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Penn State History Lesson: Commencement At Beaver Stadium

After canceling last year’s in-person commencement ceremonies and being subject to social distancing regulations, Penn State announced that this year’s graduation ceremonies will be held in Beaver Stadium. But as cool as the events might be, did you know this isn’t the first time graduates gathered in Penn State’s trademark arena?

Commencement was held in Beaver Stadium from its completion in 1960 to 1984, according to Penn State’s University Archives. The venue’s predecessor, New Beaver Field, was also a site for Penn State graduation ceremonies until it closed in 1959.

There have been a few notable speakers to step foot in each stadium and give commencement addresses, and speeches at these ceremonies were held in high regard. President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1955 commencement address at New Beaver Field was received as one of the nation’s best ever by NPR.

Pennsylvania State University Archives

Milton Eisenhower, the sitting president of Penn State at the time, extended an invitation for his brother, Dwight, to speak at the university’s commencement and become an honorary member of the Class of 1955. Hee helped boost the university’s reputation with his speech about the peaceful adaptation of nuclear energy.

“I know that you who today complete your education at this great university in its centennial year recognize that truth,” Eisenhower said that day. “As you apply it to the problems you meet–as productive leaders, as American citizens, as members of the free world community-you will grow in personal stature and in your contribution to human peace, human independence, human advancement.”

In addition to President Eisenhower, Joe Paterno was also featured on NPR’s list of the best commencement speeches.

Pennsylvania State University Archives

Paterno gave the commencement address to the Class of 1973 in Beaver Stadium. He focused his speech on what it takes to become a great leader and teammate, and handle adversity. This is where the Penn State legend delivered one of his most famous quotes:

“Success without honor is an unseasoned dish. It will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.”

Following Beaver Stadium’s most recent commencement 1984, Penn State held ceremonies at various locations until it found its home in the Bryce Jordan Center upon its opening in 1996.

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a junior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the Rangers, Mets, Jets, and every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Penn State and Rangers content or email him at [email protected]

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