Pennsylvania State University was founded in 1855, originally to apply scientific principles to farming. The college was initially named the Agriculture College of Pennsylvania. Centre County became the home of the new college when agriculturist James Irvin of Bellefonte donated 200 acres of land to the school.
In 1882, George W. Atherton became president of the college and introduced engineering studies. Penn State soon became one of the largest undergraduate engineer schools in the nation. Soon after, the college broadened to the liberal arts and other studies.
In the 1930s, a series of branch campuses was fashioned throughout Pennsylvania for students who could not afford to leave home due to the Depression. In 1953, President Milton Eisenhower changed the college’s name to The Pennsylvania State University. Penn State is now a major research university with more than 40,000 students.
University Park is the largest of Penn State’s 24 campuses and is right in the middle of the state of Pennsylvania. An architectural combination of white columns, red brick, stone, and more modern buildings, the campus has many open sitting areas, pavilions, and fountains. Built in 1863, Old Main was the first building on campus, constructed of limestone from the land around it. It was rebuilt in 1930 after being deemed structurally unsound and is today home to the president’s office and other officials. On the weekends, its bells chime with the “Nittany Lion” fight song.
The campus is surrounded by numerous acres of farmland, stores, homes, a mall, and a hospital. Downtown stores are just a minute’s walk from campus, so students often leave campus to grab lunch or coffee. A popular place on campus is the Creamery, the largest university creamery in the nation, famous for ice cream, sherbet, and cheeses.
The term Happy Valley is often used as a nickname for State College, PA and surrounding areas. The area around the University Park flagship campus of Penn State is absolutely a college town, dominated demographically, economically, and culturally by the school and the more than 40,000 students who make it their home.
There is much to do in this small city from cultural events, to restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. There are also outdoor activities nearby, such as skiing and snowboarding, hiking, camping, and more. Nittany Lions football is a huge draw for the whole area.
Every year, PSU’s Interfraternity Council sponsors THON, a 44-hour dance marathon intended to raise money to combat pediatric cancer. THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, and is a pretty big annual event on campus, with over 10,000 students involved each year. The 2008 THON raised more than $6 million.
Every year, the students of Mifflin Hall streak across campus. No one quite knows why, but it is a long-standing tradition, known as the Mifflin Streak.
Margaret Carlson is the first female columnist for Time. She started at the magazine in 1988 and began writing her “Public Eye” column in 1994.
Kerry Collins (1994) is an NFL quarterback for the Tennessee Titans.
Charlie Dent (1982) is a Republican congressman representing the 15th district of Pennsylvania, which includes the Lehigh Valley region.
Barbara Hackman Franklin was the 29th US secretary of commerce and highest ranking woman in George H. W. Bush’s Administration.
Joel Meyers is the founder, president, and chairman of the board of AccuWeather, which has its headquarters in State College, PA and employs a large percentage of Penn State graduates.
Valerie Plame Wilson (1985) is the former CIA agent who retired in
2005 after her covert status was revealed in a Robert Novak column in the Washington Post.
Penn State has an extremely successful athletic program, sending many of their players to the major leagues. The Nittany Lions compete at the Division I level of the NCAA in the Big Ten Conference, and count 800 varsity athletes in its ranks.
The Nittany Lions football team is the most popular sports team at the university, and draws huge crowds from the school and surrounding area. Penn State has won two national championships in 1982 and 1986, both under the guidance of head coach Joe Paterno, who has more bowl game wins and FBS undefeated seasons than any other coach in college football history.
Other notable Nittany Lions teams include men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s volleyball, baseball, and even fencing.
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The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Food Science makes all the ice cream, sherbet, and cheese on offer at the Creamery, where Former President Clinton once sampled the goods.
Beaver Stadium is currently the largest in the US and North America, and the third largest stadium in the world.
The show Paranormal State on A&E is based around PSU.
Freshmen are required to live in the dorms at Penn State, but many students move off campus to downtown State College in subsequent years. There are five residence hall complexes on campus: the East Halls are the largest, while the West Halls may be the prettiest, in traditional collegiate brick and near the Lion Shrine; the North Halls are all coed and are the smallest of the housing complexes; the Pollock Halls are the third largest, near the HUB and Eisenhower Auditorium; and the South Halls border downtown State College.
There is also apartment-style living for upperclassmen in four complexes: Eastview Terrace, the Nittany Apartments, Nittany Suites, and Whitecourse Apartments for full-time graduate students.