Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Students' Favorite Joe Paterno Memory - THON 2009

After yesterday's funeral procession I wandered back to my classroom to see if any students showed up for class.  I had no intention of cancelling class yesterday but the funeral procession, scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m., didn't really start until about 4:00 p.m.  Class was at 4:15 p.m.

So I called someone in the building around 4:10 p.m. when it was clear I would be missing at the start of class and asked them to put a note on the door stating that if I wasn't there I was at the procession and class was cancelled.

I figured that all my students would have the same attitude that I did.  After waiting since about 2:30 p.m. on Curtin Road for this procession to come by, I wasn't about to miss it.  Judging by the many emails I received from students stating that they missed class because they were at the procession, I think I made the right call.

Walking back to the Business Building from Curtin Road, I broke down into tears.  It was one of those moments where it hits you what kind of loss this really is.

It's hard to describe.   Joe Paterno was such a patriarch for Penn State.  So very much loved.  And so as the hearse drove by and I shot photos while fighting back tears, it reminded me of losing my father, and I couldn't help but think of my mother as well.   For the students, losing Joe is like losing a grandfather.  We felt like we knew him that well, even if our interactions with him were few and far between.  He had that much impact on each of us.

As I got closer to the Business Building, I ran into one of my students.  He, too, was fighting tears, and was headed to my classroom.  I told him we weren't having class, but I was headed there to see if anyone wanted to just sit and talk about Joe.  I asked him if he wanted to do that and he said yes.

Three other students also arrived at the classroom, and also wanted to just stay and talk.  It was about 4:30 by this time. 

So we sat and reminisced and I asked them what was their favorite moment with Joe Paterno.  They mentioned the speech he gave at Thon 2009.  It was the first time in a long time that Joe and Sue Paterno had attended Thon, and it was a surprise visit at the height of Thon weekend.

So we found the video and played it, along with a clip of JoePa's 324th win.  I had already shown the 400th win tribute in class the other day.

And so here is my students' favorite memory, and a reminder, if you haven't done so already, that Sue Paterno and her family had asked that donations in Joe Paterno's memory be made to either THON or to Pennsylvania Special Olympics.

Video:  Joe Paterno's speech at THON 2009.


  1. We are a Four Diamonds Family since 1994 and have seldom missed Thon since. This is one of my greatest memories of Thon, other than the one Thon our son Colby made it to before he lost his battle with cancer. Joepa's speach was awesome. The Hoch Family

  2. Thank you and God bless you. We just returned from the memorial service for JoePa and it was awesome.

  3. We are... because you were. has shirts with this saying. Love it!