Pat Little isn’t exaggerating when he guesses he has “probably over a million” photo negatives at his home, the tangible record of nearly 50 years as a professional photographer. He’s got a sense of humor about the significance of that number.

“It means one thing,” he says with a laugh. “It means you’re old.”

He couldn’t have imagined that sort of output back in 1977 when, encouraged by a friend, he walked into the Daily Collegian office in the middle of his senior year to try out for a spot on the photo staff. He was late to pick up a camera, but Little ’77 Lib has more than made up for it in the nearly half century since.

If you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance you’re familiar with his work. From his time on the Collegian staff to his tenure as a Centre Daily Times staff photographer from 1982 to 2000 and on to his stint as a contract photographer for the Associated Press from 2000 to 2010, Little has likely done more than anyone to document the people, places, major events, and everyday life in and around University Park. (He also shot a number of Penn Stater covers over the years.)

Last fall, not long after he reclaimed nearly two decades’ worth of his negatives from the CDT, he began digitizing those images using a high-quality scanner; when we spoke in January, he was up to the year 1989. He knows the project will take years, but he insists “it’s not work, because I enjoy it—I love picking them out. I basically have a daily history of Centre County from 1982 to 2000. I went to everything, and I want these to survive.”

The photos featured here are among the hundreds he’s posted and shared on Facebook, inspiring countless comments from alumni grateful for the black-and-white reminders of their time in Happy Valley. “There are all these things that people remember, and it touches a nerve for somebody,” he says.

Little’s first Collegian assignment—really, an informal tryout—was a Penn State gymnastics meet at Rec Hall. Enough of those shots impressed the newspaper’s photo editor, who handed him a roll of film (kids, ask your parents) and sent him to shoot a bicycle surplus auction on campus. From there, he learned how to develop prints. “After that,” he says, “I was stone-cold hooked.”

That July, he drove to Johnstown to document the devastating floods that inundated the city, walking the streets in water that was chest-high in places, with his camera bag held above his head. A few months later, he met the photo editor for Time magazine at a national photography convention in Washington, D.C.; his photos from the flood earned him a freelancing gig with the magazine, which eventually ran one of his photos of President Jimmy Carter fly fishing in nearby Spruce Creek.

He got a newspaper job in Philadelphia not long after, at which he learned two invaluable lessons: how to shoot sports (more on that below), and that he didn’t like living in a big city. A year later, he returned to his native Centre County, where he opened his own studio and freelanced for the Associated Press and CDT before the local paper eventually offered him a job.

He shot everything in and around State College, which naturally included lots of Penn State—football and other sports, of course, but also memorable snippets of everyday life. Sharing them on Facebook, he says, made one thing clear. “What gets the most reaction are the street scenes. People remember the places that were there, or people pick themselves out. That and football—I have a couple of former players who go through the sideline shots and pick everybody out.”

Nittany Lion football provided Little with his largest audience; he documented the program during a wildly successful stretch that included two national championships in the 1980s. Naturally, his primary responsibility on Saturdays at Beaver Stadium was capturing game action. A mentor in his first newspaper job in Philly taught him the secret of success. “He never missed anything, and he said, ‘That’s because I work harder than everybody else,” Little says. “So, I studied the game, studied the teams, so that I knew where to be and where to look. I shot well over 200 Penn State football games, and I shot them like a coach.”

He also captured thousands of images of the coach. “For the first 15 years I shot him, Joe didn’t know who I was,” Little says. “Eventually, he knew my name. We’d be allowed into practices up on the Astroturf, and after a certain time they’d cut us off. So Joe would just turn and yell, ‘Little, get out of here.’ He wouldn’t even see me.

“Some time after that, I’d go to his press conferences at Beaver Stadium, and my job was done when he was, so I’d walk out of the stadium with him, and we’d talk a bit.” It’s one warm memory among so many others, and like his photos, Little is more than happy to share.



black and white photo of a young man walking down the street walking a skunk on a leash by Pat Little
WALKING A SKUNK, 1977: “I was coming out of the camera shop and this guy was coming down the street just like that, walking his skunk.” In the background, the marquee for the movie theater on the corner of Beaver Avenue and Garner Street advertises Star Wars.


black and white photo of a dozen or so students practicing fly fishing on the HUB lawn by Pat Little
FLY-FISHING CLASS, 1988: Little says it was common to see students in this popular phys-ed class, taught by legendary fly fisherman and instructor Joe Humphreys ’57 H&HD, ’63 MEd Edu, out on the HUB lawn practicing their casting.


black and white photo of a long line of people outside a movie theater advertising "Steven Spielbergs Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom" by Pat Little
MOVIE NIGHT, 1984: Indiana Jones fans lined up on Hiester Street when "The Temple of Doom" premiered in May 1984. The former Cinema 5 theater is now a Chipotle; The Arena became The Gingerbread Man before being replaced in 2015 by Primanti Bros.


black and white photo of a large crowd of people greeting the arrival of a caravan of tour busses by Pat Little
RETURN OF THE CHAMPIONS, 1983: When throngs of fans greeted the Nittany Lion football team on its return to campus after winning the 1983 Sugar Bowl, Little managed to “talk my way onto the roof” of the old Greenberg Ice Pavilion to capture this overhead shot of the scene.


black and white photo of a group of four people at The Rathskeller carving names into a wooden table on which sits multiple Rolling Rock pony bottles by Pat Little
PONIES AT THE SKELLER: “I’m not sure if this was Case Race,” Little says of this Rolling Rock–fueled scene at The Rathskeller. “I just remember they were letting people carve things onto the tables.”


black and white photo of Joe Paterno walking into the tunnel at Beaver Stadium by Pat Little
TUNNEL VISION, 1978: Little captured countless images of Joe Paterno, including this celebratory postgame shot after the Nittany Lions dominated previously unbeaten Maryland to improve to 9-0 in November 1978.


black and white photo of Franco Harris speaking into a megaphone standing before a board with runners' times by Pat Little
FRANCO AT THE 500, 1977: The Phi Psi 500 enlisted Nittany Lion great Franco Harris ’72 H&HD as master of ceremonies for the ’77 event. Little remembers getting this shot pre-race in front of the fraternity’s house on Locust Lane.


black and white photo of a group of students seated in desks all watching a small TV in the HUB by Pat Little
MUST-SEE TV, 1984: In the days before everyone carried a TV screen in their pocket, stopping by the HUB to catch up on your favorite soap opera was a communal experience. “People would come in over their lunch hour,” Little says. “It was a happening.”


black and white photo of a row of arcade games at Playland by Pat Little
PLAYLAND, 1983: As a State College “townie,” Little remembers being one of the first to try out a pinball machine before the popular arcade was officially open for business. Playland endured at its location between College Avenue and Calder Way until 2003. It’s now The Family Clothesline.


black and white photo of a student standing in front of a large bulletin board with multiple sheets of paper tacked to it by Pat Little
HUB RIDE-SHARE BOARD, 1987: Much like those iconic wooden phone booths, the HUB ride board was a vital campus resource in the pre-digital era. “I did a series of shots in the HUB—the ride board, the HUB desk, the fishbowl,” Little says. “Somewhere I have that row of telephones.”


black and white photo of a large stage outside with a band playing to a large crowd by Pat Little
GENTLE THURSDAY, 1978: “It was very peaceful—they called it ‘gentle’ for a reason,” Little says of Gentle Thursday, envisioned as a mellow response to the tumult of the late ’60s and held annually on the HUB lawn. “People brought kegs, you could smell the pot, and the police stayed away.”


black and white photo of a large group of people doing a choreographed dance in the HUB ballroom by Pat Little
DANCE MARATHON, 1978: Little captured this moment in an early iteration of the event that became the world’s largest student-run philanthropy, then held in the HUB ballroom. “It really was a dance marathon—they danced the whole time,” he says. “It was hardcore.”


black and white photo of a huge group of fans at Beaver Stadium toppling the goal posts by Pat Little
WE GOT 'BAMA, 1983: Little was on the field a few times when goal posts came down after a big win, including this upset of the Crimson Tide in 1983. His priority in these moments? “Get the shot, and make sure that goal post didn’t hit me in the head when it came down.”


black and white photo of Pat Little sitting in an empty lecture hall with numbered wooden seats by Pat Little
​​​​SPARKS LECTURE HALL, 1979: “I loved the composition of the seats and numbers,” Little says. “I shot the room empty, then used a delay and hopped over the chairs to get in this shot.”