Ross Lehman, Penn State Class of 1942 and former Executive Director of the Penn State Alumni Association, wrote the following tribute to the Penn State spirit in one of his Centre Daily Times “Open House” columns:
I was a naive, unsophisticated, partly uncultured lad when I came to Penn State. As I entered the Nittany Valley, the first sight to greet me was the beautiful tower of Old Main. When I entered the classroom I encountered such unusual professors as Hum Fishburn, Nelson McGeary, Lou Bell, Bob Galbraith, and many others who exposed me to the awe of new worlds unfolding. They opened a door to challenging ideas, and another door beckoned, and another … endless, and I felt that knowledge was forever moving and lasting in my life. If I had felt lonely and isolated in these hills it was not for long. I became part of the heart throb of Penn State, and it was a new, exciting world. I fell in love with this unique place.
The campus was, and is, something rather special. It houses the “Penn State spirit,” which is a difficult thing to define because it is composed of so many things.
Perhaps it can be called a feeling, a feeling that runs through Penn Staters when they’re away from this place and someone mentions “Penn State.” The farther we are away, in time and distance, the stronger the feeling grows.
It is a good feeling, a wanting-to-share feeling. It is full of a vision of Mount Nittany, which displays a personality of its own in all its seasonal colors, from green to gold to brown to white. It is the sound of chimes from Old Main’s clock, so surrounded by leaves that it’s hard to see; it is getting to class not by looking at the clock but by listening to it.
It is the smell of the turf at New Beaver Field after a game, and the memories of Len Krouse, Leon Gajecki, Rosey Grier, Lenny Moore, Mike Reid, Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell, Todd Blackledge and Curt Warner helping to swell our fame … and the top of Mount Nittany as seen from the grandstands in autumn.
It is the quiet of Pattee Library, facing two rows of silent elms; sunlight falling gently through those elms on a misty morning; a casual chat under a white moon on the mall.
It is talk, too: a great deal of talk, here, there, all around … in fraternity and sorority bull sessions or over a hasty coffee in the Corner Room or Ye Olde College Diner, talk un-recalled except for the feeling of remembrance and the heart-tugging wanting some of youth.
It is the smell of a laboratory, the wondering about a tiny cell and its pattern—in its own tiny universe like that of a Milky Way galaxy—and the professor’s scintillating comment that prompts a lone wrestling with a sudden intriguing but frightening thought about our awesome cosmos.
It is a dance in Rec Hall; a beer in the Rathskeller; a kiss in a secluded campus niche; the romance that bloomed into marriage; the smell of a theater; the laugh of a crowd; the blossoming of spring shrubs and the blend of maple, oak, birch and aspen colors in the fall; the ache of a night without sleep; and the sharing of a thousand other little things and incidents that honed our “Penn State spirit.”
It is the flash of many faces and of the single one that touched our lives forever.
It is here that Penn State molds a person’s life from the raw and unsophisticated into the conscious and cultured. We learned that a person must first be responsible to himself before he can be responsible to his university, his society, his world.
It is on this beautiful campus that we learn, as my wife Katey wrote,” A man’s soul and his life are his own, and even if he gives himself away in hundreds of careful and loving pieces, he’s still his own man with his own life span, and no one but he has a claim on it, except his God.”
And here, in this lovely, intriguing spot called Penn State, each of us staked our own special, precious and eventful life.
Penn State is a benediction to all of us who have graced these beautiful halls and malls.