I went to Penn State from 1985-1989. During my time at Penn State, I grew and changed more than at any time in my life. When I entered Penn State, I was a skinny, nerdy, awkward teenager who was trying waaaay too hard to fit in. Basically, I was the king of the geeks from Sixteen Candles.
My first few years, I did everything I could to try to fit in. I joined a fraternity. I went to parties. I tailgated and followed the football team. But I also studied hard. I started working in a biochemistry lab doing research as a freshman. I also got involved in the outing club and became a serious rock climber.
By the time I was a senior, I had left the fraternity. I had a great core group of friends that I had developed through the outdoor club, and with whom I still stay in touch. A professor who took me in as a freshman helped me figure out that I wanted to go into research and pursue a PhD. Another professor taught me neuroscience and shared some of his stories of mountaineering around the world. I grew comfortable in my skin and stopped trying to fit in where I really didn’t.
I had a world-class education. I went to Cornell for grad school, and had classmates who had gone to Harvard, Oberlin, Texas, and all over the world. Penn State had prepared me for what I needed to do professionally as well as personally.
I also went to every football game, quite a few soccer games, and a few basketball games too. I saw two teams compete for a national championship. I have an unhealthy emotional connection to the actions of a bunch of 18-22 year olds who I will never meet, just because they went to the same school that I did. And I am heartbroken by everything that has happened associated with this case.
But none of this… NONE of this, changes one simple fact for me. I owe more to Penn State for making me who I am than I do to any other educational institution. The horrifying actions of one individual, and the bizarre inactions of several others in positions of authority, do not change that fact. I will always, always feel pride in my Alma Mater for what it has done for me, for reasons that have nothing to do with football, or with any sports team.
This is how Penn State will survive. Penn State is all of us. All of us who went there and were permanently, and profoundly, improved based on our experiences there. To rebuild the honor, pride, and integrity of the school, it will take each of us remembering why we love the place. I’m sure that I’m not alone. Sports makes a good focal point to bring us together, but it’s not the reason that most of us are here. We are here because we truly ARE Penn State. Each one of us.
I am… Penn State.
Ron Bayline–class of 1989