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Mount Nittany Conservancy Names Ben Novak 'Friend of the Mountain'

by and on April 12, 2014 3:45 PM

The Mount Nittany Conservancy has honored one of its earliest proponents, naming Ben Novak a "Friend of the Mountain."

The ceremony took place last week at the Mount Nittany Winery and was sponsored, in part, by the Mount Nittany Inn.

The Conservancy was founded in 1981 to protect Mount Nittany from commercial and residential development. According to MNC Board Chair John Hook, the goal is to own all the land from the 1,300-foot elevation to the 2,200 foot crest.

"Ben is a unique individual with a wonderful view of the world," Hook says. "Anything is possible if you are willing to make it happen. The board selected Ben for the honor because he was the driving force behind the creation of the Mount Nittany Conservancy."

In awarding the "Friend of the Mountain" award, Jeff Deitrich, board member, explained that Novak was one of the first to working to save the mountain and became a champion of the project.

"During the 1980's, when the moment of opportunity came to purchase hundreds of the mountain's most visible acres, Ben was equipped with both a vision and a passion that led to the formation of the Mount Nittany Conservancy and the nearly-miraculous feat of raising $120,000 in barely more than a year," Deitrich explained.

Novak is credited with completing the crucial first negotiations with landowner Wilhelm Kogelmann and then serving as the driving force behind the new organization.

"I started this when nobody believed we could raise the money," Novak explained. "But I was banking on the emotional attachment of alumni, students, and townspeople to preserve the sacredness of the mountain in its natural state. I bet everything on that, and it came through."

"Ben has lived the Penn State experience to the fullest," stated Deitrich. "Student body president, dean of students, President of Lion's Paw Alumni Group, and a University Trustee. But his lasting Happy Valley legacy is his love and tireless dedication to Mount Nittany's beauty and for telling its story."

Before the award ceremony took place, the Mount Nittany Conservancy announced that Katie O'Toole, working with Patty Satalia of WPSU-TV, produced a podcast about the legends and geography of Mount Nittany. Hikers on the mountain will be able to pick up the 39-minute podcast at the trailhead.

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This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Harry is a correspondent for the Gazette.
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