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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

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

Inside our March/April Issue

MA19_Cover_BlogFaithful readers of this blog already know about Derrick Campana ’01, so you’ll be pleased to see that he not only made it into the magazine, but snagged our cover—with a little help from Petey. Campana has carved out a niche for himself in the field of orthotics for animals—mostly pets, but some wild animals, too. Learn about his story and how a chance meeting led to a brand-new career field.

Also in this issue: One of the greatest sportsmen of his day, Steve Hamas has been relegated largely to Penn State boxing lore. Learn about the versatile athlete who played in the nascent NFL and beat former world heavyweight champion Max Schmeling in the ring. We also feature poems and photos from Pennsylvania’s fracking fields, as documented by two Penn State professors who recently published the book Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields.

Also inside: Meet Rhea Sullivan, a former THON fundraiser-turned-medical student who’s hoping to make a breakthrough in the fight against cancer; catch up with swimmer Nikolette Nolte, whose own battle against cancer has inspired the social media hashtag #NikiStrong; find out former hoops star John Amaechi’s favorite spot on campus; and discover the Penn State connection to the Philadelphia Flyers’ new mascot, Gritty.

All that and more in our March/April issue.

 

——

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

 

February 27, 2019 at 12:38 pm Leave a comment

MEMORIA: Commemorating the Armistice Through Words and Music

There have been many conflicts, large and small, in the century following the end of World War I, and today, battles still rage in different parts of the world. Yet the devastation that was the Great War remains unparalleled in history, and for students in the Penn State Concert Choir, its magnitude took on a new meaning yesterday with MEMORIA, a choral cantata performed for the centenary of the Armistice.

Christopher Kiver, director of choral activities, commissioned the piece from composer Scott Eggert, professor emeritus of music at Lebanon Valley College, who set his music—scored for 11 instruments in 11 sections—to poems written during and after the war, each one carefully chosen to reflect its length and breadth, from start to finish and beyond.

“The students have been touched in a very deep way by this,” says Kiver, who believes strongly that music should be taught, felt, and performed beyond the notes and the rhythm. In preparing MEMORIA, he says, choir students had many discussions on the war—why and how it began: They watched documentaries, discussed visual art and poetry, looked at how the media reported the war, and the role played by women.

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For the Concert Choir, preparing and performing MEMORIA was a moving experience.

“The process of learning this piece was very different from pieces that I have performed in the past because we did so much outside research so that we understand the context of what we’re singing about,” says sophomore Ellie Farber, a history major. “Although WWI was 100 years ago, I have been able to understand the emotions of the various people involved in the war, from soldiers to families and friends, through the poetry and the music itself, and I have been able to use this new understanding to perform the piece to the best of my ability.”

For senior Alex Cooper—who, like many young people his age, did not know much about World War I—preparing and performing MEMORIA was a particularly moving experience, not least because “many of the young people who served were my age,” he says, “and were forced to endure unspeakable atrocities.”

Around 15 million people died in World War I, and many, many more were wounded. Soldiers from across Europe—many of them below the age of 18—fought, as did soldiers from countries under colonial rule such as India and Nigeria. The conflict claimed the lives of numerous Americans, including Penn Staters like Levi Lamb (the subject of our September/October cover story), a star athlete who was killed in July 1918, on the first day of the offensive stage of the Second Battle of the Marne.

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Star athlete Levi Lamb was one of the many young soldiers who never came home from the Great War.

Although the guns were silenced on the western front on November 11, 1918, the effects of the Great War continued to impact the world for many years to come.

“Many societies had been mobilized to fight this war, they had been pushed to their limits not to lose the war,” says associate professor of history Sophie de Schaepdrivjer, a World War I specialist. “Economies were in tatters, there were huge casualty rates, there were refugees and displaced people everywhere, so the war cast a really long shadow, and the dislocations it created—economic, cultural, social, psychological—would last for a long time.”

Historians will discuss the aftermath of the Great War and its effects on society today and tomorrow at Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, during a colloquium entitled “Dislocation: November 1918 and the Unfinished Business of the First World War.” It is sponsored by the Rock Ethics Institute and the Institute for the Humanities.

MEMORIA was performed in the new recital hall of the School of Music, where audience members also got to browse a lobby exhibit of pictures and posters from World War I, supplied by the Palmer Museum of Art and the Eberly Family Special Collections Library. Keith Forrest ’69 EMS lent a uniform belonging to his maternal grandfather, Roy Clarke, a captain in the U.S. Army, who was stationed in France during World War I.

Savita Iyer, senior editor

 

 

 

 

 

November 12, 2018 at 4:43 pm 1 comment

Inside our Sept./Oct. Issue

If you’ve been in Rec Hall, you’ve probably seen the plaque honoring the first Penn State athletes to die in combat in World War I—Levi Lamb ‘1915 and James “Red” Bebout ‘1914. Lamb, the first to fall, was killed in the French countryside in the second Battle of the Marne; he was further honored as the namesake of the annual fund that supports athletic scholarships at Penn State. For our September/October cover story, Ken Hickman ’98, director of the Penn State All-Sports Museum, takes you into Lamb’s life and how the talented athlete arrived at Penn State and became the school’s first three-sport letterman before fulfilling a sense of duty to fight on the front lines. Lamb’s story begins on p. 30.

