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Inside Our July/August 2017 Issue

When Harry Swimmer ’51 started a therapeutic horse riding program for special needs children at his North Carolina farm 23 years ago, the staff consisted of, essentially, just him and his horses. There was one rider, a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. He didn’t charge a dime. Today, there are some 200 volunteers, 69 riders, and 26 horses on Swimmer’s 83-acre Misty Meadows farm. And to this day, he has never charged any money for the services.

That altruistic approach to service earned him recognition as one of CNN’s Heroes in a ceremony last year, and landed him on the cover this month’s issue of The Penn Stater, arriving in mailboxes soon. In “A Farm Full of Hope,” we visit Misty Meadows to see how Swimmer has kept up with the needs of the kids and the community, as well as his reaction to the CNN tribute.

The new issue also gives you a look into how last year’s Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl berth turned many skeptics into believers of James Franklin and his approach to building the football program, in a profile called “Unite and Conquer.” Additionally, we talk to retiring American Studies professor Simon Bronner, whose office is filled with items from the cultures and communities he has studied in “A Folklorist at Work.”

Plus we’ll tell you what the $30 million gift from Hollywood producer Donald P. Bellisario ’51 means for the College of Communications, take you inside a class that looks at the stereotypes of “good” vs. “bad” moms in literature, and look back at a historic Big Ten championship for men’s track and field.

What do you think about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at heypennstater@psu.edu.

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

June 26, 2017 at 4:54 pm Leave a comment

Inside Our May/June 2017 Issue

A look back at some of the musical acts to make their way through Happy Valley, starting on the cover with Jon Bon Jovi.

If you’re feeling nostalgic, our May/June issue will help you relive some of the more memorable and iconic musical acts to play the Bryce Jordan Center since its opening in 1996. Starting with Jon Bon Jovi on the cover, longtime BJC marketing director Bernie Punt ’84 takes us backstage to talk about what it took to land Paul McCartney, the parenting skills of Gene Simmons, and what makes Garth Brooks a favorite among BJC staff, among other behind-the-scenes stories. The retrospective begins on p. 44.

The new issue, arriving in mailboxes soon, also tells how Dr. J. Richard Ward ’66, a civilian chemist, befriended a Russian defector in the waning days of the Cold War and unwittingly became a secret operative for the CIA. The tale of “The Accidental Spy” begins on p. 38.

You’ll also get a look at how Penn State experts are helping the Central American nation of Colombia move away from the cocaine trade by instead growing the key ingredient in chocolate (p. 30). You’ll meet Rob Turrisi, a professor whose research has shown that short, targeted conversations with teenagers can have a substantial impact on reducing high-risk behaviors like tanning and binge drinking (p. 52). Plus a look back at memorable seasons for Penn State wrestling (again) and men’s ice hockey.

What do you think about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at heypennstater@psu.edu.

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

April 26, 2017 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Being Benny

What You Own: (L to R) Danny Harris Kornfeld, Christian Thompson, Kaleb Wells
RENT 20th Anniversary Tour, Credit Carol Rosegg, 2016.

If Christian Thompson ’15 seems taken with his role of portraying Benny, the landlord and de facto bad guy in the musical “Rent,” that could be because he’s been preparing for it since he was a senior at Penn State. That’s where School of Musical Theatre musical director Beth Burrier encountered him and felt he fit the role perfectly.

“She said, ‘You’re the most Benny-est Benny I’ve ever seen and one day you’re going to play this so you should know the solo,’” Thompson recalled. “And so she taught it to me and who would think that two years later I’d be coming back to Penn State playing that role.”

But Thompson won’t have much time to reminisce once he gets to Dear Old State. “Rent,” the late Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking musical that debuted 20 years ago and has been revived for a multi-city U.S. tour, comes to Eisenhower Auditorium for one night only on Thursday, April 6. Thompson and company might not even have time to tour the Creamery—“We may just have to walk by it and be like, ‘That’s it. It’s really good. If you’re not too cold, make it happen.’”—before heading out for three nights of performances in Providence, R.I., starting April 7.

“Rent” chronicles the lives of starving artists in their close-knit community in New York’s East Village bound by a collective energy they summon daily in their struggle to make ends meet, all while dealing with the hardships brought about by discrimination, AIDS and—most visibly—a demanding landlord.

Thompson plays that landlord, Benjamin Coffin III, trying to collect the rent from his one-time friends—filmmaker Mark and AIDS-stricken musician Roger—who haven’t kept up with him financially and are now living in one of Benny’s East Village buildings, facing eviction.

When we caught up with Thompson by phone, it was a few hours before the show opened a six-night run in downtown Detroit’s historic Fisher Theater last month. As he prepared to partake in one of his favorite activities—exploring a new city for some good local coffee—he reflected on what it’s like to play the bad guy, taking on the added role of being the understudy for Roger, the importance of diversity in the arts, and his near-miss at landing a role in another landmark musical, “Hamilton.”

