When I sat back one night in January thinking about my time at Penn State, I tried to come up with a single word that would adequately describe my experiences here. As I attempted to determine what that magic word might be, my mind began to grasp the absurdity of that challenge. How could I possibly distill four years of my life, countless friendships, and untold numbers of memories, down to a single word? An impossible task to be sure.
So instead, I took the easier road and went with three words: For the Glory.
As cliché as that might sound, thinking back on my time here, it became quite clear that these three short words perfectly described my Penn State story. That phrase drove me to become involved in some of the most high-profile organizations on campus, to befriend the most influential leaders, and participate in the most extraordinary events that can be found at any college in the country.
And yet, my path to becoming a part of the Penn State family was very different from many of my classmates. Having grown up in New Jersey, to parents who had attended private Northeastern universities, I had no real ties to Penn State, or any Big Ten school for that matter.
I had, however, in my senior year of high school, decided that I wanted to attend a university with a tremendous amount of school spirit. I graduated from a high school that had excelled in all areas; academics, arts, and athletics. Not an easy thing to do for a 1,200-person public school. But due to those successes, my classmates and I had developed a tremendous sense of pride in Mendham High School. I loved being part of that type of environment and was determined to find a University that echoed that level of spirit.
By the time I had finished my college search, I had applied to six schools: Cornell (my father’s Alma Mater), Northwestern, Notre Dame, Michigan, Villanova, and Penn State. It eventually came down to a decision between Penn State and Villanova. (With some unrequested assistance from the admissions officers at Cornell, Northwestern and Notre Dame)
Two schools with a tremendous level of spirit and tradition, supporting top-notch academics, emanating from two of the most storied college sports programs around; Penn State football and Villanova basketball.
The successes of these programs had become a source of pride and devotion (almost religious in nature) for their followers and classmates. This pride and devotion permeated through the student bodies down to a level where every student truly loved being a Penn State Nittany Lion or Villanova Wildcat.
I was blown away by both schools on so many levels, but ultimately I had to make a decision.
Penn State struck me by the amount of opportunity it presented; 700 clubs and organizations, 160 majors, 40,000 students at University Park. If those numbers read like they’re out of a tour guide script, it’s because they are. The more I thought about it, the clearer it became. I was to become a Nittany Lion.
Late in August of 2007 I packed up the car and headed west on I-80 with my parents, bound for State College. Unlike most incoming freshman, however, I was driving to Happy Valley a week prior to the start of classes, to audition for the Penn State Blue Band.
My Blue Band audition was the first test Penn State had in store for me. Though I had been preparing for that day for months, nothing could adequately prepare me for the feeling of being completely overwhelmed upon walking into the cavernous band room of the Blue Band Building and being assaulted by the cacophony of sounds coming from some of the most talented young musicians I had ever heard. I fancied myself a pretty good musician, but nothing is as disarming as walking into a room and realizing that you weren’t the proverbial big fish in a small pond anymore.
Getting that feeling so early on in my college career was perhaps one of the best things that could have happened to me. It taught me not to back away from adversity, but stare it right in the eye and accept the challenge. I made it through my audition and was able to hear Dr. Bundy call my name as part of the list of auditionees asked to come back the following morning as a member of the Penn State Blue Band.
To this day I’m not sure if anything has been able to top that night, but there have certainly been some that have come close. My introduction into one of the most high profile, tradition-filled organizations on campus was my first exposure to what it meant to spend my college career “For the Glory”.
Throughout the rest of my tenure at Penn State I’ve had the opportunity to advance music in America through my involvement as a brother in Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, fight for a cure as a THON captain, Tour the Glory as a Lion Scout, compete for Penn State as a member of the Ballroom Dance team, and report the news of the day as the Managing Editor of the site you’re currently reading.
There have certainly been some ups and downs throughout my time here. I struggled with academics my freshman year, ultimately resulting in a change of major, which brought me to IST, where I was able to excel. But for the most part, the downs here followed my attempts to reach the highest levels of involvement at Penn State. I ran for President of the Blue Band, and lost of one of my closest friends. I unsuccessfully applied for an overall position in THON, and was nominated, but not selected, for Homecoming King. Looking back on it all, however, made me think, “if those are the lows in my time at Penn State, I did pretty damn well.”
As my time at Penn State comes to a close, and I move forward with new opportunities, I know that I will be able to look back on my time in Happy Valley knowing that I lived every moment of these four years, “For the Glory”.