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Penn State Athletics: Former Athletic Director Jim Tarman Passes

by on January 02, 2018 5:05 PM

Penn State athletics announced the passing of former Director of Athletics Jim Tarman, who led the Nittany Lions’ transition into the Big Ten Conference. He died on Sunday, Dec. 31 in State College at the age of 89.

Tarman joined the Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics staff in 1958 as Sports Publicity Director and served the University for 36 years. He was promoted to Director of Athletics in 1982, serving as AD until his retirement on December 31, 1993.

“The Penn State Athletics family is saddened with the passing of Jim Tarman,” said Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said in a release. “Jim was a passionate, dedicated and, obviously, highly influential member of the Intercollegiate Athletics and University staff for more than 35 years. Jim played a significant role in the growth of our athletic program, including leading our women’s programs into NCAA competition, new and improved facilities for student-athletes and, of course, our invitation and transition into the Big Ten Conference. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Tarman family and all of Jim’s friends and colleagues at Penn State and throughout the nation.”

During Tarman’s tenure as Director of Athletics, the stature and scope of Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics soared nationally, facilities for Nittany Lion student-athletes expanded and Penn State joined the nation’s most prestigious conference – the Big Ten

Tarman also was instrumental in leading Penn State’s women’s varsity programs from governance by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) to the NCAA, which began sponsoring women’s sports in 1982.

“I am saddened to hear of the loss of former Penn State Athletic Director Jim Tarman,” said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. “Jim was a good friend and respected colleague who made a lasting impact on the Penn State community during his 36-year tenure in the athletics department, including the integral role he played in leading Penn State’s transition into the Big Ten Conference. Our thoughts are with his family, and the entire Penn State community, during this difficult time.”

Holuba Hall, Beaver Stadium Expansion and Bryce Jordan Center Construction

Among the facilities projects completed or started under Tarman’s watch were Holuba Hall, a 10,033-seat expansion of Beaver Stadium, making it the nation’s second-largest facility, and construction of the University’s 15,200-seat Bryce Jordan Center, which opened in January, 1996.

Tarman arrived at Penn State in 1958 and served 12 years as Sports Publicity Director, earning induction into the CoSIDA Hall of Fame in 1970. He was appointed Assistant to the Athletic Director in 1970 and in 1973 was promoted to Associate Athletic Director with primary responsibilities in public affairs, development, fund raising and alumni and public relations. When Paterno was named Director of Athletics in 1980, Tarman’s responsibilities were expanded to cover the entire administrative range of Penn State’s athletic program. Tarman succeeded Paterno as AD on March 1, 1982.


Tarman is survived by his wife, Louise, sons Jim and Jeff, both of whom are Penn State graduates, Jim’s wife, Elizabeth Vastine, and one grandchild, Emilie.

Visitation will be held Thursday, Jan. 4 from 3-6 p.m. at Koch’s Funeral Home, 2401 S. Atherton Street in State College, Pa. The funeral service will be Friday, Jan. 5 at 11 a.m. at Grace Lutheran Church, 205 S. Garner Street in State College.

Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home in State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book may be entered at

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to two scholarships in the names of Jim and Louise Tarman:

Memorial donations for the Jim and Louise Tarman Football Scholarship, made payable to Penn State University, may be mailed to:   Janine Hawk, 149 Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, PA   16802.   

Memorial donations for the James and Louise Tarman Endowed Scholarship Fund at Gettysburg College, made payable to Gettysburg College, may be mailed to: Gettysburg College, Campus Box 423, 300 North Washington Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325.

Comments from current and former Penn State administrators and coaches on Jim Tarman:

Russ Rose, Penn State women’s volleyball head coach:

“Jim made so many important and program setting contributions during his tenure at Penn State, starting in sports information and moving to the Director of Athletics. He was instrumental in our transition to the Big Ten Conference and he and his wife, Louise, devoted their life's work to Penn State. Penn State not only lost a great leader in college athletics but a true fan of all the teams, coaches and alumni.”

