Gary Levitt: We will never forget

The minute you think you’ve got it made, disaster is just around the corner. — JVP

On November 9th, 2011, the unthinkable happened. After devoting 61 years of his life to Penn State, Joe Paterno was fired.  Earlier that day, he had offered his resignation but the Trustees chose instead to end his distinguished career with a late night telephone call.
After 61 years, he deserved better. — Sue Paterno
Many of us will never forget where we were and how we felt when we heard the news. Coach Paterno had always been there for us whether we knew him personally or knew him only through his words and actions.  From him, we learned how to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. What could we do now when it seemed the whole world was rushing to a judgement that we knew in our hearts could not be true?
Publicity is like poison; it doesn’t hurt unless you swallow it. — JVP
Had this happened just a few years ago, we would have been helpless as a tsunami of mass media hysteria flooded the 24-hour news cycle. With ESPN leading the charge, Fox News, CNN, USA Today, The New York Times, and every talk show host in the country piled on, eager to pull down the legendary proponent of Success with Honor to their own level.  The alleged actions of a former assistant coach had become the Penn State/Joe Paterno Scandal.  The summary firing of JoePa had confirmed for many his presumed guilt.  Even some who should have known better abandoned their former coach or colleague out of fear for their own reputations.
Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy. — JVP
But Joe handled adversity as he always had.  He simply told the truth.  Even when his health failed, his faith in his God, his family, and in the Penn State community that he loved remained unshaken. His true friends began to stand up and speak out.
Sue, Jay and Scott were rocks. And then, when Joe finally lost his last battle, the amazing Memorial Service showed the world that a lifetime spent helping so many would not go unacknowledged.
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?  — Robert Browning
In the meantime, a small group of heartbroken but determined Penn Staters started to connect on the Internet. Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship (PS4RS) made a simple pledge on a Facebook page:  WE intend to vote out the Board of Trustees. While the University was spending millions of dollars trying to manage a crises they had in large part created, resorting to spin and distortions, excuses and justifications, PS4RS provided a free forum for honest discussion. When the Trustees were overwhelmed with  an avalanche of nominees for the three alumni seats up for election, PS4RS organized and ran a fair and open primary to select the three strongest candidates. As the Trustees lurched from one overpaid consultant to another, PS4RS relied on the talent of committed alumni and friends who freely offered their professional services. And gradually, one person to person contact at a time, the tide was turned.
When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellence becomes a reality.  — JVP
By the Blue White Weekend it was obvious, even to the Trustees, that PS4RS had become a force that represented a vast majority of true Penn Staters. The election confirmed that, when a record turnout produced over 100,000 votes and all but 1,800 were a mandate for a new direction in governance. The insular club that the Board had become will no longer be tolerated. We, the University’s stakeholders, will continue to demand from OUR representatives access, responsiveness, competence, and transparency.
Believe deep down in your heart that you’re destined to do great things. — JVP
In just a few short months PS4RS has grown to an active online community of more than 5,000. We have helped change the headlines from Penn State scandal to Sandusky scandal. We have helped to restore JoePa’s legacy. And we have shown the world that Penn State Pride runs deep and strong. It’s a good beginning but it is just the beginning. We will continue to grow and we will join with others who share our commitment to building an even greater University on the solid foundation Coach Paterno bequeathed to us.
They ask me what I’d like written about me when I’m gone.

I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, Not just that I was a good football coach. — JVP

Okay, Coach, here goes:
You weren’t just a good football coach.

You were the best ever. And you didn’t just make Penn State a better place. You made every one of us a better person.

WE ARE because you were.  And we will never forget.

8 thoughts on “Gary Levitt: We will never forget

  1. Take care of the little things and the big things take care of themselves….another lesson from JVP. All of the the lessons he taught are simple to understand…but seemingly much more difficult to consistently practice. Certainly, the former BoT demonstrated they weren’t listening…to Joe, or his well-taught disciples. But “slow and steady” is always better than rushing…to judgement…or any other destination. Joe taught us all well. I’m grateful, to JVP and the author of this blog for keeping the fire of righteousness burning bright…for the glory.

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  2. Amen Gary. Joe taught us all a final lesson in all this mess. He told his family near the end, “pursue the truth, while forcefully defending the honor and integrity of Penn State”. This should be the PS4RS mission statement.

