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Penn State Homecoming 2013: Test Your Nittany Knowledge

by on October 08, 2013 12:20 PM

Hordes of devoted alumni are about to descend on Happy Valley to renew a time-honored Penn State tradition known as Homecoming.

There are a lot of traditions and trivia associated with dear old State -- some better known than others.

Here's your chance to display your Penn State smarts and prove to your friends that you are indeed a Nittany Know-It-All.


1) When did homecoming begin at Penn State?

a) During the Renaissance

b) 1855

c) When Eisenhower became president (Milton, not Dwight)

d) 1920

Answer: D According to the Penn State Alumni Association, homecoming has been a Penn State tradition since 1920. In the first official homecoming football game, Penn State prevailed over Dartmouth 14-7. While homecoming began in 1920, there were earlier fall gatherings of alumni combined with special football games dating back to the Pennsylvania Day celebrations that started in 1904. Before football, Harvest Home celebrations were observed as early as 1867. Those early gatherings actually led to the formation of the Alumni Association in 1870.

2) Penn State's Alumni Association is the nation's:

a) best dressed

b) best educated

c) biggest

d) oldest

e) all of the above

Answer: While most Penn State graduates would agree that E should be the answer, in truth, the correct answer is C. The Alumni Association is the nation's biggest organization of its kind with 172,732 dues-paying members.

3) Everyone knows that Penn State's colors are blue & white. But you may not know the original school colors. Name the original hues for PSU uniforms.

a) Turquoise & brown

b) Pink & black

c) Amber & Nittany gray

d) Black & blue

The correct answer is B. According to Penn State's Athletics Department a three-member committee representing the sophomore, junior and senior classes was appointed in 1887 to choose color combinations. A vote by the student body resulted in the classic pink/black look. However, after exposure to the sun the pink quickly faded to white. Students got out their palettes and decided to switch to the blue and white color scheme in 1890. However, Jackie Esposito, Penn State Archivist and head of the Records Management Programs, says that's not quite true. According to Esposito, the pink did not fade. She says, "The students decided they did not care for pink and black, took a second vote using a similarly formatted committee and officially changed the colors in 1890."

4) When were women first admitted as Penn State students?

a) 1855 when Penn State was founded

b) 1871

c) 1920 when the women's suffrage movement resulted in approval of the nineteenth amendment giving women the right to vote

d) 1972

Answer: B. According to the Alumni Association, the first female students enrolled in 1871. One year later, university president James Calder reportedly told the board of trustees, “Thus far six ladies have entered, and have proven as dilligent, orderly, and successful as the young men in the same classes.” Those six women were decidedly in the minority. There were 784 men enrolled in 1871.

5) Penn State has played the name game, with the university's monicker having been changed a number of times over the years. Which of the following names was never bestowed on dear old State?

a) Agricultural College of Pennsylvania

b) Pennsylvania Secondary College

c) Pennsylvania State College

d) Farmers' High School

d) The Pennsylvania State University

The correct answer is B as the university was never named the Pennsylvania Secondary College. According to the Centre County Historical Society, the university was named Farmers' High School in 1855, Agricultural College of Pennsylvania in 1862, Pennsylvania State College in 1874, and The Pennsylvania State University in 1953.

6) True or False: Old Main, Penn State's administrative building once burned down.

Answer: False, although a lot of people think Old Main actually was destroyed in a fire. According to Penn State's website, the original Old Main was completed in 1863. Conditions were somewhat primitive. Five coal-fired furnaces in the basement furnished heat. Water had to be fetched from nearby wells and sanitary facilities consisted of five-story privies (think five-story outhouse) attached to the rear of the building. There was indeed a fire, in 1892 which damaged the roof. However, the roof was repaired. Age took a toll and the building had to be torn down in 1929. Old Main was rebuilt and opened the following year.

7) True or False: There are no sorority houses at Penn State because an old law defines dwellings that house a large number of women as brothels.

Answer: False. There is no such law and no university regulation that prohibits sorority houses. Penn State says there actually were sorority houses on the University Park campus beginning  in the 1920's. After World War II sororities moved out of their worn out buildings and began renting suites in the dorms -- a practice that continues today.

8) True or False: All Penn State students were once required to take swimming tests.

Answer: True. There was a time when all Penn State students took a swimming test. Those who failed had to take and pass a swimming course as one of their Phys. Ed. Credits. In effect, if you couldn't swim you theoretically couldn't graduate. The regulation was dropped in 1983.

Extra Credit Essay Question: What role did Old Coaly play at Penn State?

Answer: Old Coaly was one the animals that helped during construction of Old Main and also served as the university's unofficial mascot in the days before the Nittany Lion. In the 1880's upper class men reportedly would escort Old Coaly to the Old Main bell tower. Freshman were required to bring the beast back down. According to folklore, mules go up stairs relatively easily but balk when asked to go down stairs. However, it's not clear whether that tale is true. Ann Macrina, senior instructor in Penn State's Animal Science Department says, "You might coax an untrained horse (a mule being part horse) to go up a few steps, but I find it hard to believe he would continue all the way up the stairs to the top of the tower." What we do know is that students thought so highly of Old Coaly that when he died his bones were preserved and put on display. Don't believe it? You can see him at the HUB-Robeson Center.

1-3 correct answers: You're a Penn State PeeWee

4-6 right: You're PSU True

7-8 right: You're at the top of the Penn State class

Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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