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Staff Picks: If You Could Have Dinner With Any Penn Stater, Who Would It Be?

If you could have dinner with any Penn Stater ever, who would it be and why?

On the surface, it seems like an easy question. However, when you think of all the outstanding current Penn Staters and alumni to ever walk the grounds of the university, that question gets a lot harder. There’s coaches, athletes, actors, scientists, businessmen and women, military heroes, a few famous people, possibly even your own parents! Afterall, Penn State has the largest alumni group in the nation — there are 160 graduating classes to chose from!

This week, we asked our staff this impossible question. Here are our answers…

Kaitlyn Dividock

Penn State dinner dateKeegan-Michael Key (Star of  Comedy Central’s series Key & Peele; Co-Stars in USA Network’s comedy Playing House; Also spent six seasons as a cast member on MADtv.; the 2015 Penn State Homecoming Marshal)

As soon as our staff decided we were picking famous Penn Staters to have dinner with, it took me about 0.2 seconds to decide who I was going to choose. I’m a huge ​MADtv fan, and have been since I was around 10-years old. “R. Kelly Trapped in the Cupboard” is still easily one of the best sketches in entertainment television, and I’d be totally lying if I said I didn’t watch it three times through while writing this. But anyway, I’d love to wine and dine Keegan-Michael Key. That tall drink of water is not only a comedic genius, but also a proud graduate of Dear Old State’s theater department. Our date would be hilarious and anything but boring, and we’d probably make fun of our waiter all night long, you know, in a cute way (not to mention Keybabe wouldn’t have any trouble with the check). Keegan-Michael was even nice enough to do an interview with Onward State, so I have a lot of bias, but I mean…how could I not? To top it all off, can you imagine how fun it would be roleplaying with Penn State’s own Hingle McCringleberry? There’s no chance of a mediocre date. One moment he’d be angrily translating Obama, and the next, we’d be driving off into the sunset (too much?). All that matters is that I’d be having one hell of a good time. Man, do I like a guy who can make me laugh. Amirite, ladies?

Matt Coleman

Penn State dinner date: Paul Berg (“Father of Genetic Engineering,” Pioneered the research into genetics we see today; One of the only Penn State alumni to receive the Nobel Prize.)

Being a chemistry nerd myself, Paul Berg’s research interests me greatly. I’ve always been interested in biology and chemistry, and what better way to learn more than from the “father of genetic engineering” himself? This guy is just awesome and really special to Penn State. Somehow, Penn State hasn’t had many Nobel Prize winners. He is one of them, and I would love to hear of his experiences at Penn State.

Sam Panko

Penn State dinner dateJulius J. Epstein (Academy Award winning screenwriter; wrote “Casablanca” and many other popular films.)

Most likely every person, whether they’ve seen it or not, knows about the film “Casablanca.” This guy is a screenwriting genius and being an aspiring filmmaker myself, there are plenty of questions I would like to ask Mr. Epstein about his success.

Carolyn Popescu

Penn State dinner dateTy Burrell (Phil on Modern Family)

Ty Burrell, or “Phil” from Modern Family, is honestly the main reason I watch Modern Family. He captures the silly and embarrassing “dad” archetype SO well. If I sat down to eat with him I feel like he would be both hilarious and wise at the same time. He’s like that down to earth uncle who cracks too many corny jokes, and I positively adore it. The fact he went to Penn State and became so successful in the entertainment industry, a field I’m vastly interested in, just seals the deal. If you don’t watch Modern Family, WATCH IT. One of my favorite Phil quotes of all time: “I know all the hip slang…like WTF: why the face.” TY! If you’re reading this, how does dinner at California Tortilla next week sound?

 Sara Civian

Penn State dinner date: T’yanna Wallace (Notorious B.I.G.’s daughter)

Is there any other answer to this question? I need to know if she’s still rocking five karats. I need to know if she ever listens to Tupac songs. I’ve always wanted to talk to a rap artist’s child. Imagine if your father was famous world-wide for lyrics such as “tits and bras, ménage à trois, sex in expensive cars”? Do you think T’yanna has heard the conspiracy theory that her father and Tupac are actually Daft Punk now? I have too many questions and no answers.

Brandi Heckman

Penn State dinner date: Kelly Mazzante (Basketball player)

There’s few people I idolized more in my childhood than Lady Lion basketball player Kelly Mazzante. (How awesome is the last name Mazzante?!). She held almost every Big Ten shooting record there is (Field Goals, Field Goals Attempted, 3 Point Field Goals, and 3 Point Field Goals Attempted.) My childhood sports days were highlighted by watching the 2001-2005 Lady Lions Basketball team in action. To this day, I can still names all of the major players. Kelly was an idol to every little girl in attendance and, in fact, she was one of the reasons I became a huge college sports (well, Penn State) fan. If I ever had the chance to meet her, I’d love to tell her how much it meant to me just getting the chance to watch her play, even if it was more than 10 years ago.

