him. Frohnert did it fairly easily before going on to play a game.
Fortunately, video of the entire segment is online. It starts at the 13:20 mark, and we recommend watching it as soon as possible. We won’t give away what Frohnert won, but seeing as how she just bought a home, she definitely made a wise decision.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor
Look for a welcome pop of color inside your mailboxes soon: You won’t be able to miss the striking aracari named Beatrice gracing the cover of our Jan./Feb. issue. This toucan is just one of the magnificent models featured in “Critter Close-Ups.” Michael Faix, a wildlife photographer and staffer at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, shares his pictures and the stories behind them starting on p. 42.
In “Learning in the Dirt” (p. 24), Dana DiFilippo ’92 discovers the Penn State students who are managing their own working farm on campus. (It turns out that they’re learning as much about themselves as they are about growing food.) Also in the issue, we take a look at the profound legacy of the Craighead family, which includes two leading conservationists and a bestselling author, in “Three of a Kind.”
We also asked readers for memories of getting mail at college and received dozens of great responses. Whether it was a sweet surprise, like mom’s baked-from-scratch cookies, or a love letter in a long-distance relationship—we learned that, years after opening these envelopes and packages, they still remain some of your most special deliveries. Start reading the letters on p. 32.
More from the issue: a profile on Kaia, the adorable golden retriever puppy who is making her mark as a full-time employee at Hershey; a story about Nike CEO Mark Parker ’77; and a recap of the amazing season for the 2016 Nittany Lion football team.
What do you think about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Downey, senior editor
Jeff Ballou ’90 was elected the National Press Club‘s new president, making the Al Jazeera Media Network news editor the first African-American man to hold this title. With his election, Ballou is the 110th president of the organization and the first to represent a TV news outlet from outside of the United States.
As Ballou told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “When people think about Pittsburgh, they think about football, they think about huddles, they think about teamwork, and they think about winning. The National Press Club is a winner, and I want to create an environment where people say to themselves, ‘Being a member is a winning thing.’”
We spoke with Ballou back in 2011 about the work he did covering the Egyptian Revolution. You can read it here.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor