Posts tagged ‘Olympics’

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 2 comments

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

Ali Krieger and Kerry McCoy Trade Places

Ali Krieger ’07 and Kerry McCoy ’97 are two of the finest athletes that Penn State has ever produced. The pair had never crossed paths until earlier this year, when Krieger, who plays professionally in Maryland and is (of course) a recent World Cup winner, visited former Olympian McCoy at the University of Maryland (where he’s now the head wrestling coach) for a video series called “The Keystone Connection.” In it, McCoy teaches Krieger some wrestling moves, while Krieger coaches up McCoy on the pitch. The duo also discuss their careers, both as collegiate athletes and as competitors who have gone on to represent the United States at the international level.

(h/t @PSUSportsMuseum)

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

September 23, 2015 at 1:26 pm 3 comments

Gen Ed Classes: A Lot of Learning, A Little Bit of Fun

Twice a year, I find myself staring at my computer screen feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed.

When it comes time to schedule classes, I’m always intimidated by eLion’s lists and lists of courses. That’s what happens when you go to a school with 40,000 students and more than 160 majors. I’m usually fine with classes in my areas of study (journalism and English), but general education courses are a different story. There simply are too many. Some seem intriguing; some, not so much.

Gen-ed requirements have changed a lot over the years: Now, all baccalaureate degree programs include a 45-credit gen-ed component, including three credits in health and physical activity, nine credits in natural science, six credits in art, six credits in humanities, and six credits in social and behavioral sciences.

So as students begin to schedule for fall 2012, I took a look at some of Penn State’s more interesting gen-ed courses. I begin with a class I took last year—a class where SpongeBob appears on the syllabus.


Course: Geosci 040: The Sea Around Us

Requirement satisfied: GN (Natural Science)

Why I took it: I’m not a science person at all. I had to late drop meteorology my freshman year (who knew predicting weather included calculus?) and needed an easier science class to take.

Interesting assignment: Once, we reported to the HUB-Robeson Center for class. Our lab that day consisted of analyzing the aquarium on the bottom floor. I had no idea there was such an intricate ecosystem living just 100 feet away from Sbarro’s. The most interesting aspect, to me, was that the 500-gallon tank has a self-regulated lighting system, which gets dark at night to mimic the real ocean.

What I got out of it: A new appreciation for beaches and environmentalism. When I visited Cape Cod last summer, I had a hard time looking at the dunes without thinking about how big they once were, and how they got there.


Course: CMLIT 120: The Literature of the Occult

Requirement satisfied: GH (Humanities)

Interesting assignment: Read the third installment of the Harry Potter series.

What you can get out of it: “In all honesty, an appreciation for the Harry Potter series,” says Alexa Agugliaro, who says she wasn’t on the J.K. Rowling bandwagon before enrolling in the course. “There are a lot of major drabby classes that people have to take while they’re here, so why not, if you have the room, take a cool class about like vampires and monsters.” It’s not all Harry Potter and Twilight, though. Agugliaro wrote her final term paper on the witches in Macbeth.

Side note: Agugliaro says the teacher wore a wizard hat and a robe every day and had a magic wand.


Course: KINES 028: Fencing

Requirement satisfied: GHA (Health and Physical Activity)

Interesting assignment: Just fence. Senior Matt Giacometti said there’s not much variety to the course, but he doesn’t mind. Students participate in basic drills, then fence each other. “It’s fun,” Giacometti says. “Exactly what you want from the class.”

What you can get out of it: “A ton,” Giacometti says. “I’m learning from coaches that have succeeded at the highest level. These guys have coached Olympians.” Giacometti’s professors for the course? Assistant coaches with the Penn State varsity fencing team—a program with 12 national championships and more than 170 All-Americans in the last 28 years. Did you know that Suzie Paxton ’93, a former Nittany Lion fencer and 1996 Olympian, started fencing in this gym class?


Course: Applied Linguistics 100

Requirement satisfied: GS (Social and Behavioral Sciences)

Interesting assignment: During one class, the students were asked to think of as many examples of semantic word as they could. As junior Jackie Giraldo recalls, “That was the first time I ever heard the word yinz,” Giraldo says.

What you can get out of it: Says Giraldo: “I learned how language has evolved over time, but also got a deeper look at how words have evolved, how syntax has evolved, and why things are said different ways in different places. I definitely have a new appreciation of communication of different cultures.”


Course: INART 115: Popular Music in America

Requirement satisfied:  GA (Arts)

Interesting assignment: Students were required to participate in online discussions. One debate revolved around who is the most influential musician today, with one student making a good case that the answer was definitively Lady Gaga.

What you can get out of it: “I now understand the hardships that a lot of musicians had to endure in the past in great music from that, era like the jazz and blues,” junior Jared Cruz says. “And it also influenced the development of music nowadays.”

 Emily Kaplan, intern

March 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Cael Sanderson Eyes Another Olympic Gold

My colleague (and our in-house wrestling expert) Lori Shontz ’91 told me this might be coming, and now it’s official: Cael Sanderson, the 31-year-old head coach who led the Penn State wrestling team to a national championship last season, is returning to the mat in the hopes of qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The lure of competition is calling Sanderson back to the mat.

Sanderson isn’t just a very good coach who used to wrestle, of course; he’s widely considered the best ever American amateur wrestler, thanks largely to his 159-0 record in four years at Iowa State and the Olympic freestyle gold he won in 2004. Lori, my fellow senior editor, saw Sanderson on campus a few days ago and thought he looked trimmer (the story linked above states that he’d wrestle at a lower weight class then his most recent tournament appearance) and noticed signs of wrestling-room combat (swollen ears, a fresh scratch on his face) that implied he might be getting in shape for… something. Looks like that “something” is the U.S. World Team Trials, held this weekend in Oklahoma City.

Sanderson is apparently also scheduled to be inducted tonight into the Wrestling Hall of Fame. Whoever’s in charge of the hall of famers’ plaques might want to leave some room on Sanderson’s entry. Looks like he’s not quite done.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

June 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm 1 comment

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