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Staff Picks: What Penn State Alum Would You Eat Dinner With?

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

To be quite honest, answers to this question can vary more than we know. If we narrow it down to the happiest place on earth (known to most as Happy Valley), that dinner could be pretty incredible. And since attending Penn State is an honor of its own, there are plenty of extraordinary alumni to invite to a one-on-one feast.

This week, we asked our staffers who their Penn State-inspired top pick would be.

Larkin Richards: Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio

Hear me out. Some historic and life-changing people have come out of Penn State. People like Guion Bluford, Steve McCurry, and Franco Harris I would gladly have dinner with. Those conversations would be inspiring and one-of-a-kind. That being said, have you ever watched MTV’s “The Challenge?”

You see, Johnny Devenanzio graduated from Penn State in 2006. His iconic nickname “Bananas” actually came from Penn State, so I would need to have a thorough conversation that included his wild Penn State stories. To carry your college nickname to fame has to mean SOMETHING. This man is a beast when it comes to reality stardom and any challenge that requires winning. Having dinner with Devenanzio would keep me on my toes, for sure. Not one moment would be boring, between his “The Real World” memories to what his worst injury on “The Challenge” could’ve been.

All of that aside, I am sure he would have great advice regarding self-image and what it means to be yourself. After years of being watched on national television, so many people only know you from your scripted fights. I would definitely enjoy dinner with the one and only “Bananas.”

Annie Kubiak: Caroline Bowman

I would love to sit down and eat dinner with Caroline Bowman. She graduated in 2010 with a BFA in Musical Theater and received a Penn State Alumni Association Alumni Achievement Award in 2014.

She went on to star on Broadway in some of my favorite shows such as “Wicked,” “Kinky Boots,” and, most recently, the national tour of “Frozen.” I am a huge musical theater nerd, so I would love to learn how her experience at Penn State set her up for success on Broadway, and what it is like to work with other Broadway stars.

Matt Rudisill: Joonas Suotamo

Suotamo’s tenure as a part of Penn State Men’s Basketball was not one of note, as the 6’11” forward didn’t average a full point per game with the Nittany Lions. However, after playing a few more years of hoops in Europe, he went to pursue an acting career and landed a role in Star Wars, one of the largest and most iconic film franchises of all time.

Through all of his experiences, Suotamo must have accumulated an incredible amount of stories that I would love to hear about as a Penn State student, basketball fan, and Star Wars enthusiast.

Who wouldn’t want to sit down and have dinner with Chewbacca himself?

Ryen Gailey: Ali Krieger

I would do anything to have dinner with Penn State alumna and World Cup champion Ali Krieger. I’ve idolized her for years now and would love to talk all things U.S. Soccer and Penn State with her. Krieger has been in town quite a few times over the past few years, and I’ve actually had the chance to meet her just out of luck while at Irving’s last fall.

Not only am I a huge Krieger fan, but equally a fan of her wife Ashlyn Harris. So, if I could somehow get to sit down with the two of them, it’d be a perfect storm. Both Krieger and Harris are amazing role models for young women and people everywhere. These women also certainly know how to party. I mean who DIDN’T see their iconic post World Cup celebration snaps?

Dana Nunemacher: Christian Hackenberg

Some girls had a One Direction phase. Some girls had a Five Seconds of Summer phase. I had a Christian Hackenberg phase. I wasn’t one of those CRAZY fans who made him an Instagram fan page (guys, that was WEIRD), but one time he high-fived me and I was never the same.

Anyway, one Penn State alumnus I want to have dinner with is my man, Christian Hackenberg. I feel incomplete that this dream of meeting him has yet to come true. I have a couple of questions for him that do involve, “Who is your favorite Penn State student media outlet?” and, “Why did you end up sucking?” Sadly, Christian did break my heart this summer by getting married, but I guess his wife can come to dinner, too. Hack, name a time and place. I’ll be there.

Connor Krause: Paul Posluszny

In a year where the traditional, hard-nosed Penn State defensive identity seems to be lacking, who would be better suited to take us down memory lane over dinner than Nittany Lion linebacking legend, Paul Posluszny? The Western Pennsylvania native played for the Lions from 2003 to 2006 and currently sits as the second all-time leading tackler in program history. 

I would love to reminisce with “Poz” about Penn State’s historic 2005 season and talk to him about what it was like to win the Bednarik and Butkus awards in the same year. After retiring from the NFL in 2018, Posluszny reinvigorated a childhood dream of his by earning his pilot’s license. I would ask him to take us on a quick flight over Mount Nittany after dinner, so we could continue to talk about the good-ole days over a scoop of Peachy Paterno for dessert.

Charles Reinhart: Keegan-Michael Key

If I had the chance to sit down for dinner with a Penn State alum of my choice, I’d definitely pick Keegan-Michael Key. Not only would he be the life of the party and humorous, but it’d be really interesting to talk to him about his upbringing and stories from his show “Key and Peele.”

I’d also love to talk to him about how the two of them got their ideas for the sketches they’d perform. I love talking to creative minds and understanding how creative people work and do what they do, and Keegan-Michael Key is definitely someone who fits that kind of description.

We certainly have had amazing individuals come through Dear Old State. Who would you grab dinner with? Let us know in the comments!

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