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75 Things You Need To Know About Penn State Before Arriving In Happy Valley In 75 Days

Penn State is a big place with a big history, even if you only look at the last couple years. For new students, the pressure to learn about Penn State’s storied past can be intimidating, and as a returning student, I still feel like I’m learning something new about our university everyday. With so much going on in recent school history and just as many long-standing traditions, it’s hard to keep names, events, and places straight.

So with only 75 days left until we move back to Happy Valley, what better time is there to brush up on your Penn State recent history, school trivia, and general student knowledge? We’ve provided 75 things about Penn State that we think all Penn Staters should know, one for each day until we’re back in Happy Valley. With everything from a slew of Sandusky Scandal-era names to a giant dance party to our very own ESPN “cheerleader,” make sure you’re not the person who doesn’t know what everyone’s talking about at a party. So read one of these everyday, or read them all at once, but either way, you’re going to be a more stately Nittany Lion in the end.

  1. Penn State was founded in 1855.
  2. Original name: Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania.
  3. Original school colors: Pink and black. The pink faded to white on school apparel, and the colors were changed to navy blue and white in March 1890.
  4. Current president: Eric Barron, since May 2014.
  5. Old Main: The administrative home of the university, the historical building is also a beautiful, photogenic, symbolic landmark of Penn State with a comfortable lawn and a (electronic) bell chime that can be heard throughout campus.

    Old Main Night
    Yes, Old Main does always look this good (Photo: Sean Gregory)

  6. Board of Trustees (BoT): 38-member governance board that includes the President, the Governor of the Commonwealth, the State Secretaries of Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, and Education, governor-appointed trustees, alumni-elected trustees, and board-elected trustees that represent business and industry enterprises.
  7. Job of the Board of Trustees: Select the president, determine the overarching direction and welfare of the university, approve the annual budget, and regard the interests of staff, students, faculty, and alumni.
  8. Joe Paterno: Penn State head football coach from 1966 to 2011, when he was dismissed as a result of the Sandusky Scandal. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and has the most wins of any college football coach. Paterno passed away in January of 2012 due to lung cancer.
  9. 409: The number of career victories Joe Paterno had as coach of the Nittany Lions.
  10. Sandusky Scandal: In November 2011, a Grand Jury report was released containing a testimony against Jerry Sandusky that he had sexually abused eight minors (later found to be 10). The case garnered national attention as it became believed that high-ranking university officials failed to report the incidents to law enforcement agencies. Sandusky was found guilty of 45 of the 48 sexual assault related charges filed against him, and Spanier, Curley, and Schultz were also called to stand trial for the allegations they failed to report the incidents.
  11. Mark Emmert: NCAA President, both now and during the Sandusky scandal. Imposed the penalties on Penn State via the NCAA as a result of the scandal, including the loss of scholarships, a $60 million fine, a post-season ban, and the vacancy of 112 football wins.
  12. Freeh Report: The Board of Trustees commissioned former FBI director Louis Freeh to conduct an internal investigation into the scandal, and the report released in July 2012 concluded that Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz concealed Sandusky’s actions from the Board of Trustees and the University. The report has since been criticized for its questionable accuracy, but was widely initially accepted.
  13. George Mitchell: Penn State’s Athletic Integrity Monitor whose report to the NCAA regarding Penn State’s compliance resulted in the removal of the postseason ban on the football team in September 2014 as well as the restoration of the team’s scholarships, to be completed by 2015-16.
  14. Senator Jake Corman: Filed a lawsuit against the NCAA and the consent decree that resulted in the decision to keep the $60 million fine in the state of Pennsylvania and restored the 112 vacated wins, again making Joe Paterno the winningest coach in college football.
  15. Current Athletic Director: Sandy Barbour.
  16. Current Football Head Coach: James Franklin.
  17. Christian Hackenberg: Current starting quarterback and resident football stud.
  18. To sit in the student section, you have to have a student ticket for the game on your Penn State ID, which you can get when they go on sale for your class and buy the whole season, or if you just want to go to one game you can venture into the world of the ticket exchange. To sit in the section, students with tickets enter Gate A, where your ID is swiped and you are given a physical ticket that will direct you to the section you’ve been “assigned.”
  19. S-Zone: 800 students in the middle of the student section who are given shirts by the Lion Ambassadors to create a giant blue “S” with a white background. To be a part of the S-Zone, you have to get to a home game early and enter through the appropriate student section terminal.

