Over the weekend I drove my daughter back to Penn State for her sophomore year. Any freshman year any year at any college is a roller coaster ride, but I am sure you can imagine what it was like at Penn State last year ... and this the school known for its school spirit.
WE ARE PENN STATE!
But by the end of the school year, things had seemed to settle down only to be rekindled over the summer with the final verdict and then the NCAA sanctions.
Now the true victims here are those children (and their families and friends) who have suffered at the hands of an evil, sick person. And there is no doubt that there was a whole lot of (let's just call it) "stuff" going on in the executive offices of that campus.
But we have to acknowledge the impact that this one man (and the others who were involved) has had on the current students, faculty, and alumni of Penn State. I mean this is Penn State, a beloved and infamous brand!
To see the current football players and students have to pay a part of the price just seems awful to me. Not as awful as the real victims, but just some more kind of awful.
So imagine my sea of emotions as we drive the 3.5 hours to campus. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. How would people seem? Statues have come down so would the brand be tarnished?
As we approached State College, our first taste was a troup of girls from the track team doing a training run. Awesome ... and then much to my delight ... a sea of t-shirt-clad students standing ready to help unpack the cars, full of enthusiasm for the new year. Dorms full of parents and kids alike, hanging posters and unpacking winter sweaters ... all the usual bustle of energy and enthusiasm and pride that comes from starting a new school year and loving your school. I had that all four years at Cornell and I was relieved to see it alive and well at Penn State. It's a fresh start for a stellar brand.
The over whelming sentiment at the school is that there is no way that a band of thieves is going to steal their school. I hear the same thing from my Penn State alumni friends as well. In fact, alumni donations are at an all time high. Let's face it, the Penn State brand is more than just football. It's a dynamic community of highly spirited kids, alumni, and faculty all brought together by a little town and a big campus in Happy Valley.
As witnessed by the long lines at the Creamery ...
The fact is that 1 out every 9 Americans has an immediate family member from Penn State and 1 out of every 4 Pennsylvanians has an immediate family member from Penn State. These folks are making sure that the brand stays alive.
I am proud to be 1. Now just as much as last September. WE ARE PENN STATE!
President, Cohn & Wolfe North America
Author, The Experience Effect series