This text was run as a full page advertisement in the Centre Daily Times on Friday, September 21, 2012. The advertisement was paid for by a concerned alumnus who after attending the first game of the season, was deeply saddened by what appears to be the University’s systematic removal of all evidence of Joe Paterno’s 61 years of contributions to Penn State — even though he was never investigated or found guilty of any sort of crime. The alumnus came to PS4RS to facilitate getting the advertisement placed.
Thirty years ago, Joe Paterno won his first National Championship.
But he was not happy. And he was far from satisfied.
This was his message to the Board of Trustees:
I would hope on this occasion, since I’ve never addressed a Board meeting, to share some thoughts with you as to where we are and what I hope we can get done here at the University.
It pleases me, obviously, to be part of the Number One football team. But having said that, I’m going to be very frank with you, and I may say some things here that maybe I should not, but it does give me an opportunity to tell you how I feel and what I want to do and what kind of contributions I’d like to make to this institution as I stay on.
It bothers me to see Penn State football be Number One and then pick up a newspaper and find that we don’t have many of our disciplines rated up there with the other institutions in the country.
I think this is a magic time for Penn State. There has never been a time when Penn State has been more united or proud. Now maybe it’s unfortunate that it takes a Number One football team to do that. I don’t think we can lose the opportunities that this moment presents to us, and I don’t mean in athletics. I’m not even concerned about the athletic aspects of where we are. I think we can handle that and make sure we can maintain the kind of teams that you people like to see and you can be proud of and identify with the type of students and the type of football players we get.
I talk to you now as a faculty member who has spent 33 years at Penn State, who has two daughters at Penn State, who probably will have three sons at Penn State, who has a wife who graduated from Penn State, who has two brothers-in-law that graduated from Penn State. And I talk to you as somebody who has recruited against Michigan and Stanford, UCLA, Notre Dame, Princeton, Yale and Harvard and who has had to to identify some things that they have that are better than we have and has had to identify some of our problems.
We need academic chairs. We need money so we can get some academic stars. We need scholarship money to get scholars who can be with the stars and be stimulated by them. We need better libraries so that the stars and the scholars have the tools to realize their potential. We need an environment of dissent and freedom of speech and freedom to express new and controversial ideas. Basically this Board is reactionary. We need more controversy, we need more people to come to us with different ideas. And we need more minorities. I am constantly fighting the battle, “we don’t have enough blacks; we don’t have enough minorities.”
We have some excellent departments. But we also have some departments that are absolutely lousy. And we have some lazy profs who are only concerned with tenure and getting tenure for some of their mediocre colleagues. Some of these people would make Happy Valley into Sleepy Hollow if we let them.
Pirandello, the brilliant Italian playwright, (I suppose brilliant and Italian is redundant) wrote a play in which the characters come to life and then try to finish writing the play. Well, I think that Penn State is more alive today than at any time in the 33 years that I’ve been here. It’s looking for something but it is not bricks and mortar. I think we are looking for the soul of this institution. Who we are, what we are, and that basically comes down to soul. We need vibrant, aggressive, brilliant teachers and scholars. We need to give them the resources to grow and the freedom to challenge some of the old ideas and old conceptions.
I have had a lot of people come to me wanting to know how they can help. I am ready to help to make “Number One” mean more than when we stick that finger up its only football. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to get to where we are our way. We haven’t cheated. We’ve done it with people who legitimately belong in college. We’ve set a standard in one area that I think has created a challenge for us to reach in all areas.
I think you know how much I love this institution and how much I appreciate what it has meant to me and my family for 33 glorious years. 33 years of a great love affair that I have had with this University and this town. I have no regrets. I’m only anxious to make it even bigger and better, not so much in size but in quality and influence. Thank you.
Excerpted from a speech delivered January 22, 1983 (29 years, to the day, that he passed away.)
That, in summation, is the Penn State “football culture” some criticize today.
You can’t cover up 61 years of success with honor.