Students, alumni, community members, faculty and staff came together throughout the Philadelphia region to remember Coach Joe Paterno on Thursday, Jan. 26 as the three area Penn State campuses each live-streamed the two-and-half hour tribute, “A Memorial for Joe,” that took place on the University Park campus.
The more than 200 mourners at the Abington, Brandywine and Great Valley campuses laughed, cried and grieved together as former players, friends and family members shared heartwarming and funny memories about Paterno’s life and legacy.
Alumna Sandy Gail, class of 1963 and 1971, watched the memorial inside the Lubert Commons at the Abington campus and shared her favorite Paterno memory. “Many years ago, I walked into the State College post office and moments later Joe Paterno came in behind me and said, ‘If you had walked a little slower, I would have held the door for you!’” she remembered.
Donald Hodgen, class of 1972 and 1977, a senior international economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce, drove up from his home in Washington, D.C. to join the crowd at Abington. He was dressed in dark blue pants, a jacket, a blue and white striped shirt and wore a tie imprinted with Nittany Lions. His late father, Alden, was an engineering professor at Abington, which was then known as Ogontz. “I’ve never told anyone this story before,” he said, “but soon after I arrived at University Park, I saw Joe walking down the street. I introduced myself and said, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you.’ His reply was, ‘No, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Make sure you get a good education.’”
Students, faculty and staff placed blue and white carnations at the Abington Lion Shrine throughout the day. Many students took photos of themselves with the shrine, which they adorned with flowers along the lion’s head and spine as well as at the base. Students continued to write tributes on banners at the Lares Building.
Bobbi Caprice, a junior at the Brandywine campus, wiped the streaming tears from her cheeks as she silently watched the live-streaming memorial in the Commons Building. “I’m here because growing up my dad instilled in me what a great man JoePa was,” she said. “He was well beyond a sports figure.” She was thankful for the chance to join the memorial, even from a distance. “There are 20 campuses and we’re all just Penn State. I can’t think of anyone more dedicated to anything as JoePa was to Penn State, and not just football. Penn State.”
Michael Seavey, class of 1996, said he came to Brandywine to watch the memorial in hopes of getting some closure. “It’s the least I can do for the man who has done so much, not only for the students, but for the state of Pennsylvania,” he said. “He’s done more than most could even imagine.”
More than 70 faculty, staff, alumni and local businesses community members watched the memorial at the Great Valley campus Conference Center Auditorium. Chancellor Craig Edelbrock commented on why the campus wanted to open its facility for a community viewing of the service: “Penn State is a big family and it feels like a family when you’re in it.”
Alumnus and former biological sciences instructor for Penn State, David Hoffritz, said Paterno would call him to make sure his football players were attending class. “He didn’t care who was there; he just wanted to know who didn’t show up.”
The group at Great Valley held hands and said a prayer along with the memorial service attendees at University Park as the Paterno’s son, Jay, concluded the ceremony.