As the Sandusky scandal unfolded in late 2011, remnants of Joe Paterno’s legacy retroactively began to disappear, at least on the outside. Paterno’s statue is gone, and so are his wins and his namesake on trophies. Still, the late head football coach’s academic contributions remain undeniably strong, and nowhere is that more evident than the Paterno Fellows Program.
Dr. Catherine Wanner will replace honors program founder Jack Selzer as its new director on July 1, according to Penn State. Wanner is a longtime Penn State professor of history, anthropology, and religious studies, specializing in socialist societies. Selzer will go on to serve as Paterno Family Professor in Literature, another position endowed by the Paterno family, which Penn State professor Michael Bérubé outspokenly resigned after the Freeh Report’s release. Selzer announced he would step down as director earlier this year in a decision unrelated to scandal surrounding Paterno’s name.
Wanner is out of town and could not be reached, but Selzer said in a phone interview that he “couldn’t be more pleased” with her appointment as director of the program. “She’s a scholar immensely respected by her colleagues in the College of the Liberal Arts,” he said. “She also has a tremendous breadth of knowledge.”
Wanner has served as a member of the Paterno Fellows Program’s faculty advisory board. As a historian, she has published several books on Eastern Europe, and is completing a book titled, “Love Thy Neighbor: Rituals of Belonging in Ukraine.” Her official title will be Barry Director, named after Penn State benefactors Rick and Sue Barry who made a gift to endow the position in summer 2011.
The selective Paterno Liberal Arts Undergraduate Fellows Program has allowed underclassmen studying liberal arts to enter to the Schreyer Honors College after successfully completing various academic requirements. The program was named after benefactors Joe and Sue Paterno, who both graduated with liberal arts degrees. Program leaders considered changing its name as scrutiny over the head coach’s actions intensified, but ultimately decided against it.
With regard to Paterno’s educational legacy, Selzer said, “The Paterno Fellows Program is about the Paterno family. Their impact on the academic side of Penn State has been significant and invaluable.”
Since 2008, 160 students have graduated as Paterno Fellows with hundreds more currently enrolled. Meant to train students in ethics and leadership, the program also offers a number of other financial and academic perks.
College of the Liberal Arts Dean Susan Welch said in a statement regarding Wanner and Selzer:
“I want to express my appreciation to Jack, who had the vision to transform undergraduate education through the Paterno Fellows Program. He has done an amazing job, and we thank him every much for his commitment and hard work. I look forward to working with him in his new role as the Paterno Family Professor in Literature, and with Cathy as our new Barry Director of the Paterno Fellows program.”