Farewell to Joe Paterno, a Legendary Liberal Arts Leader

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Collage of Joe Paterno in an academic setting: Top Left, Joe and the first class of Paterno Fellows; Bottom Left, Joe and Sue; Right, Joe giving speech at medal ceremony; Inset, Joe being carried by football players

To our Liberal Arts community,

The College has lost a great friend in Joe Paterno, who passed away Sunday, January 22, 2012, surrounded by his wife, Sue, and his loving family.

Joe was a remarkable man who, with his wife, Sue, played a major role in helping to make Penn State a world class university and the College of the Liberal Arts one of the nation’s finest.

As literature graduates of Brown and Penn State universities, Joe and Sue Paterno have been passionate advocates and supporters of the Liberal Arts for more than sixty years.  While his public leadership of academics and athletics at Penn State is well known, Joe also deeply loved the classics. He constantly studied the epics of Virgil and quoted Shakespeare to his football teams. Joe and Sue served on the Liberal Arts Development Council in the Grand Destiny Campaign, which raised over $50 million for the College and fueled its rise in national excellence. During the College’s Centennial Celebration in 2009, Joe was honored with a Sparks Centennial Medal for his contributions to the Liberal Arts at Penn State.

Sue is one of the founders of the Liberal Arts Alumni Society Board, which actively provides student mentoring and internship programs and has made a $1 million gift to the current campaign. She continues to serve on Development Council today. Along with their family, the Paternos have been enthusiastic and steadfast supporters of the academic mission of our College at every level. Their philanthropy includes:

Our Paterno Fellows program will be a living memorial to Joe, who lauded the worth of a liberal arts education to the first group of Fellows last year. Its ideals reflect the words he spoke to the Penn State graduates of the Class of 1973:

"It is being involved in a common cause which brings us joy and memories which endure. It is making our very best effort, that we have stretched to the very limit of our ability, which makes us bigger and able to stretch again: to reach even higher as we undertake new challenges."

When Joe decided to forego a career in law and make coaching his vocation, his father Angelo only asked that he make an impact. Without a doubt, Joe has made a monumental impact not only at Penn State, but throughout the nation where Penn Staters and others inspired by Joe’s love of learning and integrity are found.  We will continue to be inspired by his commitment to excellence. I know that the tears of the Penn State Liberal Arts family will join those of the Paterno family as we mourn his loss.


Susan Welch
Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts


Paterno Family Statement

Remembering Joe: Liberal Arts Alumni Blog

Full text of 1973 Commencement Speech by Joe Paterno

President Erickson Statement

Paterno Fellow Lauren Perotti's Memorial Speech for Joe

Joe addresses Paterno Fellows Students

Paterno Professorship Boosts Literature Faculty, Students

Penn State Athletics Link

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