Posts filed under ‘The Penn Stater Magazine’

Inside Our November/December 2016 Issue

nd16_cover_webKeep an eye on your mailbox: Our November/December 2016 issue is being mailed out this week to members of the Alumni Association.

On the cover is an image of the iconic elms that decorate central campus. These stately trees along Henderson Mall are just one reminder of the beautiful landscape at University Park. Starting on page 24, “A Natural Beauty” takes a look—literally and figuratively—at some of the 16,000 trees that have defined our campus since 1855.

Also in this issue, deputy editor Ryan Jones writes about Patrick Chambers and his Nittany Lion basketball team. Now entering his sixth season, and with a pair of nationally ranked recruiting classes, his best season yet could be around the corner.

Editor Tina Hay went down to the Department of Homeland Security in D.C. in September to meet with a group of alumni who are tasked with a big job: keep America safe and secure online. Read the roundtable with them, “Watchers of the Web,” on page 34.

Plus, we celebrate the Penn Staters who medaled in the Olympic Games; we interview an elite opera singer who, at the age of 63, is also a student in the School of Music; and we look at the Mini-THONs that have popped up in dozens of middle and high schools.

Send us your thoughts about the new issue by commenting below or emailing us at

Amy Downey, senior editor

October 25, 2016 at 1:17 pm Leave a comment

What I Learned About Earthquakes on My Lunch Hour


Eliza Richardson

Today I went to a lunchtime lecture at Schlow Library downtown, to hear Penn State geoscientist Eliza Richardson talk about earthquakes. No special reason, really, except that we just finished the November/December issue of the magazine, so suddenly I have a little more time for such things. Lectures like these are a good way for us to scout possible stories for the magazine. And, besides, I know pretty much nothing about earthquakes.

In an hour’s time, I learned a lot. Here’s a sampling:

—Scientists would love to be able to predict earthquakes: when they’ll strike, where they’ll strike, and how big they’ll be. Richardson calls it the “holy grail” in her field.

—”The biggest earthquakes aren’t always the worst,” Richardson says. She showed three lists—the 10 biggest earthquakes in history, the 10 deadliest, and the 10 costliest—and pointed out that only two earthquakes appear on all three lists. (Those were the 2004 quake and tsunami near Sumatra and the 2011 quake and tsunami off the Japanese coast.)

—The so-called “World Series Earthquake” of 1989 in San Francisco was not quite as strong as the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti—the San Francisco quake was a magnitude 7.0, vs. 7.2 in Haiti—yet only 68 people died in San Francisco, vs. 159,000 in Haiti. “That’s all about infrastructure,” Richardson says: San Francisco has many buildings that are seismically retrofitted, while Haiti, an impoverished country, does not.

—Earthquakes happen along fault lines where two tectonic plates bump into each other, and “stress overcomes friction” along that fault line. “If the plate boundaries could all be lubricated with the scientific equivalent of WD-40, earthquakes would never happen,” Richardson says.

—Earthquakes happen far more often than people realize. Her title slide included a USGS-generated world map very similar to this one…

USGS world earthquake map

…which shows all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater just in the past 30 days.

You can click on the map to see it bigger. Obviously the fault lines along the West Coast of the Americas are pretty impressive, along with poor Italy, which is practically obliterated by all the dots.

—Speaking of Italy: Scientists often are hesitant (“cagey,” Richardson called it) about saying they’re working on earthquake prediction. She cited the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake in Italy as one reason: The city had been experiencing tremors for months, so a special meeting of seismologists was convened, and many people interpreted the scientists’ comments at that meeting as suggesting there was nothing to fear. A week later, a magnitude-6.3 quake hit the city, and more than 300 people died. Five scientists ended up standing trial for manslaughter—and were convicted. A higher court eventually overturned the convictions, but the events surely had a chilling effect on seismologists worldwide.

(You can read an interesting account of the L’Aquila quake and subsequent criminal trial at

—While seismologists can’t yet predict earthquakes, there’s been a lot of progress in the field in the past 10 years. Scientists are starting to pay more attention to silent earthquakes called “slow slip earthquakes,” which can be measured by GPS devices. These slow slips may turn out to be harbingers of a larger, far more damaging quake.

—There’s a fairly prominent fault line in the U.S. midwest, called the New Madrid (pronounced MAD rid) Fault, which in 1811 and 1812 spawned the largest earthquakes in U.S. history. If they happened today, says Richardson, they would level Memphis and several other cities. They reportedly shook the White House, hundreds of miles away, and caused church bells to ring in Boston.

