Meet Your Neighbors

Over the past few years much has been written and said about how Penn Staters are unbalanced, football crazy lunatics. But 1 in every 117 Americans with a college degree, and 1 in every 720 Americans period, is a graduate of Penn State. There’s an informal, unverified statistic that 1 in 4 Americans personally know someone who went to Penn State. So if you know someone who spent some time in Happy Valley take a look at them, take a look at these facts, and see if the truth matches up to the narrative.

Let’s start by continuing to look impressive statistics, the most notable of which is that Penn State has the largest dues paying alumni association in the world. In a ranking by College Magazine of the most powerful alumni associations in America Penn State came in 1st. Harvard came in 2nd. This powerful alumni association is not going away any time soon, as last year Penn State received a record 130,754 applications, including 42,895 for enrollment in Penn State’s graduate programs. You know, the smart stuff you do once you have a bachelor’s degree. This record breaking number of applicants is up 54% overall and 67% among undergraduates since 2005, despite the negative publicity the school has received over the past few years. Furthermore, the university reported an increase in applicants from nearby states, such as New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, and distant states, such as Florida, Texas, and California. Penn State wouldn’t be getting applicants from these states if it were just a “football school”.

Students who go to Penn State know that they will be in good shape once they graduate, as the school has been ranked #1 among corporate job recruiters by the Wall Street Journal. Furthermore, the career services department has been ranked 2nd in America, in part due to the quality of the graduates Penn State produces. While many students who go to Penn State are smart to begin with, they are aided by a university that consistently ranks at or near 50th in the world. These rankings are even higher among U.S. universities, including 8th among public schools. Heck, even Penn State’s library has been ranked 8th in North America. Not bad for a “football school”.

Due to programs like the World Campus and THON Penn State is able to positively impact the lives of people who never set foot in Happy Valley. The World Campus is Penn State’s online education program that has been ranked #1 in America for 2 years running. THON is the largest student run philanthropy in the world. Since 1977 THON has raised more than $137 million to fight childhood cancer, and has inspired 70,000 youngsters at 235 schools in 5 states to participate in “Mini-THONs” that have raised an additional $23 million, including $5.5 million last school year. And you thought Penn State was a “football school”.

Over the years Penn State has had many famous alumni, most notably football players like Bill Emerson, a member of the 1982 National Championship team who’s now the CEO of Quicken Loans, and John Shaffer, quarterback of the 1986 National Championship team who spent 4 years as a partner at Goldman Sachs. Other sports alumni include Mark Parker, CEO and soon to be chairman of Nike, ESPN reporter Lisa Salters, baseball writer Tom Verducci, baseball manager Mike Scioscia, and Ali Krieger and Alyssa Naeher, members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. Actors and entertainers from Penn State include Ty Burrell, Keegan-Michael Key, and Jonathan Frakes, who played Will Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Steve McCurry, who photographed the “Afghan Girl”, is from Penn State, as is Guy Bluford, the first African-American in space. Before he started the Macintosh project at Apple Jef Raskin was a student at Penn State, as were David Rusenko, Dan Veltri, and Chris Fanini, co-founders of Weebly. AccuWeather founder Joel Myers is a PSU grad, as is Richard Somerville, who was part of the team that shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. Businessmen from Penn State include Herman Fisher, co-founder of Fisher-Price, Dan Mead, former President and CEO of Verizon, Dan Murray, former CFO of Fandango, and Naren Gursahaney, former President and CEO of ADT Security Services. Political figures from Happy Valley include Kelly Ayotte, U.S. Senator from New Hampshire, Kim Kingsley, former Chief Operating Officer of POLITICO, and Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security. If you’ve seen Jurassic Park you’re familiar with the work of Chip Kidd, and if you’ve heard of “The Pepsi Generation” you’re familiar with the work of Alan Pottasch, both of whom are PSU graduates. Penn State Celebrity Parents include Hugh Rodham, father of Hillary Rodham Clinton, and John Aniston, father of Jennifer Aniston. So maybe you thought you were broken up with Penn State or, after reading this list, maybe you were just on a break.

At this point take a second and ask yourself, “Does the narrative match up to reality?” Any impartial observer will see that it does not. Those of us in the Penn State community are as disgusted as anyone about what happened, but we know that there is so much more to our school than Jerry Sandusky or even the football program as a whole. There are currently Penn Staters all over the country making a positive impact on the lives of millions of people.

These people are the true Penn State.