Posts filed under ‘The Penn Stater Magazine’

Horace Ashenfelter’s Amazing Race

One of the highlights of our July/August 2016 issue is the story of Horace Ashenfelter ’49, ’55g, the only Penn State alumnus to win an individual Olympic gold medal. Ashenfelter won the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 1952 Games in Helsinki with a world-record time of 8:45.4.

At the top of this post is a truncated version of the race, which includes the final water jump and Ashenfelter’s sprint to the finish line. You’ll notice that Ashenfelter’s main competitor, Russia’s Vladimir Kazantsev, stumbles in the water (around the 2:44 mark), which led to Ashenfelter pulling ahead. Ashenfelter explained in our story that he noticed that the water pit was getting “messy,” so he tried to influence Kazantsev into one of the slippery areas with the hopes that he’d make a mistake.

Ashenfelter’s lead was so large that his rather awkward approach on the final hurdle didn’t cost him.

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“He almost forgot to jump over it,” remembers his wife, Lillian. “He didn’t take it in stride. It was like, ‘whoops!'”

Despite the unconventional approach, he managed to clear the jump before coasting to victory: Ashenfelter finished about six seconds ahead of Kazantsev and clinched the gold.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

July 6, 2016 at 11:09 am 3 comments

Barney Ewell, Nick Vukmanic, and the 1940 Olympics

Photo via Black History at Penn State

Photo via Black History at Penn State

Our July/August 2016 issue included a big list of Penn State alums who have competed in the Olympic Games. However, it excluded a pair of Nittany Lions who earned the title of honorary Olympians in 1940.

Barney Ewell (right) and Nick Vukmanic ’40 received this honor for qualifying for the 1940 Games in Tokyo, which were canceled due to World War II. Ewell was a sprinter who eventually made it to the Olympics and did pretty well for himself – he won a gold medal in the 4×100 meter relay and silvers in the 100 and 200 meters in 1948. Vukmanic was a standout in javelin. While he never got the chance to compete at the Olympics, Vukmanic won a U.S. National Championship in the event in 1938.

Thank you to Kristy Kowalski ’92, Vukmanic’s granddaughter, for bringing the story of the two honorary Olympians to our attention.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor


June 30, 2016 at 11:50 am Leave a comment

Inside Our July/August 2016 Issue

JA16_CoverThe countdown to Rio is here, and we have Olympic hopeful and cyclist Matt Baranoski on the cover of our July/August issue. Before he graduates from Smeal this December, he will try to medal in the fastest event at the Games, the kirin. Baranoski is just one of the many Penn Staters to compete on the grandest of stages: Learn about all of our elite athletes—past and present—starting on p. 27.

The magazine also includes a story about the Penn State Center for Sport Concussion and Research, where professor Semyon Slobounov and others are rethinking the diagnoses and treatment of brain injuries.

We also take a look at some of the most iconic Arts Fest posters from over the years. Created by graphic designer Lanny Sommese, the colorful collection—and the stories behind them—start on p. 44. (You’ll also get a sneak peek at the new 2016 poster.)

More from the issue: A tribute to Bryce Jordan, the university’s 14th president, who passed away in April; a farewell to Christian Brady, who is stepping down as dean for Schreyer Honors College; a recap of the women’s rugby national title; and a conversation with Taylor Guelich, who started her freshman year at age 15 and may just be the youngest student to ever enroll at Penn State.

We’d love to hear your feedback on the new issue—comment below or email us at

Amy Downey, senior editor

June 28, 2016 at 11:04 am 7 comments

The Penn State Rugby Dynasty Continues


We appreciate the continued commitment of the women’s rugby program to making us look smart. The Lions, who we featured on the cover of our May/June issue last year, traveled to California over the weekend and came back with their fifth straight national championship. Penn State knocked off BYU, 15-5, to extend one of the most impressive dynasties in college sports.

Led by coach Kate Daley ’09—who we profile during her All-American undergrad days way back in 2009—and an MVP performance from freshman Azniv Nalbandian, the Lions claimed the inaugural D1 Elite final, the title game of the new women’s college rugby playoff format. But there was nothing new about this for Penn State: It was not only the program’s fifth consecutive championship, but its 11th overall, the most of any team in the nation.

