UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State will celebrate America’s “Greatest Generation” during the University’s annual military appreciation events, which include the eighth annual Military Appreciation Game when the Nittany Lions face off against the Indiana Hoosiers on Nov. 16. The theme for this year’s celebrations will honor those who fought and served during World War II and will coincide with the 75-year anniversaries of D-Day and the GI Bill.
The Military Appreciation Game will cap a week-long series of campus events from Nov. 8 to 16 dedicated to honoring service members, veterans and military families and recognizing their service and sacrifice. Penn State’s annual military appreciation celebrations — which began in 2011 — are today the largest of their kind in the Big Ten and include a Veteran’s Day ceremony, speaker series and more.
On game day, thousands of military service members, veterans and their families will be welcomed to campus to attend a tailgate party prepared by volunteers at the Bryce Jordan Center and also will receive tickets to the game at no cost thanks to Penn State supporters through the Seats for Servicemembers program. Last year, more than 6,300 tickets were funded.
“As part of the University’s year-round efforts focused on providing education, resources and support to military members and their families, it’s Penn State’s tradition to dedicate a special time to thank these individuals for all they have done, and continue to do, for our nation,” said Col. Eugene McFeely, Penn State’s senior director for veterans affairs and services and chair of Penn State’s Military Appreciation Committee. “As our country celebrates two important milestones this year, Penn State will honor those who served their country during a time of great need and became known as our ‘Greatest Generation.’”
After coming of age during the Great Depression, these men and women — including many Penn State students, staff and faculty — went on to fight, provide labor and serve in a variety of capacities in the second world war.
Among the Penn Staters who fought were future University presidents Milton S. Eisenhower and John Oswald, along with a number of students, including William Garfield Thomas, a sailor and the first Penn Stater to lose his life in the conflict, and IFC president Eddy Wagner, after whom the current ROTC building is named. Today, Thomas, Wagner and others are memorialized in special locations throughout the University Park campus, including at the Veterans Plaza, Beaver Stadium, Wagner Building and Old Main.
During the war, amid food rations and local air-raid drills, Penn State students continued to attend class, and many took advantage of the University’s expanded technical training offerings. By 1943, for the first time, women outnumbered men on campus and enrolled in a variety of engineering and other courses.
As part of Penn State’s commitment to the war effort, the University was one of the first to participate in defense research funded by the U.S. government and, along with other land-grant institutions, provided defense-related training to more than 1.5 million Americans in four years. In 1944, the University built facilities to welcome back, educate and house an unprecedented number of new and returning veteran students and their families who were ready to take advantage of their GI Bills, which provided a wide range of benefits to veterans returning from World War II.
Today, 75 years later, more than 5,600 students have direct military ties as either service members, veterans or military dependents, across all of Penn State’s campuses, including World Campus.
The University provides multiple year-round programs and resources to support the military community. Veteran students continue to use their GI Bill benefits with support from the Office of Veterans Programs, which offers peer counseling services and assists with VA benefits, the college application process, and financial aid. Additionally, Penn State University Park offers a peer mentoring program to assist students in their transition from the military to higher education.
In 2019, Penn State joined with 30 other higher education institutions in a commitment to graduate more military veterans. Later this year, a new 6,300-square-foot Student Veteran Center will open in Ritenour Building at University Park to bring all programming and services for veterans into one place.
For these efforts, the University has consistently been recognized as a military-friendly school.
Fans and season ticket holders are now able to purchase tickets in advance to be donated to military members and their families through the University’s Seats for Servicemembers program. Veterans and service members will be able to register for tickets to the Nov. 16 game in late summer or early fall through Penn State Athletics. Individuals can sign up to receive notification about ticket registration at www.gopsusports.com/sfsinterestlist.
For more information about military appreciation at Penn State, visit militaryappreciation.psu.edu.