Also in this issue, Schreyer Honors College Dean Peggy Johnson reflects on her first year on the job, the Scholar experience on campus, how the college competes with the Ivy League, and her plans for leading the college into the future. On the heels of the Honors College’s 20th anniversary, Johnson sits down for an up-close Q&A, which begins on p. 38. And former U.S. defense secretary William Perry ’57g is on a mission to educate millennials—and anyone else who will listen—on the perils of the nuclear threat. That story starts on p. 46.

Plus, get a few tips on learning a new language, meet State College’s pinball hobbyist (don’t call him a collector), and find out how junior running back Miles Sanders is ready to become the new focal point of the Nittany Lion ground game—and filling some very big shoes.

It’s all in out Sept./Oct. issue, arriving in mailboxes soon.

—B.J. Reyes, associate editor

 

 

 

August 27, 2018 at 10:51 am Leave a comment

A Community of Film Makers

It started out in 2009 as a class in community-based film making, but close to a decade later, associate professor Kevin Boon’s Mont Alto Project has three movies under its belt. The first two, Two Days Back and Ghosting, each won awards, and the third, a crime thriller entitled A Host of Sparrows, will premiere on July 7 at the Capitol Theatre in Chambersburg, Pa. It is Boon’s biggest project to date, he says, but like his other films, what’s most important about A Host of Sparrows is the “glory of the community feel” that is at its heart, and the way in which it has brought a dedicated group of people together.

“Everyone made huge sacrifices to come back and work on the film,” says Boon, an associate professor at Penn State Mont Alto who teaches creative writing and film making, among others.

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Kevin Boon’s Mont Alto project has resulted in three feature films. A Host of Sparrows premieres on July 7. 

 

Those involved include alums Edwin Koester ’09 Com (cinematographer), Gillian Colley ’17 LAS MtAlt (producer) and crew member Allen Cramm ’15 Com. “Many people who were involved in the first film have graduated and moved on,” Boon says, “but they came back to work on A Host of Sparrows.  We filmed in many counties in Pennsylvania, Maryland, where people let us use their property—they are a part of this, too.”

When Boon first offered the Mont Alto Project as a four-semester course in 2009, 15 students signed up. The 11 remaining at the end learned every aspect of film making, from pre- to post-production—and became hooked to the craft.

“My original vision was that we should make a movie the way movies are actually made,” Boon says, “and that meant keeping only the strong ideas, getting rid of the weaker ones. It meant putting people in roles where they had the greatest strength. But even though these movies are made on the kind of budget that most films spend on doughnuts, the important thing is that everyone gets a say, everyone has an input, and everyone is important.”

Among others, Two Days Back won the Best Feature award at the 2011 Bare Bones International Film Festival, which showcases movies made with budgets of less than $1 million, while Ghosting won for Best Feature at the 2015 Philadelphia Independent Film Festival, and bagged the Best Director award at the 2015 World Music & Independent Film Festival in Washington, D.C. The movie was also nominated for Best Horror Feature at the 2015 I Filmmaker International Film Festival in Marbella, Spain, and was shown at the Golden Door Film Festival in New Jersey, which is run by the Sorvino family.

A Host of Sparrows is currently in post-production and Boon will soon put it on the festival circuit. But what’s most important to him is the unique nature of the Mont Alto Project, and the effect it has had on those who participate in the film making process.

“I remember one moment during a screening of our first film when a mother and grandmother came up to me and said the project had turned their son and grandson around,” he says. “He is now working now as an associate producer in Hollywood. I love seeing people who were shy at first in class come out of their shell, people who by the end, are dancing and having a great time. I really love that part.” —Savita Iyer

 

 

 

 

July 6, 2018 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Inside Our July/August Issue

With summer upon us, our July/August issue might have just the thing to cool you down: ice, snow, and lots of penguins. (More on that later.)

But before you come to that, get to know the woman behind the icy stare that greets you on our cover. Rebecca Maine is a Golden Gloves state champ and Olympic boxing hopeful. She’s also an all-conference cross country runner at Penn State DuBois, not to mention a dean’s-list student. But she’s also a recovering addict who recently celebrated five years of sobriety. Read how she overcame addiction and landed at Penn State. Her story, “A Fighter’s Chance,” starts on p. 28.

Then venture with us to Antarctica. Editor Tina Hay ’83 led an expedition of Penn State Alumni to the polar ice cap, and captured most of the images you’ll find here. Learn about chinstrap and gentoo penguins and what it’s like to be surrounded by all that ice. “An Expedition to Antarctica” begins on p. 36. And find out how two of Penn State’s longest-serving deans have adapted to the evolving word of academia, what they’ve learned about themselves, their profession, and what lessons they’ll take with them into retirement. “Deans in Conversation” starts on p. 46.

Plus, read of one Penn College professor’s goal of making the perfect croissant (p. 16), take a look at how the first We Are Weekend alumni reunion events unfolded (p. 61), and see how two alums have kept alive an amazing streak of getting in a round of golf every month for going on five years now (p. 24).

It’s all in our July/August issue, arriving in mailboxes next week.

—B.J. Reyes, associate editor

 

June 22, 2018 at 10:15 am Leave a comment

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