My Penn State – Not What You’ve Heard

I felt the need to write this and share. I’m sharing with all of you. Enjoy. Greg DeVoir

My Penn State – Not What You’ve Heard

Here’s my Penn State story. I was a a so-called weather weenie and band geek from Andover, MA (also coincidentally the home town of new PSU Head Football Coach, Bill O’Brien, with whom I went to Andover West Junior High). My top college choice was Penn State due to its top-rated Meteorology program. Penn State also happened to have a pretty darned good (marching) Blue Band, as well. It was as simple as that…I’d found my new home for the next 4 years.

As a devoted Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots fan, I looked forward to experiencing Division 1 intercollegiate athletics as well. Other than seeing an occasional picture of Mount Nittany and Joe Paterno and his coke-bottle glasses in Sports Illustrated and watching the 1986 Fiesta Bowl win over Miami, I knew little else about the school, except that I couldn’t wait to get there.

After arriving in Happy Valley, I quickly discovered how it had earned its name. While feverishly working through the rigorous science curriculum at Penn State, I made 260 new friends in the Penn State Blue Band, proudly marching alongside chemical, aerospace and civil engineers and assorted science majors in the saxophone section. The friendly, welcoming family environment of the Penn State family and gently rolling hills of central Pennsylvania had me calling this place home mere months after arriving. Penn State football notched its first losing season in over 30 years that autumn. We even lost to Rutgers (shudder). The media called for Paterno’s head. He was too old. Too conservative. Nonsense. He was molding men, graduating his players at rates far beyond those at most large college football programs, and setting a bar of excellence for all Penn Staters to emulate. Paterno wasn’t going anywhere…Penn State’s “football culture” valued academics over football every day of the week, and even on Saturdays.

In my years at Penn State, I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Gregory Forbes (now the Severe Storm Analyst on The Weather Channel), Dr. Craig Bohren (Distinguished Professor Emeritus and author or several books on Atmospheric Science and Optics) and Paul Knight (PA State Climatologist and long-time Weather World host on PA PBS) among others. I graduated and followed my dream of becoming a Meteorologist in the National Weather Service. I am thankful every day for the education I received at Penn State, the life-long friends I made and mentors who influenced and challenged me. Penn State was a special place.

Following graduation, Penn State joined the Big Ten. I moved around the country for nearly 10 years before luckily ending back up in State College, PA in 1999 after the NWS office in Harrisburg relocated, and I moved back after living in Boise, ID and La Crosse, WI. I met my future wife on a downtown elevator in the building in which we both worked. Life was good, but not just mine. Through the 1990s and 2000s, Penn State’s academic ratings soared. The campus grew. Joe and Sue Paterno funded construction of the Paterno Library. “Without a great library, you can’t have a great University,” he said. It opened in the fall of 2000. During this time, President Graham Spanier oversaw incredible growth of University facilities , greatly enhancing University research and science programs through construction of the Information Sciences and Technology building, Chemistry Building and Millenium Science complex, among others. My teenage daughters had a blast at Penn State’s summer science camp. My 5-year old enjoyed Saturday art classes on the Penn State campus in the same building I’d attended lectures more than 20 years ago.

When the Jerry Sandusky scandal erupted in November of 2011, like many, I was shocked and appalled to hear the allegations, and waited patiently to hear the truth. Since then, a nearly steady diet of media sensationalism, speculation, half-truths and an unceasing lynch mob mentality seeking to blame and punish those “responsible” for “allowing” Sandusky to perpetrate his crimes have superseded all common sense and rational thinking before facts and truth are revealed in a court of law. Penn State’s “football culture” has been blamed for ”allowing Sandusky to continue raping innocent children.” Joe Paterno and other Penn State Administrators have been portrayed as evil enablers, accused of turning a blind eye while “knowing” what Sandusky was doing. I wait for the truth to be revealed, knowing the Penn State that’s been portrayed in the media is not the one I grew to know and love for the past 20 years.

