Leave It to Beaver
There’s Beaver Stadium. And Beaver Avenue. And Beaver Hall, Beaver Hill, Beaver Terrance, and Beaver Plaza. Why is Penn State obsessed with beavers? As a completely naïve freshman, this is what I first thought when I saw that everything was named “Beaver.” Now that I’ve been at Penn State for some time, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that Beaver is a person. Thanks higher education! Now my question is: Who is Beaver?
After some research, I found that:
General James A. Beaver of Millerstown, PA first gained his fame during the Civil War in the 1860’s. He commanded troops in multiple battles in PA until he lost his right leg to a bullet wound. This left him unfit for war, so he turned to a life of law. Beaver was a prominent figure in law and politics, and was even offered the spot of Vice President on James Garfield’s ticket, which he declined.
Beaver worked closely with his father-in-law Hugh McAllister (sound familiar?) who helped found Penn State. Through him, Beaver became interested in the University and served as President of the Board of Trustees for two separate terms. Beaver then went on to serve as University President from 1906 to 1908.
This proves that he was certainly influential enough to have a dorm and street named after him, but why does our stadium have his name?
Well, between his two terms as President of the BoT, Beaver served as the Governor of Pennsylvania. Despite the impairment of a lost leg, he was very involved with athletics and advocated for increasing the funding for Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics.
Primarily, he wanted to improve Penn State’s football field. He succeeded in doing so, and in turn, the field was named “Beaver Field.” The name carried on once the stadium was built in 1960, leading to what we now know affectionately as “Beaver Stadium.”
Maybe it’s just me being ignorant, but I can’t help to assume that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know who James Beaver was. That’s a shame since he was such a prominent figure in not only the history of Penn State, but the whole state of Pennsylvania as well.
Now when I go to a football game, or walk down Beaver Ave., I’ll be glad to know that Penn State isn’t weirdly obsessed with beavers, but instead, was significantly influenced by a major face in Pennsylvania history.