Ryan Jones, deputy editor

May 9, 2016 at 9:56 am Leave a comment

Inside Our May/June 2016 Issue

MikeCoverThe May/June 2016 issue of The Penn Stater is hitting mailboxes soon. In the cover story, “The Mayor of 16802,” we celebrate the career of Mike Herr, who has been the friendly face of the campus post office for nearly 50 years. He retired in April, but before his last day on the job we were able to photograph him at work and, of course, at play. You’ll find his story and some wonderful shots captured by photographer Bill Cardoni starting on p. 36. After the photoshoot, Herr and his wife Mary ’84 (pictured below), insisted on serving coconut cream pie to our staff in their Boalsburg home.

In another feature, titled “What’s the Big Idea?” you’ll learn about three alums who have successfully built one of the hottest tech companies in Silicon Valley. Their company, Weebly, makes it easy to build a website—and, ultimately, is giving other entrepreneurs a web platform to grow their own businesses.

“World Travelers” shares the stories of alumni who studied abroad. Here, you’ll read about the places they went, the people they met, and the languages—and lessons—they learned.

Also in the magazine: A look at this year’s Alumni Teaching Fellows; a recap of the unstoppable Nittany Lion wrestlers who notched another NCAA team title this spring; and a nod to Rod Kirsch, longtime senior vice president for development and alumni relations, who will be leaving his position in August.

Let us know what you think about the new issue. Comment below or email

Mike Herr aka Mike the Mailman PSU

Photo by CARDONI

Amy Downey, senior editor

April 25, 2016 at 1:43 pm 3 comments

Following Up on Our March/April Cover Story


It’s been a month since our March/April issue hit Alumni Association members’ mailboxes—plenty of time, in other words, for readers to share their opinions. Not surprisingly, we’ve heard from plenty of them: dozens of emails (quite a bit more than we usually get, certainly) and a handful of phone calls and handwritten letters, the tone of which has been pretty evenly split between those who are upset or angry about our cover story on the lives and experiences of Muslim students at Penn State, and those who are proud and supportive.

We will of course run many of those letters in our May/June issue, but I thought it was worth writing here to say a bit more about the students themselves. The roundtable conversation that led to the feature was pulled together with the help of May Ayad, a junior graphic design major and current president of the Muslim Students Association. Our curiosity had been sparked by the MSA’s “Free Pizza Friday” giveaways, and once we contacted Ayad, she was able round up a few of her classmates to join the conversation.

The pizza giveaway is just one outreach activity of the MSA, which was created to “unite the Muslim body and integrate with the State College community.” Ayad and Hamsa Fayed, a senior international politics major and the MSA’s events coordinator, were featured in February in a USA Today article on the MSA’s “Day in Her Hijab” event, which gave students from any religious or ethnic background the chance to experience what it’s like to wear the traditional Muslim head covering on an American college campus.

They’re not the only MSA members making news: Zico Khayat, a junior studying biological sciences, was recently featured on Voice of America news for his efforts to help found a Penn State chapter of Alpha Lambda Mu, considered the nation’s first Muslim fraternity. Zico made a point of wearing traditional formal garb in our photo shoot, but the State College townie told us he generally only does so on special occasions; when I ran into him last week at State College High School, where he was helping out with an elementary school volleyball tournament my son was playing in, he was wearing a T-shirt and basketball high-tops.

Then there’s Ramisa Fariha, one of just a handful of Bangladeshi students at Penn State, and probably one of the sharpest students on campus. A junior in the Schreyer Honors College studying biomedical engineering (which we mistakenly referred to as “biomechanical” in the feature—sorry about that, Ramisa), she started out at Penn State Behrend, where she was named the campus’s Outstanding First-Year Student in 2014. Finally, Khaled Enab is something of an outlier in this group: A grad student working toward his Ph.D. in energy and mineral engineering, Enab is married with two young children.

As a group, they don’t represent the entirety of Muslim experience on campus, let alone the United States. But with due respect to those readers who disagreed, we felt (and still do) that theirs was a perspective worth sharing. I hope their decency, intelligence, and thoughtfulness came through in the story. They’re proud to be Penn Staters, and I’m proud we’ve got that in common.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

March 31, 2016 at 8:47 am 3 comments

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