Archive | November, 2010

Success With Honor: Joe Paterno’s True Impact

9 Nov

I had the fortune of witnessing Joe Paterno capture his 400th career victory as the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday. Penn State came from behind to defeat the Northwestern Wildcats 35-21 in a thrilling game that I, along with the other 105,000 fans in attendance, will never forget.

Paterno became the first coach in the history of major college football to win 400 games. He will almost certainly be the only FBS coach to ever reach this milestone. But Paterno’s legacy consists of so much more than his win-loss record.

A Library Named After….A Football Coach??

For starters, Paterno donated $4 million of his own money and raised $13.5 million so that Penn State could have one of the premiere libraries in the nation. It was an easy decision for university officials to honor its longtime football coach by naming the new facility “Paterno Library.”

Think about it. How many college libraries out there do you think are named after football coaches??

Academics Are THE Priority

In an age when so many coaches act as glorified pimps, Paterno has never strayed from his mission of “Success with Honor.” While coaches promise the world to recruits if they sign on the dotted line, Paterno knows it’s a long and difficult road to the NFL. While a select few of his 100+ players will get drafted, the majority of his team will need to make a living outside of football. He makes sure that players know from day one they are at Penn State first and foremost to earn a degree.

Paterno worked to earn his degree while being a gridiron star at Brown University (His career total of 14 interceptions is still a school record after 62 years). He expects the same balance from the young men he coaches at Penn State.

Paterno (far right) from his days as a student-athlete at Brown University

The Paterno Standard

A player who does not live up to their potential in the classroom is unacceptable in Paterno’s program. There have been countless examples of player’s being left behind for games to focus on their studies. In 1997, Penn State wide receiver Joe Jurevicius was not allowed to make the trip to the Citrus Bowl because he had skipped a few classes. Jurevicius was in no danger of failing and was academically eligible to play against a very strong Florida Gators team. But Paterno was not pleased with his behavior. Despite being one of the best receivers in the nation and a certain NFL draft pick, Paterno made the decision to keep Jurevicius at home.

Earlier this year he decided to redshirt freshman quarterback Paul Jones so he could focus on his grades. Jones was a leading candidate to start at quarterback, but Paterno decided it was much more important for Jones to adjust to college life. Football can wait.

Simply put, there are the NCAA standards, and then there are Paterno’s standards.

Paterno’s True Legacy

Joe Paterno joking around with players during the 2010 team photo

There is a reason why Penn State has ranked at or near the top of the list for graduation rates every year. Paterno may be the last coach that cares more about molding young men into productive members of society than creating professional athletes. He knows that the world needs doctors, scientists, and educators more than NFL stars with inflated egos.

The 400th win is one of several accomplishments that make up Paterno’s legacy. But Paterno will also go down in history for a timeless pursuit of doing things the right way. As impressive as his on-field accomplishments are, his off-field achievements are what makes him a true original. I could write for as long as Paterno has been at Penn State (61 years as an assistant and head coach) and still not include everything he has done for the Penn State community. In this time he has touched countless lives in a tireless quest to leave the world in better shape than when he came into it.


Beyond Underwater Basket Weaving: The 12 Oddest College Courses

2 Nov
It’s that time of the semester where everyone is trying their best not to hit the wall. It’s deep enough into the semester to feel burnt-out, but it’s not yet far along to see the glorious light at the end of the tunnel that is winter break.


Students enrolled in these unusual classes are no doubt feeling the pressure, but at least they get to learn from an interesting perspective. Without further ado, here are some of the most unique college classes offered across the U.S. 

 Philosophy and Star Trek (Georgetown University)
The most common question in this class: “How many gigabytes does the L-19 contain?”

The second most common question: “What’s a girl?”

 History of African-American Hairstyles (Stanford University)

In all fairness, most people attend Stanford to bolster their hairstyling credentials.

Far Side Entomology (Oregon State University)

Entomology is the study of insects, for those of you that did not already know (I just had to look it up myself). Implementing the greatest comic strip of all time is just plain brilliant. The Far Side has the ability to make any subject interesting.

Bugs were common fodder in The Far Side

Inflatable Public Sculpture (Rensselear Polytechnic Institute)

 I wonder if these are the people responsible for this.

Underwater Basket Weaving (UC San Diego)

 I’ve heard this referenced countless times in the popular media, but I never fathomed the idea of it being an actual class. The plants that are weaved into wicker baskets need to soak first, so that kind of explains the underwater part. I think. 

The Art of Walking (Centre College)

This is actually a philosophy course, but instead of sitting in a classroom you take walks with the professor and his dog. Plus you learn how to look cool while you walk, just like this guy.

This guy really discovered the fine art of walking

I owe it all to the Art of Walking!

Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles (University of Wisconsin)

 I took a family roles class as an undergraduate and we discussed the dynamics of fictional families all the time, so this makes sense. I even wrote my final paper on the Gavin family from Rescue Me, which is basically a soap opera for men.

Examining Urban Crime, Policing, Politics, and Delinquency Through The Wire  (Syracuse University)

The Wire has been roundly hailed as the greatest television show of all time. It is a layered masterpiece brimming with precise detail that covers urban issues often ignored by the popular press. Of all the classes on this list, this course would easily be the most intimidating.

Dukes of Hazard and its Social Significance (University of Alabama)

 The final consists of hopping through the window of the General Lee while ardently denying the North won the Civil War.

 Wine and Beer Appreciation (Syracuse University)

 My school offers this course too. The class meets in the downtown area Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. I think I may audit this week’s class as soon as I finish this blog post.

 Joe Paterno and the Media (Penn State University)

Joe Paterno’s press conferences should be required viewing for any mass media student. He has been at Penn State since 1950, and has never failed to be the smartest person in the room. Whenever some young reporter asks a silly question, Paterno will just look at them and say “That’s a stupid question,” before moving on to another suddenly timid reporter.

My personal favorite Paterno presser moment happened a few years ago after he decided he had enough sensationalism for one day. He gave a long lecture to the media members in the room about how sports journalism disappeared about 20 years ago. He concluded by saying, “I’m not sure what happened but somewhere along the way, you all got taken,” before standing up walking out on quite a few embarrassed reporters.

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno addresses the media

Can you hear this guys? What if I turn it up for you?

*Sorry for the rant. Check back next week for more on my man-crush on JoePa.  

Elvis Anthology (Iowa University)

 The original title for this class was “How White People Steal Everything and Turn it Into Mainstream Garbage.”

In all seriousness, implementing pop culture into boring subject matter is a great way to get students interested in the class and motivate them to learn. The administrators and professors responsible for these type of classes should be applauded for thinking outside the box when designing the curriculum. The majority of these classes probably have much deeper undertones than expected. Students that are enrolled in such classes have a fantastic opportunity to learn while having a little bit of fun.

These are only 12 courses included in this list and I’m sure there are plenty of other unusal classes that I missed. Have you ever taken or heard of a class that could be included on this list?

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