    A full-fledged S-Zone in the middle of the student section (Photo: Ryan Kearney/Pinterest)

  20. The Alma Mater (when we sing it though, we get a little more into it).
  21. All other Penn State fight songs
  22. Nittanyville: Formerly Paternoville. Students pitch tents outside of Gate A at Beaver Stadium and camp out in order to be in the front row of the student section. Football players, coaches, the Blue Band, and other Penn State personalities often make appearances.
  23. Current Men’s Basketball Head Coach: Pat Chambers.
  24. Volleyball matters at Penn State, and both the women’s and men’s teams are dominant forces.
  25. Current Head Women’s Volleyball Coach: Russ Rose.
  26. Pegula Ice Arena: Ice rink where the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams play. Pegula is open for student skating at certain times.
  27. Terry Pegula: Penn State alumnus and owner of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. Donated $102 million to Penn State to fund the building of a hockey rink (read: Pegula Ice Arena), which allowed the club ice hockey teams to join Division-1 standing in 2012.
  28. Roar Zone: Penn State Hockey’s enthusiastic student section, which is now an official student organization.
  29. Medlar Field: Home of Penn State Baseball. There’s also a large section of tailgating fields located behind the park, as well as the best sledding hill on campus.
  30. Rec Hall: Former home of Penn State Basketball and THON, current home to Penn State Volleyball and one of three on-campus fitness facilities.
  31. White Building: Another former home of THON, houses Penn State Fencing, a pool, and the second of three on-campus gyms.
  32. IM Buillding: Newly renovated home of intramural sports and a swanky new fitness center, including basketball courts, multi-use fitness rooms, and the third on-campus gym.
  33. Speaking of gyms, you have to buy a gym membership if you want access. It is charged to your bursar account and access is automatically loaded to your student ID.
  34. There’s a lot of sports that you can attend for free as long as you’ve got your student ID, including volleyball and wrestling.
  35. THON: The IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon is a 46-hour party in February that concludes and celebrates the year-long effort to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund and pediatric cancer.

    THON_BJC_Morton Lin-3251
    A bird’s-eye view of THON 2015 (Photo: Morton Lin)

  36. Four Diamonds Fund: The charity organization that fights to conquer childhood cancer. Based out of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
  37. Charles and Irma Millard: Founded the Four Diamonds Fund in 1972 after they lost their son Chris to pediatric cancer.
  38. Line Dance: An organized song and dance done every hour during THON designed to stretch out dancers and the crowd and keep the energy up. The lyrics always contain news, pop culture, sports, and, of course, THON references.
  39. THON Committees: Work with captains and the executive committee to plan and execute THON events year-round and the logistics and planning of THON weekend.
  40. THON Orgs: Exist solely for THON, raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer and the Four Diamonds Fund.
  41. Don’t sit at THON.
  42. Convocation: The first and only time the whole Class of 2019 will be together under one roof. The Class of 2018 was given matching shirts based on their respective colleges for convocation, which quickly became fashion faux-pas.
  43. East Halls: Freshman primarily live here, and everyone loves to hate it. Fortunately for incoming freshmen of the future, come the end of the South Hall renovations, the 1960s-era East Halls will be getting a much-needed face-lift…though the projecct will not be completed (or even started) for the class of 2019.
  44. UPUA: University Park Undergraduate Association, Penn State’s undergraduate student government.
  45. Current UPUA President: Emily McDonald.
  46. When we say Michigan we’re talking the University of, and no matter what time it is they still suck.
  47. Mary Krupa: Penn State’s very own Squirrel Whisperer.
  48. The Willard Preacher: Yes, he actually does stand outside of Willard five days a week to tell us why we’re going to hell.
  49. UHS: University Health Services. The on-campus health center offers doctors appointments, a 24/7 advice nurse, and a full pharmacy, among other services.
  50. CAPS: Counseling & Psychological Services. Provides students with therapy, individual counseling, crisis intervention, psychiatric services, and other prevention and outreach services.
  51. The HUB: The Hetzel-Union Building that actually serves as a hub of activity. There’s food (for which your meal points are good), places to study, the bookstore, and a plethora of additional services that students can (and should) take advantage of.
  52. Pattee and Paterno Libraries: The combination of these two large, connected libraries make up the main library on campus. Once you’re inside, however, you really can’t tell the difference between the two.
  53. The “Stacks”: Aisles and aisles of narrow shelves of books with a below-average height ceiling that end with desks perfect for quiet, confined studying. They’re dimly lit, so it feels like a murder was committed there (actually, there was).
  54. Don’t ask for more than one flavor per cone or dish at Berkey Creamery — it’s forbidden, unless you’re President Clinton.
  55. Meal Points: The food money you pay for as part of “room and board” costs. All on-campus dining facilities take meal points, which are loaded onto your student ID. At Penn State eateries, you get a 65 percent discount by using meal points, and at most other venues you will still get a 10 percent discount.
  56. LionCash: Money that you put onto your student ID as you desire, separate from meal points, and can be used at any on-campus dining location, a number of off-campus dining and shopping establishments, and is what you will need to do laundry in the dorms.
  57. La Vie: Penn State’s yearbook.
  58. The Daily Collegian: Penn State’s student newspaper.
  59. Onward State: Hey that’s us! We’re an independent, student-run Penn State news blog, but you probably already knew that :)
  60. The Lion 90.7 FM: Penn State’s student-run radio station.
  61. SPA: Student Programming Association. Brings big-name musical and comedy acts to Penn State for free performances for students.
  62. Movin’ On: A free, outdoor spring music festival that brings big-name acts from a spread of genres to campus. Past performers have included Passion Pit, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, Fall Out Boy, and Ludacris.