For Mark Emmert, NCAA President, I have this to say. Basing sanctions on an extremely faulty and fact-deprived Freeh report is a travesty – you are punishing innocent people who had nothing to do with Sandusky’s crimes. For Louis Freeh, while the list of recommendations to improve internal processes at Penn State was clearly needed, your damningly-worded report states “reasonable conclusions” as solid fact, upon which the NCAA has implemented unprecedented sanctions before the full truth has been revealed in a court of law. Furthermore, key witness testimony was not included in the findings of your report, either because they died (Paterno), were not consulted (Paterno family), were asked by the PA Attorney General to not be interviewed (McQueary, Schultz, Curley) or information gathered in your interview was completely ignored (Spanier), as we heard late Sunday in his letter to the Penn State Board of Trustees.

To those of my Facebook friends who wish for this to be out of the news (and my Facebook page) with the announcement of NCAA sanctions, I along with my fellow Penn State alums can’t allow that to happen – we merely want the truth to be revealed and will continue to push for that. Grave injustices have resulted from the clouding of truth thus far, irreparably harming innocent people, a wonderful community and a great University. Now, already reeling and struggling to uncover the truth of the last 13 years while enduring the endless scrutiny and hateful rhetoric over the past 8 months, Penn State is being brought to its knees by NCAA sanctions of an unprecedented nature, handed down without due process and punishing only the innocent.

I don’t blame you for being sick of hearing about this…Sandusky’s abuses are sickening. While it’s difficult to fathom how someone can evade detection while perpetrating such heinous crimes, it’s even more inconceivable to me that any good man could knowingly turn a blind eye to abuse, as has been widely accepted from the Freeh report without factual basis. That as many as four such men are accused of having done so (and the public at large believes this without a shadow of a doubt) with limited to no factual basis supporting it is baffling beyond words.

In short, at my Penn State, the one I came to know after growing up in Andover MA, it wouldn’t happen…football or no football…Paterno or no Paterno. This is what the general public fails to understand about Penn State University and Penn State grads in general. We didn’t drink the Kool Aid. We’re not members of NAMBLA. We went to a University where the values and principles of a great man, Joe Paterno, would never have KNOWINGLY allowed Sandusky’s crimes to continue. That crimes continued is not evidence of a cover up…it’s proof that despite concerns and suspicions, efforts and failed investigations into inappropriate behavior, Sandusky continually evaded detection due to failures in human judgment rather than willful enabling, neglect and disregard.

The Freeh report was commissioned BY Penn State FOR Penn State to uncover and learn from such failures in judgment. I believe the facts will ultimately show that willful neglect was not part of the equation, but it will take time for the media hysteria and drum beating to cease and the truth to be revealed. Ironically, the NCAA sanctions are perhaps the best thing to happen at this time, because for the first time in months, Penn State can start its new beginning as the media jackals grow more silent. Calmer heads can prevail as tabloid journalists tire of picking over Penn State’s bones. The Schultz and Curley trials will take place, and in this environment, I’m hopeful that the truth can come out. It has to, doesn’t it? Because for me, what we have now still doesn’t make sense in any rational way, shape or form. I only wonder…will anyone listen then?

For those of you who’ve read this in its entirety, I thank you. There is no need to post comments of agreement or disagreement…since all of the facts and their worthy conclusions have yet to be uncovered. Speculation on top of speculation helps no-one. Rest assured, if/when the truth is revealed and if I’m found to be dead wrong, you’ll see my retractions. Until then, this University has been and will continue to be a great place. It is not what you’ve heard portrayed in the media. It is not a small group of drunken fools reacting in raw emotion at 1030 pm after Paterno’s abrupt firing last fall. Penn Staters care about Sandusky’s victims and will continue to support them while striving to prevent additional predators from victimizing innocent people. We’re proud of our University, although we are extremely disappointed in its leadership which has allowed the media to run rampant and frame the arguments and story from day one. Penn State was a great place before this happened. And Penn State will once again be a great place…a greater place. More than that, those who have made this community our home LOVE our town and cannot think of anyplace else we’d rather live. That now includes my former Andover, MA classmate, Coach Bill O’Brien.

Please bear with us as we clean up the mess and pull ourselves together after this unspeakable tragedy on so many levels. You’ll see us again in the not too distant future showing our Penn State pride. Don’t misconstrue this for what it’s not. It’s not misplaced. It’s not about football. It’s who we are. We are Penn State.

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