When I think of Joe Paterno and his impact on Penn State University, I think primarily about his commitment to developing young men - his football players - into educated and responsible citizens who contribute greatly to the world we live in.
Yes, Joe also won a lot of football games - 409 to be exact - but in fact Joe didn't win a single one of those games by himself. His players were the true winners. What Joe did so beautifully over 61 years of service to Penn State as a coach was to establish the right conditions and discipline for those team members to excel.
And to excel while earning their degrees at a demanding university that cuts no slack to athletes. I know, because I teach at Penn State and have to fill out forms on athletes' progress in my classes - they are very tightly monitored to make sure they are attending classes and succeeding in the classroom. Regardless of their position on the team, if a football player is slacking off in the classroom, Joe Paterno would tell you "Flunk him. It will teach him a lesson." I know because this situation happened in my classroom and that is exactly what Joe Paterno told me.
Joe Paterno and his wife Sue were also great humanitarians. They gave back (and his family continues to give back) to Penn State University and to numerous Pennsylvania charities. Economically, the success of Penn State football during Joe's tenure contributed greatly to Centre County businesses and tourism and certainly the quality of life.
For these reasons, the efforts to Honor Joe through the film "The People's Joe" and through a very exciting bench sculpture project "Joe's Bench", planned for downtown State College are worthy of your support.
These projects are designed to be projects by the people and for the people. Many sculptures are created due to the generosity of a few large donors with deep pockets, but the intent here is to reach out to all who want to share in the story and pay tribute to a man who truly deserves our respect.
Recently, I was visiting the City of Amsterdam, and while wandering through the Red Light District, happened upon this bench which pays tribute to Lieut-Colonel
Alida Margaretha Bosshardt, a Salvation Army leader who was known as the "Angel of Amsterdam". I didn't even know who she was at the time, but felt compelled to sit on this bench and curious enough to find her biography online.
Just think...how cool would it be if we had something like this in State College to honor a man who would never want to be described as an angel, but who had such an impact on so many lives through his work?
To find out more about the film and bench projects and to contribute $1, $5, $25, $100 or more towards this effort, visit igg.me/at/joesbench
And please...spread the word....this project will happen only with broad-based support.