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Sandy Barbour Celebrates First Anniversary At Penn State In Open Letter

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour penned an open letter to the Penn State community on Tuesday — her exact one-year anniversary as a Penn Stater — thanking the community for its character, reflecting on the past year, and expressing optimism for the athletic and academic year ahead.

“Amongst all of the success and achievement, I am most proud of the character and servant hearts that our student-athletes and staff exhibit on a daily basis,” Barber writes.

In her first year as the chief of all athletic ventures, Penn State student-athletes again outperformed peer schools on the field and in the classroom. As Barbour notes, “our graduation rate remains amongst the best in the country at 89 percent.”

Barbour’s first year was characterized by athletic successes for many sports, a few bizarre social media snafus, and some talk about alternative uses to Beaver Stadium. She defended basketball coach Patrick Chambers after an underwhelming season, and her $100,000 donation created the Bridge to the Future Fund, an initiative to improve athletic facilities.

“As impressive as the success on the competitive front has been, my overwhelming impression of the last 12 months and the Penn State community is one of pride, passion, values and connection. I’ve found a common thread, a connection, amongst all facets of the Penn State Nation, which is formed around the values of integrity, character and family,” she writes. “Our culture is as strong and as positive as any I’ve had the pleasure to be associated with, and it’s that strength on which we will build our future on.”

Here’s Barbour’s letter in full:

Dear Penn State Family:

Today I celebrate my official one year anniversary as a member of the Penn State community. Over the course of the last year I have learned so much about what a fabulous community, and indeed family, that the collection of Penn State alumni, students, faculty, staff and neighbors really are. I have come to embrace our traditions, acknowledge and honor our past, and plot a course for our future that will maintain all that has made Penn State unique, special and successful. We will ensure that we maintain focus on advancing student success in the years to come, while providing meaningful engagement for our alumni and others who want to passionately support our students and programs.

The 2014-15 academic year also brought us much to celebrate about our student-athletes and their successes. Most impressionable for me was the tremendous quality of our students in the classroom, community and athletic venues:

– Our graduation rate remains amongst the best in the country at 89 percent;
– The CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year for all sports, senior wrestler Matt Brown, now claims Penn State as his alma mater;
– A Penn State record 500 student-athletes earned at least a 3.0 grade-point average, including a record 241 garnering Dean’s List accolades, during the 2014 fall semester;
– Seven of our programs boasted perfect 1,000 NCAA APR scores for the latest reporting year;
– Our football program has recently posted the two highest semester team grade-point averages in its long and storied history;
– Our 800 student-athletes performed more than 5,000 hours of community service, including participation in THON, United Way Day of Caring and the Special Olympics Pennsylvania State Summer Games and visiting the Hershey Children’s Hospital, and many of our teams adopted children in need from the local community.

Amongst all of the success and achievement, I am most proud of the character and servant hearts that our student-athletes and staff exhibit on a daily basis! To my first year view, it is truly our point of difference and reason to boast #PennStateProud all day, every day!

There were many accomplishments during another great year in our competitive venues. I didn’t have to wait long for a Big Ten Conference title and a National Championship to be delivered under my watch. Thanks to Women’s Soccer (followed by Men’s Gymnastics and Women’s Lacrosse in the Big Ten and Men’s Volleyball in the EIVA) the former was achieved in November and Women’s Volleyball delivered the National Championship (and Penn State’s record seventh) in December!

December also brought us a return to bowl eligibility and an incredible Penn State family reunion at Yankee Stadium for the thrilling OT win over Boston College. Three individual NCAA Champions followed (wrestling, fencing and gymnastics) along with a host of Top 10 NCAA finishes and individual and team honors for our student-athletes and coaches. Finally, the culmination was an 8th place finish in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, signifying our position amongst the nation’s elite in comprehensive athletics excellence for our 31 programs.

As impressive as the success on the competitive front has been, my overwhelming impression of the last 12 months and the Penn State community is one of pride, passion, values and connection. I’ve found a common thread, a connection, amongst all facets of the Penn State Nation, which is formed around the values of integrity, character and family. Our culture is as strong and as positive as any I’ve had the pleasure to be associated with, and it’s that strength on which we will build our future on.

We will face many challenges as we work diligently to build on our steadfast expectation of comprehensive excellence in every facet of the educational endeavor. Make no mistake, we will win and we will win big!! But we will only do it with student athletes and coaches who are dedicated to their academic pursuits and completion of their Penn State degree, and winning in a manner that brings honor to their institution, you and our proud community.

We will need your help. It’s not easy or simple to support a highly successful 31-sport program in today’s era of intercollegiate athletics. But our comprehensive excellence and robust program portfolio is one of our points of pride and just one of many ways in which Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics supports the broader institutional mission and serves directly and indirectly a large number of our University Park students. The impact that their student-athlete experience has on their lives after Penn State is immeasurable and it’s your passionate support and creating conditions for success that makes that possible. In just one short year, I can recount literally hundreds of stories that you all have shared with me about Penn State student-athlete alumni who are making an impact in their chosen professional endeavor.

We are very fortunate at Penn State to be the beneficiaries of a wealth of talented and committed educators who choose to be Nittany Lions. One of our greatest strengths is the experienced and gifted cadre of administrators, coaches and support staff whom I have the pleasure of working shoulder to shoulder with. They sacrifice every day to make our student experience the best it can be, and I am grateful for their efforts.

Anniversaries are a moment in time, a chance to celebrate and acknowledge, with much work ahead. I want to thank each of you for your warm welcome and for your dedication and passion to Penn State. It is indeed a special institution, made so by people who are principled and values driven. I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead in this way, and look forward to what I know will be incredible accomplishment and success in our future!

I look forward to seeing you on campus soon! I can’t wait for classes to begin and to get this year started!!

We Are … Penn State!

About the Author

Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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