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Penn State Veterans Plaza to be Dedicated on Friday

by on September 12, 2012 6:00 AM

A public ceremony to dedicate the Penn State Class of 2011 gift, the Veterans Plaza, will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Friday on the Old Main patio.

The plaza is in commemoration of all all Penn State veterans, including the late Lt. Michael Murphy, the first and only Penn State alumnus to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Construction of the plaza is in its final stages and is expected to be finished before the ceremony starts. It is located near the intersection of Pollock Road and the Henderson Mall, off the northeast corner of Old Main. More than 3,200 donors contributed to the project, and $260,000 was donated, which, according to Penn State, is the largest amount ever raised for a class gift at Penn State.

"I'm just so impressed by the outpouring of support and the efforts of the class in terms of participation, and the overall final product that's been developed," said Benjamin Witt, 2011 senior class gift chairperson and Penn State alumnus.

"It's such a reflection of the commitment of the students and the class of 2011 – how committed they are not only to Penn State but also to recognizing Penn State veterans and Lt. Murphy. I'm very proud to say that not only was I a part of the gift committee but also the class that has set so many records for giving."

According to a news release on Penn State Live, the plaza's design features a circular walkway and curved stone wall that is centered around an "artistic representation of a warrior's shield, symbolizing honor and sacrifice." The shield's surface is carved with a "rippling water" effect, to evoke a feeling of tranquility.

Inscribed on the wall is a Greek phrase which is believed to have been said by Spartan mothers to their sons before battle. It means, "With it [your shield], or on it."

Witt noted that according to ancient Spartan tradition, a warrior was never without his shield – he either returned home from battle alive, carrying his shield, or dead, carried upon it by his comrades, the press release said. 

The plaza's curved wall will be named to honor Murphy, a 1998 liberal arts graduate and a Navy SEAL. He received the U.S. military's highest decoration posthumously for his actions in 2005 during the war in Afghanistan. 

"Veterans have risked and sacrificed their own safety so we are free to pursue our daily lives in a protected homeland," said Samuel E. Hayes Jr., a Penn State trustee, alumnus and veteran. "With this Penn State Veterans Plaza, the Class of 2011 has achieved a noble height in philanthropic citizenship. We salute our veterans. We salute the Penn State Class of 2011."

The Veterans Plaza was designed by Ennead Architects LLP, New York City-based firm. Their team included artist Mark Mennin, structural engineer Robert Silman Associates and graphic designer Poulin + Morris.

Speakers at the dedication will include Penn State President Rodney Erickson, trustee, veteran and retired Navy Capt. Ryan J. McCombie, Penn State Archivist Jackie Esposito and Daniel Murphy, Michael Murphy's father.

Seating at the dedication is limited, but all are welcome to attend. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be held in Schwab Auditorium.

For more information about the event, contact the Office of Annual Giving at 814-863-2052 or

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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