Charlene Morett-Curtiss, Penn State field hockey head coach; former Penn State student-athlete:

I would like to express my condolences to Louise, Jeff and the Tarman family. Jim had a significant impact on the success of the Penn State Athletic program. I am truly appreciative of the opportunity he gave me when I was hired by Jim in 1987.  I knew that I was returning home to a vibrant athletic program that operated on family values and equality.  He deeply cared about our student-athletes, coaches, and everyone associated with Penn State Athletics.” 

Budd Thalman, former Penn State Associate Athletic Director:

“Jim Tarman was an outstanding administrator, exceptional publicist and one of the more important figures in the annals of Penn State sports. As Athletic Director, he seamlessly guided the transition from long-time Independent to the Big Ten Conference, a moment of historic significance. In his previous position as sports information director, Jim worked with Coach Joe Paterno to enlarge the Nittany Lions media footprint beyond local and regional borders. The national reputation Penn State Athletics enjoys today is largely the result of his effort and influence.

“A man of vision, determination and personality, Jim was a splendid ambassador for Penn State who was universally admired by his many friends and associates. With his wife, Louise, and sons Jim and Jeff, I mourn the passing of my great friend of more than 50 years.”

Susan Delaney-Scheetz, former Penn State Associate Athletic Director/Senior Woman Administrator and women’s lacrosse head coach:

“I am indebted to Jim Tarman for allowing me to work at Penn State University, first as a coach and teacher and then as an administrator. His vision and standards enabled our athletic program to move forward not only in the Big Ten Conference, but nationally as well.  He was respected and honored among his peers and colleagues for his efforts and accomplishments on behalf of Penn State.”

Jan Bortner, former Penn State Associate Athletic Director and men’s and women’s tennis head coach:

“It was a privilege to serve under Jim Tarman...he always wanted to do things the right way - the Penn State way. As Athletic Director, he displayed incredible passion and pride in our organization and was certainly pivotal in our development as a model athletic department, one of the very best in the country. As our leader, it was never about Jim Tarman, it was always about helping make Penn State Athletics a better place. Although a great leader, he was an even better person....humble, supportive, caring, loyal and a true gentleman.  He was deeply respected and loved by those who knew him.”

Bruce Parkhill, former Penn State men’s basketball head coach:

“It’s hard for me to describe how much Jim Tarman meant to me. Those early years (as men’s basketball coach) were hard and I started to wonder whether it was meant to be. Jim was so unbelievable. He told me, ‘stay the course and keep doing what you’re doing.’ That meant the world to me; I can’t describe how much that meant to me then and still means to me today. He was a great guy to work for. Jim and Louise are just such special people.”

Dave Baker, Penn State Associate Athletic Director:

“Jim Tarman was a wonderful ambassador for Penn State and a true gentleman. The landscape of collegiate athletics 50 years ago was completely different than it is today and Jim worked tirelessly across the state, the region and the country to promote Penn State. He set a great example in media relations and athletic administration for many of us, including myself. Many people “knew” him from “TV Quarterbacks” and the Penn State Radio Network broadcasts, but his work behind the scenes was even more valuable for the Penn State community.

“Jim and his wife, Louise, were a wonderful partnership for the University and Athletics families. To this day, I still re-tell several of Jim’s colorful stories, and they all are reflective of the wonderful friendships he enjoyed.”

Ernie Accorsi, former Penn State Assistant Sports Publicity Director; Retired General Manager, New York Giants:

“I owe everything to Jim. I never would have made it in this league (NFL) without him. He was a teacher. He taught me organization and how to be an executive. No detail was too small. He had such integrity.  He had all these ideas; I did the same things he did when I went to the (Baltimore) Colts. The relationship he had with Joe (Paterno) in those early years made a big impression and difference (for the growth of Penn State football). Jim was the best; he was a great one.”

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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