Aaron Sulpizio

Penn State dinner date: Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen (Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream)

The two men who started the world famous Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream company would be the most prestigious alumni to have dinner with, which I hope would end up being assorted pints of Cherry Garcia, Chubby Hubby, and Chunky Monkey ice cream. The two ice cream geniuses started the beginnings of their business venture here at Penn State through a $5 correspondence course on ice cream making in 1978. Afterword, the two opened their first shop in a gas station in Burlington, VT where the business has grown to 31 countries and 200 franchise shops.

Aaron Andrews

 Penn State dinner date: Gerald Abrams (TV Movie Producer; The father of J.J. Abrams.)

It kills me to choose anyone besides Franco Harris in this situation, and two years ago I probably would have, but something has changed. Admittedly I haven’t seen any of Gerald Abrams’ work but I would like to. My dinner with Mr. Abrams wouldn’t be filled with questions about his recent mini series “Houdini” or his involvement in the show “Modern Marvels.” It would mainly be me asking questions about his son J.J Abrams who is the director of the upcoming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” A lot of my childhood revolved around “Star Wars.” My love of cinema and the reason I’m a film major is partially because of “Star Wars” and the amount of behind the scenes footage I watched from the DVDs. Even sharing an appetizer with the father of the man who is at the helm of the new “Star Wars” film would be a monumental moment in my life. Maybe he’ll bring him to the dinner actually.

Adair Fleming

Penn State dinner date: Adam McKay (screenwriter, director, actor; Co-wrote “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights,” and “Step Brothers.”) 

Adam McKay is the one responsible for you peeing your pants laughing while watching “Step Brothers” or “Anchorman.” He wasn’t at Penn State for all four years, but give the man a break; laughing as hard as I do at those movies is probably my only chance at a six-pack. Ever. Simply put, I chose Adam because funny people are the best people. As a screenwriter, director, comedian, and actor he’s basically the full package. Also, not to mention, Will Ferrell is his partner in crime and hilarious when it comes to writing. So maybe he’ll tag along.

Claire Going

Penn State dinner date: Ben Cohen (Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream)

Since ice cream is my favorite food, I would have to choose Ben Cohen, Co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s, to have dinner with. Even though he only took one $5 course at Penn State on how to make ice cream, he still qualifies as a Penn Stater nonetheless. That being said, I think we would get along very well because he is a noted Grateful Dead fan and we have similar political views. “Why Ben and not Jerry?” you ask? He just sounds like an awesome person, and credits a lot of his success to Penn State. As Ben & Jerry’s grew into a nationwide business and one of the largest ice cream companies, Ben Cohen turned his new-found wealth toward a variety of social causes. Not to mention, the business idea came to fruition in Saratoga Springs, New York, which is my favorite place in the United States. Just in case you’re reading this, Mr. Cohen, if you ever find yourself back Happy Valley: Creamery ice cream, on me.

Lexi Shimkonis

Penn State dinner date: Dr. Richard Bundy (Retired Blue Band director)

Football gameday would be incomplete without, most recently, rain, and most notably, the Blue Band. One man behind this prestigious group for decades was Dr. Richard Bundy, and his history at the university would make him my ideal dinner date. Dr. Bundy started his legacy at Penn State as a student and member of the Blue Band, and being a somewhat-ex band geek myself I’d love the opportunity to be able to pick his brain about what it’s like to perform at such a high level. Bundy came back to Penn State to earn a doctorate degree and continue to work with the Blue Band, and was the director from 1996 through spring 2015. Dr. Bundy has seen history and Penn State through one of the most interesting angles — drill sets and weekly performances. Thirty-five years as part of the band staff would have seen Dr. Bundy experiencing nail-biting victories, ear-piercing 107k strong crowds, and tradition through music like no other. Every time I hear the band play the alma mater, I get chills, and I would love the opportunity to hear first-hand what it’s like to play Penn State classics as a part of the best band in the country as well as hear about the opportunities that experiencing Penn State tradition from a marching band perspective afforded him.

 Maggie Wrobel

 Penn State dinner date: Ty Burrell (Phil on “Modern Family”)

I chose Ty Burrell because he seemed like the obvious choice to me. How could you pass up a dinner with Ty Burrell? If Ty Burrell and I had dinner I imagine I would chat with him about what it’s like to be on an Emmy award-winning show, and maybe we could do a nice “We Are” chant, for old times sake. I’d beg him for the secret to success in the television industry, and try to convince him to hook a fellow Nittany Lion up and take me to set with him. Ideally, the entire event would end with me becoming best friends with Sofía Vergara, but now this is just wishful thinking.

