Penn State Board of Trustees meets; President Spanier's remarks

This has been an unusual fall at Penn State. During the homecoming game our students got creative with the earliest snowfall on record for Centre County. The Old Main Bell was removed from the tower so it can be restored as part of the 2009 Senior Class Gift.
Meanwhile, our appropriation still remains in limbo due to the ongoing gridlock in Harrisburg.

But this fall hasn’t only been about empty pockets, an empty bell tower and unseasonable weather.  Today, I have some very good news to report.

First I want to recognize the important work being done by Boots Hetherington and his wife, Robin, Keith Eckel, and Carl Shaffer, along with Dennis Wolff and Bob Steele.  They participated in the film "Hearth and Harvest," which chronicles a year in the life of Pennsylvania farmers and addresses critical issues in agriculture such as the impact of technology on agribusiness, family farms, conservation and the environment, and more.  This compelling film was shown on WVIA-TV and is reaching a larger audience through its web presence and educational kits for schools.

Now on to enrollment. Rob Pangborn and Anne Rohrbach will give you a full enrollment report shortly, but I want to note that Penn State’s enrollment for 24 campuses and the World Campus stands at 94,300, up from 92,600 a year ago.

In addition, we have already received about 30,000 applications for next year, and we expect another robust year for enrollment.

In a few minutes Eva Pell will give you a research update, but I want to share a few highlights now.

First, we were delighted to learn that Beth Shapiro, Shaffer Career Development assistant professor of biology, was selected as a 2009 MacArthur Fellow. This is a great achievement and one that is testimony to Beth’s innovative research that involves using data from ancient DNA and RNA viruses to answer scientific questions about how evolution occurs through time.  Beth will use the $500,000 award to further her research in this complex field.  Beth joined Penn State in 2007 and she is here today.  Beth, will you please stand so you can be recognized?

Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology celebrated its 10th anniversary and has achieved national recognition as a leader in information technology and cybersecurity.  IST was recently designated an Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.  This award comes with a two-year, $1 million grant with a possible three-year $1.5 million extension.

Penn State also will receive two Department of Energy grants that place the University at the center of the nation's effort to become energy independent and develop clean energy sources.  The first grant provides $2 million to establish the Mid Atlantic Clean Energy Applications Center to promote adoption of clean energy technology by industry and government.  The second grant provides $3.5 million to establish the Mid Atlantic Solar Resource and Training Center, aimed at developing the solar energy industry through technical assistance and workforce development. Both of these new centers will be led by Penn State faculty and located at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. 

Penn State showcased our solar energy research in this year’s Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.  Penn State’s house, called Natural Fusion, was built under the direction of material sciences Professor Jeffrey Brownson.  It used a new type of technology that is designed to make solar a more viable, affordable option.  The house garnered national attention in a recent article in Popular Mechanics. 

This project also led to a successful alliance between Penn State and Bayer MaterialScience in Pittsburgh.  Bayer has purchased the Natural Fusion house and will move this innovative, zero energy, zero emissions house to its Pittsburgh campus. Shown here are the team, sponsors and the well-known actor Ed Begley Jr., who visited University Park to help promote the project.

As you’ve heard, Penn State is advancing renewable energy through industry partnerships. To this end, I’d like to read a letter that was sent to the governor from Michael Graham, president of Smart Products Innovations.

"Dear Governor Rendell:

I wanted to write to express my appreciation for the great work between Penn State University and ConocoPhillips.  Last week we were the winners of The ConocoPhillips Energy Prize, a joint initiative of ConocoPhillips and Penn State, to recognize new ideas and original, actionable solutions that can help improve the way our nation develops and uses energy.

Our Eco-Auger is a machine designed to capture the energy from tidal and river flow.  Our small business has spent nearly $250,000 to bring our idea to the competition. The $125,000 prize we received will instantly be funneled into the economy and we are very confident that the prize money will be just the impetus to spring our renewable energy design into a job creating business.  Much of the design work was done in Philadelphia and as a native of Northeast Philadelphia, we are particularly proud that Penn State coordinated the program.

Federal stimulus money may someday filter down to create jobs, but with the continued work and dedication of Penn State and ConocoPhillips this energy prize has stimulated over 170 innovative renewable energy products. It’s amazing how many great inventions have evolved from this program.  Special thanks to Dr. Alan W. Scaroni, associate dean for graduate education and research, who headed up the Penn State team.

