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Jay Paterno: Finding Light, Loyalty in Our Darkest Moment

by on January 12, 2012 6:00 AM

It has been more than two months since my last column appeared here on and it is indeed good to be back. 

It is hard to come back after a lengthy lay off so be forgiving if this effort seems a bit rusty. Years ago, I advised my brother to exercise caution in writing columns for the Daily Collegian. Sometimes the positions you take may come back to haunt you later.

“Tough Times Toughen People”

“You Will Always Be Penn State”

“We Demand Great Leadership, But Are We Worthy of It?”

“A Man is Not Finished When He’s Defeated. He is Finished When He Quits.”

These are headlines to columns posted in the weeks leading up to the last column this author posted before taking time away.

The last column I posted ran on Thursday, Nov. 3 and was headlined “Penn State: Love and Loyalty”.

All Penn Staters are aware of what happened that next day, the next week, the next months. While the headlines and columns that led up to the events of the past two months may not haunt, they seem chilling when read in the light of current events.

A lot has changed for me during the time off from writing this column and a lot has changed around here. People and times change and nothing ever remains as it always was.

If there is a takeaway from the changes of the past two months, it is that we as members of the university and State College community will always be Penn State, that we must first be worthy of great leadership before we demand it.

silver lining that has come from the events is a renewed interest in the leadership and governance at Penn State. That is not said to express support or disapproval of anyone. It is said to remind us that if we want the very best for Penn State we must be engaged in the process and alert in seeing how the governance is carried out.

That is as true for the university we love as it is for our governmental institutions.

These are the types of thoughts that come when I’m walking in the early morning. Walking before dawn on Wednesday morning I could see the silhouette of Mount Nittany. The sun still had not risen above the ridgeline but the outline of our famous mountain was backlit by the earliest rays of the day.

realizeI was looking at a rare symbol of constancy, the rising sun and the iconic mountain.

Turning toward home our dog Penelope took the lead. We adopted her about a month ago and named her for the wife of Odysseus in Greek literature. In the Odyssey, Penelope waited 20 years for her husband to return from the Trojan War. When her suitors became convinced that Odysseus had to be dead she agreed to marry one when she had finished weaving a tapestry.

All day Penelope would work at the loom only to undo at night what she had done that day. When Odysseus returned she had stayed faithful to him for over 20 years.

Even she did not recognize her husband. Only Argus, Odysseus’ loyal hunting hound recognized him immediately. Argus was my first choice for our new dog’s name but my wife and kids did not feel it was a cute enough name for a female puppy dog.

So Penelope it is.

In our house Penelope has become a symbol of loyalty. From her name’s origins to what she represents as man’s best friend. It is her unbreakable spirit that reminds us never to back down and never to quit.

She reminds us of the last two headlines listed above. Keeping in mind that it is indeed true that a man is never finished until he quits, we must remember that Penn State needs our love and loyalty now more than ever.

As we start a new year and as I begin a new chapter in my life, the lessons taught to our student-athletes on the field and in the classroom must be the ones that carry us toward a new day.

That new day is coming, but to get there we must not quit, we must emerge tougher from tough times, and be worthy of the great leadership we demand. Finally we must remember that we will always be Penn State and that requires every ounce of our love and loyalty

In that new day, the sun’s rays will go from backlighting Mount Nittany, State College and Penn State, creep up over the ridgeline and bathe our town and our university in the brilliant light once again.

State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at
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