Inside our November/December issue

He might not have invented the corn maze, but Hugh McPherson saw early on that with some ingenuity and a little entrepreneurial spirit, this agricultural novelty could be part of a larger business model. Today, McPherson ’97 markets corn maze designs and know-how far and wide, all while operating his own agricultural theme park on his family farm in York County. Learn all about this agribusiness innovator in our November/December issue. The story begins on page 32.

We also take a look at the university’s sustainability efforts, and how chief sustainability officer Paul Shrivastava is using a United Nations model as he crafts policy that will have an impact far beyond Penn State. Our feature package begins on page 40. And meet Clarence Lang, the new dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, who talks of his priorities, his predecessor, and the state of the liberal arts. That interview starts on page 52.

Plus, read how Joe Kovacs ’11 won a second world championship in shot put in record-setting style (p. 28); learn how Career Services’ Professional Attire Closet helps students prepare for job interviews by helping them find the clothes they need to make a memorable first impression (p. 62); and meet Tyler Spangler, a 13-year-old who is already on his second college calculus class at Penn State York (p. 16).

It’s all in our November/December issue, arriving in mailboxes soon.

—B.J. Reyes, associate editor

 

October 24, 2019 at 10:56 pm Leave a comment

Inside Our September/October Issue

For the cover story of our September/October issue, we gathered student, administrative, and alumni perspective on the challenges facing a Greek system that has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years, particularly since the 2017 hazing death of undergraduate Timothy Piazza. Our feature package includes a conversation with President Barron and student affairs vice president Damon Sims focused on the university’s efforts to create a sustainable future for Greek life on campus, and position Penn State as a leader in a national reform effort. We also hear from former IFC president John Lord ’19, while writer Michael Weinreb ’94 examines the history of the Greek system, and looks back on his own fraternity days. The cover feature begins on p. 30.

Also inside: Meet Jamal Itani ’85, the mayor of Beirut, Lebanon, who seeks to transform his historic hometown into a gateway between East and West, while simultaneously dealing with everyday civic issues. Senior editor Savita Iyer traveled to Beirut to spend time with Itani for the feature that begins on p. 42. And take a trip down memory lane to see how downtown State College has transformed over the years, from the names on the storefronts to two-way traffic on College Avenue. The photo feature begins on p. 50.

Plus, see how one Penn Stater is seeking to make the tech industry more inclusive; get the low-down on how to cut down on your sugar intake; and get to know one alum trying to keep the Los Angeles Dodgers in World Series contention—by keeping them healthy.

It’s all in our September/October issue, arriving in mailboxes soon.

—B.J. Reyes, associate editor

 

 

 

 

August 21, 2019 at 1:26 pm 1 comment

“The Last Day” Is Here

I had a chance a couple of weeks ago to drop in on an early rehearsal for The Last Day, a new musical commissioned by the School of Theatre and written by Mike Reid and Sarah Schlesinger. If one of those names looks familiar, it’s most likely Reid ’69, the former Nittany Lion football All-American and NFL standout who has enjoyed a long career as a singer, songwriter and composer.

The show, directed by John Simpkins, head of the musical theatre program, tells the story of “a young man tormented by a secret he has never shared. As he ends his junior year of musical theatre university training, he is dropped from the program as his secret overtakes him. Over the course of one night, his peers attempt to show him the value of his life and they all discover much they never realized about themselves.”

The cast is made up entirely of undergrads from the musical theatre department, one of the most selective of its kind in the country—point being, there’s a lot of talent on hand. And good thing—as Reid told WPSU this week, “What I hope the show reveals is, in the midst of crisis, how groups of people can come together and feel more a sense of authentic community … When you have something like that, you have people operating from a very high emotional level, it really opens the door for lots of music.”

Having spent some time with Reid since he’s been on campus the past few weeks, I can vouch for the thoughtfulness that infuses his work. The show opens tonight at the Penn State Downtown Theatre and runs through Saturday, June 15, and again June 19-22. You can find tickets here.

Ryan Jones, editor

June 12, 2019 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

Racing to a Cure

I got an email recently from Mark Freed ’97, an acquaintance from my undergraduate days, that felt important to share here:

“My wife and I have twin children named Maxwell and Riley. In 2018, my son was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease known as SLC6A1. The disease is too rare for a formal name and is known only by its genetic location in the brain. Doctors told us we were 1 of 30 in the world and nothing could be done and we chose not to accept that answer. My wife and I interviewed 140 scientists over the course of three months and found the disease can be cured via gene replacement therapy. We are in the midst of raising a large sum of money to advance the clinical trial. We hosted the first symposium on the disease in November and found that the disease is dramatically under-diagnosed because it’s newly discovered. Our patient population is actually in the thousands . . . The quest to save our son has transcended our family and we have the opportunity to impact a multitude.”

Mark and his wife, Amber, are leading an effort to save Maxwell and other children affected by SLC6A1, with a goal of raising $1,000,000 to advance a gene replacement therapy clinical trial. It’s a daunting task, but the impact literally could be life-saving. They’re concentrating their efforts on a GoFundMe, and they’ve also launched a website with details on the disease, stories of Maxwell and other children afflicted, and updates on the research.

Ryan Jones, editor

 

May 9, 2019 at 1:04 am Leave a comment

Inside our May/June Issue

MJ19_Cover_BlogJust in time for pool and beach season, it’s our collection of must-read books, chosen by faculty from across Penn State. Whether you’re looking for a mystery to solve, some history to brush up on, or just an easy page-turner, we’ve got you covered. The list begins on p. 34. 

You’ll also get a glimpse of the innovative film project conceived by professor Andrew Belser, who pairs off young adults with aging seniors to challenge generational boundaries. The story of FaceAge begins on p. 44. And finally, Penn State DuBois geoscientist Neyda Abreu talks about efforts to mine cosmic metals, and the implications for life on Earth. Her interview begins on p. 28.

Plus: Meet the World Campus student and gaming wiz who plays for the New York Knicks in the NBA2K League, part of the fast-growing world of esports; learn about Good Day Cafe, a new State College establishment that creates much-needed job opportunities for local local residents with Down syndrome, autism, or mental illness; and enjoy an essay from a new alum who found himself asking to “un” graduate. It’s all in our May/June issue, arriving in mailboxes this week.

 

—B.J. Reyes, associate editor

 

 

May 1, 2019 at 9:56 am Leave a comment

In Sickness and In Health

Mike Petrash ’73 is a regular at the Barnes & Noble in Center Valley, Pa. He’s at the store every day, and always orders a Frappuccino at the in-store café. Everyone there knows him.

We heard about Mike’s routine from his friend Dan Wallace ’75, who wrote recently to share the story of a very cool Penn State connection — one that was written up in Barnes & Noble’s own in-house publication. One January day, Wallace and Petrash’s wife brightened up Mike’s bookstore routine by asking his closest Penn State friends to visit with him at the store. Petrash, Wallace, Greg Pierce ’74, ’76g, Tom Macenka ’75, and John Slaby ’75 met in college and have been firm friends for nearly five decades since. Their bond has always been strong, but it became even stronger after Petrash was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and the group decided to meet with him regularly at the bookstore.

“They were a great group of guys, full of energy and lots of laughs. They even joked about receiving a senior discount,” says Colleen Gorsky ’03, the store’s community development manager. “As a fellow Penn State alum, I was thrilled to be able to encounter this wonderful reunion and be able to capture their experience.” We’re glad we could share it a little more widely here.

Savita Iyer, senior editor

March 12, 2019 at 3:05 pm Leave a comment

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