Michael J. Graham"

I’m proud that Penn State was able to play a role in this venture.

I have spoken on a number of occasions about the need to develop civic literacy and the ability to communicate across differences without rancor.  To this end, the Center for Democratic Deliberation at Penn State has launched Voices of Democracy: The U.S. Oratory Project. The project, in partnership with the University of Maryland, is an online resource for scholars and schoolteachers, designed to promote the study of great speeches and public debates. 

J. Michael Hogan, distinguished professor of communication arts and sciences, is the co-director of the Center for Democratic Deliberation and the co-founder of the site.

I’m avoiding my scale these days, because this fall I ate more than my share of birthday cake as we celebrated a number of significant anniversaries.

The College of the Liberal Arts turned 100 and nearly 200 alumni, supporters and guests turned out for the Centennial Gala. Trustees Arnelle, Riley and Robinson were honored as Centennial Fellows, and Trustee Chaiken was honored as a Centennial Medalist.

Penn State Hazleton celebrated its 75th anniversary, and used the occasion to unveil three specially commissioned oil paintings to commemorate the event.

Penn State Schuylkill also celebrated 75 years with a delicious cake and Creamery ice cream, which they put me to work scooping.

Meanwhile, Penn State Altoona turned a youthful 70. Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry and Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Kenneth Womack were on hand to sign copies of their new book, “Penn State Altoona.”

Pending the board's approval today of the design, next Friday we will celebrate the groundbreaking for the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Many of you have been extremely supportive of this project, and it promises to transform the health care options available to our youngest patients.

Moving on to athletics… We’re just about to enter tournament time, and Penn State has already captured a Big Ten Championship in cross country.

The championship effort was led by senior Bridget Franek, who finished first in the field. The team championship is the first Big Ten crown for the Penn State women in cross country, while Bridget's individual win is only the second such effort by a Nittany Lion woman in cross country. Coach Beth Alford-Sullivan was named Big Ten Women’s Cross country Coach of the Year, and Nicole Lord was named Big Ten Cross Country Freshman of the Year.

The women’s volleyball team is continuing its tradition of success. Last weekend the women earned their 88th consecutive match win. The Nittany Lions have now tied the winning streak of the UCLA men’s basketball team coached by John Wooden. 

Our basketball teams are pumped up and ready to play, and ticket sales have been outstanding.  Penn State student season ticket sales for men’s basketball have increased 37 percent over last season, and overall ticket sales are up 17 percent.  Ticket sales for the women’s games have surpassed our expectations, and we expect an exciting basketball season. 

Fans also are gearing up for wrestling. Season ticket sales for wrestling have more than doubled since last year.  I encourage you to come out and support the team for its first home match in Rec Hall on Sunday, Nov. 15 at noon.

Of course Penn State is not just about watching sports.  Our Intramural Sports Program serves thousands of students each academic year.  Last year, organized teams in flag football, basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball competed in about 3,000 games.  And we still have waiting lists for all of those sports, with up to 125 teams waiting for flag football.  We’re thrilled with this high level of interest and are in the planning process for up to 10 new intramural fields on campus to accommodate the demand.
Finally, this week we recognized Patricia Best, the former superintendent of the State College Area School District, as the 2009 Renaissance Fund Honoree. The event was a great success and a wonderful way to honor Patricia, who has had such an impact on education.

Now I’ll turn things over to Eva Pell so she can update you on Penn State’s research enterprise.  As you know, this is Eva’s last Board of Trustees meeting.  She has served Penn State for 36 years. We’ll have time to formally recognize Eva’s service at her farewell reception in December, but right now I would like to publicly express my appreciation to Eva for her extraordinary work on behalf of Penn State.  Please join me in thanking Eva.

Graham Spanier Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

In Motion revisits Penn State's Natural Fusion team as they complete work on their solar home and open it to the public for tours. Prior to departing for the Solar Decathlon national competition in Washington, DC, the Natural Fusion home was presented to the University community at an open house. Focusing on natural aesthetics, functional design characteristics and innovative sustainable technology, visitors got a close-up look at the potential for cost-effective, comfortable and environmentally responsible living. Natural Fusion's special guest, noted actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr., was on hand to lend his support to to the Penn State design team, and came away impressed with the group's accomplishments. Produced by Patrick Mansell To view part one of this story click here 

Last Updated November 18, 2010