It's been 35 years since I went to Penn State, five years since my oldest son graduated. I haven't attended a football game since the years I was there (not that I didn't want to -- plans always got waylaid on busy fall weekends); I don't have a vanity license plate with any variation of Lions in it; I didn't name my dog "Nittany." That doesn't mean I have any less love and respect for the institution that is Penn State and the community that is Happy Valley. It just wasn't something I had to think about -- until this past week.
From day one of the sex scandal news embroiling Penn State, I have shared with hundreds of thousands of others the shock and disbelief that this could happen here. (And I have been equally disgusted by the gloating among some that it did happen here.)We are Penn State: We are a school known for success with integrity, for winning without cheating, partying without destruction.
And then this happened -- sex abuse charges involving the one-time heir-apparent to Joe Paterno. The grand jury indictment of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky makes every college recruiting scandal look like a traffic ticket in comparison. And, for abuse allegations to be ignored for so long and allegedly covered up by college officials is unfathomable.
When students took to the streets rioting Wednesday night to protest the firing of Joe Paterno, the world's view of Happy Valley reached a new low.
But last night, as I was watching the TV footage of a candlelight vigil near Old Main, Penn State pride started coming back to life.
The students and alumni -- the entire community that in days became a Valley of Sorrow -- is now working to help victims of child abuse.
Last night's candlelight vigil and today's football game at Beaver Stadium are being used to raise money and awareness for the victims of these horrific crimes.
A horror that we see too often in our headlines - child sex abuse by trusted figures in children's lives -- is getting attention and needed awareness.
The work of organizations like Montgomery County's Mission Kids and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape will benefit from these efforts, which are being coordinated under the umbrella of an organization called RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.)
Students and alumni are calling the movement "Proud to be a Penn Stater."