Campus Life

'We Are' Sculpture to be dedicated Oct. 2

Class of 2013's gift offers opportunity for reflection

The new 'We Are' sculpture, the gift of Penn State's Class of 2013, quickly has become a favorite spot for photos on the University Park campus. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — If you're a Penn Stater and you travel anywhere in the world and shout "We are" in a crowd of people, there's a pretty good chance you might hear "Penn State" from a fellow Nittany Lion. A more tangible representation of the words will be officially presented to the University on Friday, Oct. 2.

The dedication of the "We Are" Sculpture, the gift of Penn State's Class of 2013, will begin at 2:30 p.m. on the sculpture's site near the east side of the Intramural (IM) Building, at the northwest corner of the intersection of Curtin Road and University Drive. Speakers will include Morgan Delaware, 2013 class gift chair and College of Communications alumna; Jonathan Cramer, sculptor and 1994 College of Arts and Architecture alumnus; and Penn State President Eric J. Barron.

Cramer's goal was to create a design "that meets the exuberance, energy and pride of the school, its alumni and its location...The reflective nature of the steel creates a dialogue between the viewer, the surroundings and fellow peers, which further solidifies the 'We Are' slogan." The design includes a 12-foot, 8,000-pound sculpture of the words "We Are" in mirror-polished, solid stainless steel.

Cramer, from Brooklyn, N.Y., won the commission in a national competition to design the piece. Allegheny Technologies donated the steel used in the artwork. The sculpture was installed in July.

Accompanying the sculpture is an interpretive sign inscribed with the words of Penn State's Alma Mater, reproduced in the handwriting style of Professor of American Literature Fred Lewis Pattee. Pattee penned the Alma Mater in 1901.

The 2013 Class Gift Committee wanted a gift that would acknowledge the past but look toward the future. "At a time when so many people were eager to tell us who we were," said Delaware, "we felt it was important to remind the world of who we are."

“The class of 2013 was looking for a sculpture that would embody the unity that 'We Are' inspires among Penn Staters and reflect on what the phrase means to them," said Geoff Hallett, class gift adviser and assistant director in Annual Giving. "The polished steel is a mirror that invites visitors to the site to contemplate all that makes Penn State great: the people of this community whose reflections are shining back at them.”

The 'We Are Sculpture' is located at the corner of Curtin Road and University Drive on Penn State's University Park campus. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

According to University Archivist Jackie Esposito, the phrase has become part of the fabric of the University itself. The documented origin of the chant as we know it today comes from the cheerleaders of the late 1970s, who sought a way to engage the crowds in Beaver Stadium and tirelessly cheered "We are!" for years until the phrase caught fire with everyone in the early 1980s -- and it hasn't slowed since. (Those who would like to read more about the cheerleaders can check out this article by Lou Prato, University historian and retired director of the Penn State All-Sports Museum.)

The words also hearken back to the now-famous football players who made history in 1946 when they refused to play the then-segregated University of Miami. The account goes that when told they must leave their black players at home, the team voted unanimously to cancel the game. The following season, the question rose again, and lineman Steve Suhey said, "We are Penn State," adding that there would be no need for any more meetings of that kind. The entire 1947-48 team went on to play Southern Methodist University in the Cotton Bowl in a game that would become symbolic of desegregation in athletics.

The tradition of class gifts at Penn State began when the class of 1861, at its reunion in 1890, gave the University a portrait of Penn State’s first president, Evan Pugh, which still hangs in the lobby of Old Main.

The 2013 Senior Class Gift Committee includes Morgan Delaware, overall chair; Kathy Andrusisin, communications chair; Daneale Ashkenazy, marketing chair; Logan Cawley, student relations chair; Andy Pergrin, fundraising chair; Sophia Perri, gift development chair; and Lia Tjotjos, events chair. For more information about the class gift program, visit or contact Geoff Hallett at

Last Updated October 26, 2015