DUBOIS — Students at Penn State’s DuBois branch campus joined in the chorus of voices Wednesday, remembering the life and legacy of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.
Wednesday afternoon, students took part in a candlelight vigil near the campus Lion Shrine, honoring the memory of JoePa.
“We stand together today as Penn State students, teachers, alumni, faculty, staff and community members to honor a man who has shaped our university and changed it forever,” Student Government Association (SGA) President Louise Whyte said as she opened the ceremony. “I stand here today feeling a great loss and sadness. I feel like I have lost a loved one. I feel like I have lost a family member. But in my mourning, I realize I’m not the only one who feels this way. On Sunday, we all lost a family member — Penn State lost a family member.”
Paterno died Sunday at 9:25 a.m. at Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College due to complications from lung cancer.
The vigil, organized by the Penn State DuBois SGA, followed a candlelight vigil that took place at University Park three days earlier in front of Old Main, and also coincided with a two-day viewing and public memorial that took place at University Park this week.
Whyte, a junior at PSU-DuBois, attended the Sunday night vigil at University Park.
As she stood in the crowd of 10,000 Penn State students, the impact on her was immediate, and knew she had to bring something back to her own branch campus.
“I realized that it touched all of us ... it has touched every campus,” she said. “And I thought, why aren’t we doing something together? Every Penn State student feels a profound impact from him, and it felt necessary to do this.”
Sunday night, Whyte stood only five rows away from the steps of Old Main in what she described as a “bittersweet moment.”
“It’s amazing to see us all come together as students, but it’s so sad that this tragic event has taken place for it to happen,” she said. “When the football players spoke that night, there was not one dry eye. Every male and female, every single student out there had tears in their eyes — it was very, very, moving.”
The first public viewing took place Tuesday, and a second viewing took place Wednesday morning. A private family funeral service was also held Wednesday.
In addition, a public memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. today at the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State’s main campus.
Because the memorial’s 10,000 free tickets were snapped up in seven minutes Tuesday, Penn State-DuBois will televise the event for its students, Whyte said.
After she opened the ceremony, Campus Minister Kyle Gordon offered his own words and prayer, referring to Paterno’s words written on the wall behind his statue at Beaver Stadium: “They ask me what I’d like written about me when I’m gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.”
Gordon said he looks at that quote as one of an accomplished man.
“ ... an example to students, an example to alumni, an example to Nittany Lion football fans, of what it means to live selflessly,” Gordon said. “JoePa was a man who walked humbly. I think about any other college football coach, and I don’t know of any who have their name in the phone book, with their address and phone number. I don’t know of any football coach that feels comfortable enough walking to every home game, not worried, or not threatened, or not afraid of who might stop and greet him. The amount of respect that that man got was because of the character he gave off. It’s very inspiring.”
Although Paterno was known worldwide as the face of Penn State football for 46 years, students and administrators from Penn State-DuBois agreed that his life was also a testament to the value of education.
Chrissy Lockwood was the first person to speak from the crowd that gathered around the Lion Shrine.
She said that although she’s not a football fan, JoePa had a impact that went beyond football.
“If it weren’t for him, me taking a Penn State degree to an employer may not mean quite as much as it does today because of him,” Lockwood said. “I truly am grateful to him, and saddened to see him go. He sets a legacy for us to meet, as Penn State family, to live up to the legend he’s left behind.”