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April 4, 2017 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

Inside Our March/April 2017 Issue

ma17_coverGot a case of the winter blahs? Blue-White weekend can’t get here fast enough? Our latest issue might just have the cure for what ails you: Saquon Barkley coming right off the cover! Our March/April 2017 issue features a look back at an incredible season of Nittany Lion football highlighted by comebacks, big plays, and big players—like Barkley—who took fans on a wild ride to the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl. The photo spread begins on p. 26.

The new issue, arriving in mailboxes soon, also features comics, but it’s probably not what you think. In “Truth Between the Lines” (p. 37), we take you into the classroom at Penn State Hershey, where fourth-year med students reflect on the experience of becoming a doctor through an unusual practice—writing and drawing their own graphic narratives. You’ll find some of their work on our pages, too.

And you’ll get a glimpse into the life of Gary Eberle ’67, who turned a passion for wine into his life’s work, only to have his thriving California winery snatched away—before ultimately getting it back. “The Boar Endures” (p. 44) is a story of perseverance and the importance of savoring success.

More from the issue: a profile on Alex Patin, a Penn State junior who has developed a set of headphones that can read brainwaves to create playlists that match your mood; and John Hanrahan ’91, an All-American wrestler during the 1980s who’s still at it today—and recently won a world championship.

What do you think about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at heypennstater@psu.edu.

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

February 21, 2017 at 3:03 pm 2 comments

It’s Virtually Like Being There

Seeing a picture or video of the football team running out into the field is one thing. Standing in the middle of it and dodging the players as they race over to the sideline is something else. That’s the idea behind LionVisionVR, a new virtual reality app being introduced by the athletic department.

“It’s bringing the viewer somewhere they just couldn’t go,” says assistant athletic director Jim Nachtman ’90, who previewed the tech on Thursday at Penn State’s Applied Research Lab. “We can remind people how cool it is to be back in Beaver Stadium, how phenomenal it is to be in Pegula Ice Arena, or how great it is to be in Rec Hall when the lights go out and there’s a wrestling match.

“I think fans, at times, get tired of hearing you say how great the event is. Let’s show them how great the event is. We’re hopeful this technology can help us do it.”

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October 14, 2016 at 12:47 pm Leave a comment

In the Presence of Fishing Royalty

NewHero_FishingCreek_LTS_PC4

Photo courtesy of Live the Stream.

Our new issue includes a short feature on Joe Humphreys, Penn State’s legendary fly-fishing educator. For the story, writer Matt Sedensky caught up with Humphreys and with Lucas and Megan Bell, the husband-and-wife team wrapping up production on Live the Stream, a feature-length documentary on Humphreys due out this year. You can watch the trailer here. – B.J Reyes, associate editor

Joe Humphreys seems every bit the veteran fly-fisherman, wearing waders, a ratty, decades-old vest and a face full of character that doesn’t hide his 87 years. Then a crowd masses on the riverbanks, or another angler asks for a photo, and you realize you’re in the presence of something more: Fishing royalty.

Now the story of Humphreys ’57—so highly regarded for his fishing skills that his company has been sought by statesmen and celebrities alike—has garnered the interest of filmmakers who are wrapping up shooting of “Live the Stream,” a documentary about his life. Fly fishing’s serene waters and graceful casts of the line may seem the antithesis of an engrossing feature-length film, the humility, genuineness, and joy Humphreys continues to exude somehow exhilarate the viewer, elevating a sport to art.

He still remembers the day when his father first took him fly-fishing at the age of six, the Kingfisher bamboo rod he clumsily held and that eight-inch trout he was thrilled to catch. It’s been a constant in the eight decades since. “I still have that basic excitement that I had when I was six years old,” he says. “And that’s one thing that I suppose I won’t lose till I can’t pick up a rod.”

After Penn State, Humphreys coached and taught before also establishing one of the first high school fly-fishing programs. In 1970 came the realization of a dream, a return to Penn State to lead the angling program started by his mentor, George Harvey ’35. His time at Penn State spanned almost two decades.

Throughout his career, students have included Jimmy Carter, Dick Cheney, Bobby Knight and Liam Neeson. Just as meaningful as the big-name companions, though, have been those he’s touched through programs he’s been involved in that help instruct young people and injured veterans. Some of those he’s taught find themselves so obsessed with catching a fish, Humphreys has to offer two words of advice: Look up. He tells them to look at the hemlocks, at the sunlight peeking through their boughs, at the magnolias in the distance. See the sky, listen to the brook, relax in the crystal waters. Humphreys feels God there. “There is no stress,” he says. “There are no tensions.”

Humphreys has traveled to world championships, penned two books, and hosted an ESPN series. Still, when the husband-wife team of Lucas and Meigan Bell approached him with the idea of a film, he was surprised his story would be interesting to a wide audience. Lucas Bell ’02 met Humphreys while filming a history of the angling program as a film student at Penn State. After reconnecting with him last year at a fly-fishing show (the Bells, too, are aficionados), he had the idea for the project. His wife was sold soon after meeting Humphreys.

“Within a few minutes you get it,” she says. “You’re laughing, you’re charmed, you’re entertained and you suddenly realize why he is such a great man.”

Matt Sedensky

August 31, 2016 at 11:18 am Leave a comment

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