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Senior Column: Shapeless in the Hands of Fate

In 12 days, I will be a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University. Those words have yet to sink in, as I’m sure is the case for a lot of seniors.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out where the 17-year old freshman version of me went.

I had no idea what I was in for when I arrived in State College for summer session in 2009. Four years later, I still have no idea what I’m facing. I don’t know where I’m going, but thanks to Penn State, I have a pretty good sense of who I am and what’s important to me.

I learned a lot at Penn State. During my freshman and sophomore years, I learned how to memorize useless information, only to forget it an hour after an exam. I learned how to eat, shower, and make it to class in 15 minutes. However, throughout the next two years, the things I learned were a little more important…

Penn State taught me to question things. In the fall of 2011, I got sucked into everything that was going on, and as a result I began to doubt my school, its leaders, and the value of my education. I love sports, but I struggled to accept the fact that grown men could place athletics above children — above other human beings.

Penn State taught me to come to my own conclusions. During the early months of 2012, I had an epiphany. The football coach, whoever it may be, doesn’t define Penn State. The Board of Trustees doesn’t define Penn State. Neither does the President, the Athletic Director, or a tenured professor.

But even when the entire country (and maybe the world) focused on the actions of a few men, those men didn’t define Penn State.

The truth is, at least in my eyes, we — the former, current, and future students — define Penn State. During our darkest hours (damaging our own community on self-created drinking holidays, for example) we define Penn State. Through our moments of brilliance, like THON, we define Penn State.

On May 4, as I sit in the BJC wearing my cap and gown, I know I’m going to be thinking about everything I’ve learned here. Penn State has taught me how to treat other people, how to do everything with a sense of purpose, and how to act when facing a challenge.

As I said before, I’m not sure where I’m going in life, and I look at Penn State in a similar light. While lawsuits, sanctions, and fines are on the horizon, none of us can say for sure what will become of our school. We don’t know where Penn State is going, but collectively, it’s our job to make sure it gets there. Penn State molds us into who we are. As students, it’s our duty to return the favor…

When we stood at childhood’s gate,
Shapeless in the hands of fate,
Thou didst mold us, dear old State.

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About the Author

Michael DeGothseir

Advertising/PR major, Blue Band drummer, peanut butter enthusiast.

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