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  3. This is a great country in that we are all free to express opinion and allowed to civilly disagree. Allow me to express a different perspective that what seemingly is the “only” sentiment of this blog.

    Having the honor of playing for him and the beneficiary of many of his life lasting lessons, I am disappointed by his failure to live what he preached. He lectured us every summer re the pitfalls and temptations we’d face as members of the PSU football tradition. He predicted people would elevate us to a status that suggested we “deserved” special treatment. He was adamant and insistent that we understood while people might treat us as special, we weren’t. We were encouraged to reject the temptation to “capitalize” on this unwarranted adoration. To respect the traditions of the university and to play by the rules. We were instructed to act and behave better than others, to make choices that would demonstrated and shine favorable light on the program. I believe he attempted to live his life this way and did for so many years, except here.

    In this case, based on the Freeh report and it’s legally limited scope as imposed by the AG, the recent testimony and conviction of Sandusky, I am saddened by what appears to be a clear violation of his principles. He exerted his significant powers and leveraged his public reputation to secure “special” treatment in protecting a predator. The criminal here isn’t the B of T, it isn’t the culture of PSU administration/operations…it is Sandusky. Sanduskys action couldn’t have been predicted or prevented. It could have been limited and controlled however if Joe had lived what he preached. If the allegations been presented with one of his grandsons being the shower victim, would he have acted differently…if you believe he would have, as I believe he would have, then I ask you all to forgive his failings as I have and focus on healing, not finding an alternative villian(s) in order to protect Joes legacy. If you believe Joe would have turned the same indifferent ear and simply turned it over to Curley and Shultz and waited for them to check out his grandsons welfare, then you have elevated him to a status of undeserved adoration, the status he warned us about.

    Joe was a great man and made many of us so much better for our exposure to him. He will always be loved and respected in my house as I sense from the blog entries, in your homes as well. He however, unintentionally enabled a predator and his legacy will reflect that ugly truth as well. He was like all of us, human. He made a regrettable decision that has consequences that can not be removed for his reputation or completely laid off on “others”. I am sure those “others” will suffer the consequences as well under the rules of law and only pray that the collective failings of a few influential men( not a university culture, not the B of T ) serve to reinforce the lessons Joe spoke to every summer, “live respectful of the traditions and reputation of what we are …PENN STATE

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  4. Kevin– thank you for your thoughtful letter. Anyone who knew Joe knows that he wasn’t a perfect human being. If the BoT had accepted his resignation along with his acknowledgment, with the benefit of hindsight, that he made an unintentional mistake, we would not be having this discussion. There can be no doubt now that the Board also made many mistakes. They should follow Joe’s lead: apologize and resign.

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  5. Id agree more fully if I’d believe all 32 were equally culpable. 28 of the 32 were never alerted to the grand jury investigation until all hell broke lose. The president, AD head coach and operations director never told the trustees of one of the most significant events in PSU current history??? What world did they live in??? Much later they are reported to have told the president of the board there eas nothing to worry about and somehow he believed them and told 3 others They should be terminated! Not 32 of them.

    Having been a CEO and having served on boards, that is unforgivable and in the corporate world, cause for mediate 48RJLNtermination. Additionally joe was asked not to conduct a press conference as much to protect the university as much as it was to protect joe. He ignored it after negotiating his exit in bad faith several months before and tried again to demonstrate he was bigger than his superiors and knew better than the trustees His independent disregard and disrespect for the board left them no option. How the rest avoided termination is a mystery to me.

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  6. Kevin, Sara Ganim had been covering the grand jury investigation in the Patriot-News for at least a year prior to “all hell breaking loose.” the Trustees are not children who need to be spoon fed information (or at least that is not their job description). They are collectively charged with oversight. At best they were asleep at the wheel; at worst they were complicit in a cover-up. Either way, their response to the crises has been inept, clumsy, and expensive. Failure to lead is failure to lead. Why is there a double standard here? Those who hid pertinent information should resign immediately. The rest should sign a pledge that they will neither seek nor accept re-election or re-appointment when their current terms expire. Please read the new post: An Open Letter to the Board of Trustees. Comment there if you like. Thanks.

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