    big sean
    Big Sean performs during Movin’ On 2015. (Photo: Zach Berger)

  63. CATA: Centre Area Transportation Authority, provides free on-campus transportation and paid off-campus transportation.
  64. “Bloop”: The Blue Loop, a free bus that travels clockwise on campus and College Ave.
  65. “Whoop”: The White Loop, a free bus that travels counterclockwise on campus and Beaver Ave.
  66. Except for the four free buses (White Loop, Blue Loop, Red Link, Green Link), all CATA buses cost $1.75 per ride (and they don’t give change).
  67. College Ave.: One-way road with traffic running east to west. The downtown road closest to campus.
  68. Beaver Ave.: One-way road where traffic runs opposite College Ave., located one block further away from campus.
  69. Penn State is a big place, and despite what tour guides tell you, you can’t actually walk anywhere on campus in 15 minutes or less.
  70. “The Canyon”: Located on Beaver Ave., named as such because the tall buildings on either side of the road make you feel like you’re walking at the bottom of a canyon. Houses the appropriately named home of $1-slice Canyon Pizza.
  71. Mount Nittany: The common name for Nittany Mountain, of which Penn State lies at the foot and whose “walls” give us Happy Valley. A must-climb during your time at Penn State.
  72. Lion Shrine: Located in West Campus on Curtin Rd., this iconic model of the symbol of our best is a prime photo locale, especially on your first day (back) at PSU.
  73. Keith Olbermann: ESPN2 sports talk show host who originally lashed out at Penn State in January. Later, after THON, Olbermann accidentally implied that Penn State students and their philanthropic efforts are “pitiful.” Olbermann’s Twitter trolling got him suspended from his show, Olbermann, and made him an instant punching bag for Penn State students and alumni.
  74. Greek Life under review: Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) was suspended after police discovered private Facebook pages that included pictures of nude women, many of whom appeared to be passed out or sleeping. Additionally, a joint closure of Pi Kappa Phi (Pi Kapp) was announced this semester by the IFC and the frat’s national chapter following hazing allegations: the chapter was suspended and the house was vacated. That didn’t stop rapper Tokes and his crew from filming a particularly catchy and somewhat vulgar rap video at Pi Kapp’s house during a (also suspended) daylong.
  75. “Penn State Lives Here”: The spirit campaign launched in 2013 was created to embody the idea that Penn Staters are everywhere: Pennsylvania, North America, over seas, even hanging around outside Sackett for souvenirs.


 Did we miss anything that you think Penn Staters need to know? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Lexi Shimkonis

Lexi is an editor-turned-staff writer who can often be found at either Irving's or the Phyrst (with the chances she'll have her backpack being the same). Lexi is a senior hailing from Spring City, PA (kind of) and studying Civil Engineering. Please email questions and/or pleas for an Instagram caption to [email protected], or for a more intimate bond, follow her on Twitter @lexshimko.

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