(You can read more about the New Madrid earthquakes here.)

OK, there’s lots more, but I’ve probably babbled enough. Suffice it to say I think Richardson’s research is really interesting and would make for a great story in the magazine sometime.

The lecture was sponsored by Schlow Library as part of its Research Unplugged series; the fall schedule continues through Nov. 10.

Tina Hay, editor

October 13, 2016 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

The Squirrel Whisperer

mary krupa

How an unlikely friendship with Penn State’s squirrels put a student in the spotlight—and helped her manage her autism.

Story by Amy Strauss Downey ’04 / photographs by Sara Naomi Lewkowicz

This story appears in the September/October issue of The Penn Stater, the official publication of the Penn State Alumni Association. Not a member? Click here to join.


September 6, 2016 at 10:35 am 5 comments

In the Presence of Fishing Royalty


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

Inside Our September/October 2016 Issue

Squirrel with magazine (2)

Photo by Mary Krupa

Alumni Association members should keep an eye out for our Sept./Oct. 2016 issue, which should be arriving any day. From the photo on the right, it looks like Sneezy the Penn State squirrel already has her paws on one. Sneezy is featured on the cover, along with student Mary Krupa, who is widely known as “The Squirrel Whisperer.”

Krupa, who is set to graduate this December, befriended Sneezy on the Old Main lawn as a freshman; since then, the pair have made headlines around the world for their adorable photos. But what people don’t know about their friendship is that it’s also empowered Krupa to tackle her Asperger’s at a critical time. Read about her incredible college journey starting on p. 28.

In “Kelly Ayotte Makes Her Case,” Ryan Jones profiles one of the most prominent female Republicans in the country. Learn about how Ayotte ’90 is more than ready to fight for her place in the party starting on p. 36. Also in the magazine is a feature on student group World in Conversation, the Penn State program that’s bridging ethnic, religious, and national divides—all through meaningful dialogue.

More from this issue: a documentary on legendary fly fisherman Joe Humphreys ’58, ’63g; a chat with the 2016-17 Penn State Laureate; fun photography with volleyball superstar Haleigh Washington; and a lesson on playing Pokémon Go around campuses.

Have some thoughts about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at

Amy Downey, senior editor

August 25, 2016 at 10:31 am 6 comments

NASCAR on Two Wheels

Photo via Steve Boyle

Photo via Steve Boyle

His older brother loved to race bikes, and so, as a boy of only 5 or 6, Matt Baranoski found himself dragged along to the track. He was technically too young to join in, but he knew how to ride, and it hardly seemed fair to make a kid that age sit and watch while the older boys had all the fun. So his parents asked, and the folks in charge at the Lehigh Valley Velodrome said sure, and an exception was made.

Fifteen years and a cabinet-full of trophies later, the exception seems to have worked out pretty well.

It’s late April as Baranoski tells the story by phone from suburban Toronto, where he’s part of a select group of cyclists training at a sparkling new Canadian cycling center. It’s among the best facilities of its kind in the world, and the elite competition is exactly what he needs as he works to peak in time for Rio. “It’s always good to be pushed,” he says.

Photo via Steve Boyle

Photo via Steve Boyle

In truth, Baranoski doesn’t seem like the type to struggle for motivation. A junior national champion by the time he was 12, able to hold his own against top international competition just a few years later, he quite literally never slowed down. His ambitions on the track informed his college choice: The Perkasie, Pa., native chose Penn State Lehigh Valley because of the proximity of the world-class velodrome and the campus’s cycling program, led by longtime coach Jim Young, whom Baranoski calls “a legend in the collegiate cycling world.” (Baranoski will be joined in Rio by Bobby Lea ’06 Berks, a fellow Lehigh Valley alum making his third Olympic appearance.)

Baranoski rides in an event called the keirin, which he calls “the most fun race on the track.” It’s an eight-lap sprint around the 250-meter banked track, paced by a motorcycle, that leads Baranoski to compare it to NASCAR; world-class cyclists will approach 50 miles per hour down the stretch, occasionally bumping each other to protect their position. “For the last two and a half laps,” he says, “it’s all-out war.”

Six days after his final race in Rio, Baranoski will be back at University Park for his final semester in the Schreyer Honors College; the electrical engineering major is set to graduate in December. It’s a quick turnaround, but if anyone can handle that sort of pace, he’s probably the guy.

This story appears in the July/August 2016 issue of The Penn Stater, the official publication of the Penn State Alumni Association. Not a member? Click here to join.

Ryan Jones, deputy editor

August 4, 2016 at 11:07 am 2 comments

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