As a Penn State alumnus, I’ve been in a state of shock and disbelief since last Fall’s revelations that one of our coaches was a pedophile who systematically groomed, molested and raped helpless little boys.
As a mother, I feel rage toward a man who cunningly stalked and devoured the innocence, health and future of uncountable children. In my mind, I liken Jerry Sandusky to a vicious timber wolf who patrolled his territory and methodically hunted down defenseless prey, permanently ripping apart their lives in ways that the best of experts can never repair.
Like many, I still cannot come to terms with learning that Joe Paterno, the man who manifested, mentored and championed Penn State in the values of honesty and integrity, was in the end a flawed mortal - like the rest of us.
Yesterday, the NCAA dealt Penn State harsh penalties. Many – including people who never attended Penn State - say the penalties are over-severe and penalize students who had nothing to do with the crimes. Nearly all agree, however, that the university needed to be penalized for allowing the power of a few to lose its human decency and moral values.
One thing all Penn State alumni and current students feel is the shame and bewilderment that permeates us as we try unsuccessfully to comprehend why multiple Penn State leaders found the reputations of a predator and the university to be of higher value than the lives of children.
Yesterday was a whipping day for all Penn Staters everywhere. It wasn’t easy to hear from my daughter how some of her patients berated not only Penn State University but those who have graduated as well as those who currently attend.
The Penn State name is smothered in a black shroud.
So, what do we do? Do we hang our heads in shame for the rest of our lives? Do we wince when we tell others that we are graduates or students of Penn State? Do we feel sick to the core of our beings each time we hear the name of our once esteemed alma mater?
We need to do two things: First, we must remember that the people who lead us can too easily become false idols; the glory that is lavished on them is fleeting. Second, we need to remember that the measure of a man is not that he gets knocked down, but that he picks himself back up.
The Pennsylvania State University will not crumble, it will not be swept away. The mortals who led us made horrific mistakes, but we shall learn from them and, may God help us, we shall never repeat them. By acknowledging and punishing the mistakes, the crimes, we shall become stronger. Let each of us determine to move forward and be the better because of our downfall, not in spite of it.
We were Penn State. We ARE Penn State.
Cynthia Howerter, PSU Class of 1977
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. - Proverbs 14:12.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2012