Patrick Koerbler

Penn State dinner date: Matt McGloin (football player)

Simply put, Matt McGloin could be the biggest legend to have ever stepped foot on Penn State’s campus. The former Penn State quarterback was known for making four-star quarterbacks tremble to their cleats, and for displaying more moxie than any mere mortal has before him. Instead of having dinner, I imagine the West Scranton Gunslinger and I would opt for a trip to the Phyrst. While there — of course, we don’t have to wait in line — we’d down Irish Car Bomb after Irish Car Bomb and Guinness after Guinness, as any self-respecting Irishman should.

Doug Leeson

Penn State dinner date: Terry Pegula (Owner of Buffalo Bills/Sabres, Natural Gas tycoon, Namesake of Pegula Ice Arena)

They say there’s no such thing as a free meal, but when you sell your fracking empire for a couple billion dollars and own an NFL and an NHL team, does it really matter how expensive the food is? And speaking of owning the Buffalo Sabres, there’s one question I’ve been dying to ask Mr. Pegula: How could you let Casey Bailey sign with the Maple Leafs?

Steffen Blanco

Penn State dinner date: Michael Hoffman (First known Nittany Lion Mascot)

This is a relatively simple choice (for me, anyway). If I had to choose anyone it would definitely be the Michael Hoffman, the very FIRST person to become the symbol of our best: The Nittany Lion! Our mascot’s identity is a mystery to many up until their senior year during the last basketball and football game. There have been many Nittany Lion mascots in the past, but I’m curious on what traditions and tricks the first Lion used to pump up the crowd on Beaver Field. There’s so many questions I would love to ask: did he start the one handed push up tradition? Did he crowd surf through the stadium stands? What was the original costume made of? Whatever those answers may be, even having the chance to sit down and meet the first Nittany Lion would be the opportunity of a lifetime.

Ethan Kasales

Penn State dinner date: Melanie Collins (TV Host and sports broadcaster)

The Penn Stater I would most enjoy dining with is sports and entertainment host/anchor and State College’s own Melanie Collins. A 2008 graduate of the College of Communications, Collins has enjoyed tremendous success in her reporting career. Collins reported for the Big Ten Network and NBA TV, among other sports outlets, before co-hosting Golf Channel’s popular Big Break series. Now, she provides sideline commentary for CBS Sports, and will cover the Olympics, Super Bowl, and World Series in the next year. As a Journalism major, I would love to hear about what it’s like to interview the world’s top athletes and report on premier sporting events. I would also ask about her dad, Dr. Doug Collins, DDS, as he’s a family friend and was the oral surgeon who removed my wisdom teeth a few years ago.

 Gabriela Stevenson

Penn State dinner date: Richard T. James (Inventor of the Slinky)

Let me take you back to a time of happiness. A time when you were care-free and had no responsibilities. You could watch cartoons, take naps, and most importantly, play with toys. One of my favorite toys growing up was the Slinky, so when I found out that the inventor of the famous spring toy went to Penn State for mechanical engineering, I immediately imagined what an evening with him would be like. Dinner, maybe dancing, and lots of conversation about how fun it is to watch a Slinky fall down some stairs. Richard T. James is a genius and, of course, such genius could only come from a Penn Stater (but don’t even get me started on his net worth).

Tim Reams

Penn State dinner date: Joe Paterno (Football Coach)

As a kid I can remember seeing JoePa on TV, the Wheaties box in my cereal cabinet, and even as a Christmas decoration on my family’s tree. I was never lucky enough to get to meet Joe, or even see the elusive statue in person, but if tomorrow I was granted the ability to take any Penn Stater to dinner, it would, without hesitation, be Joe.  Joe and I would have to sit down to a good plate of spaghetti at Rotelli downtown and reminisce. We’d have to reflect on the famous 409 wins, his philanthropic work for this incredible university, and how Penn State has turned itself around from when he last saw it. I’d have to ask Joe about my great grandpa, seeing that they walked to work together sometimes and only lived a few blocks from each other. I’d have to pay for the meal of course (it’s JoePa) and just thank him for what he’s done for this school. The foundation of our culture and spirit were built from his genuine and honest heart. In typical Penn State fan boy tradition, I’d have to end the night off with my goodbyes and thanks, but most importantly, we’d have to get the most legendary Instagram picture ever to be taken. 409 forever.


If you could have dinner with any Penn Stater ever, who would it be and why? Let us know in the comments!

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