What is The Nittany Valley Society?

By Tom Shakely, April 24, 2012

The language of our mission is hopefully evocative of our organizing principle, but it seems prudent to offer an explanation not simply of our approach to our existence, but also our reason for existing.

The Nittany Valley Society is an expression of the ethos of a physical place. It is an expression of affection for our home, whether this home happens to be exclusive, or perhaps even spiritual in nature.

Once it was that physical distance and the costs of journeying represented genuine and enormous challenge. It is a testament to the magnetism of this home of ours that pioneers like Evan Pugh chose to meet this challenge in their time, when more comfortable and simple lives existed by choosing not to go.

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THE NITTANY VALLEY, AS SEEN FROM THE ARBORETUM AT PENN STATE. COPYRIGHT © 2012 THE NITTANY VALLEY SOCIETY, INC.

In our present time we are separated almost not at all by physical distance. We have the means to explore even remote places with relative ease. Yet physicality matters perhaps more now than ever, because in our lack of physical constraint we know the emptiness that comes from choosing the life of a modern nomad—forever without a country or home.

The Nittany Valley Society exists, then, to share and express some of the physicality of our valley country. To explain why this little region was revered as special even by our American Indian ancestors and before the rise or fall of our greatest civilizations.

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TAILGATERS BEAT THE SUNRISE: AUTUMN IN HAPPY VALLEY. COPYRIGHT © 2012 THE NITTANY VALLEY SOCIETY, INC.

And there is little doubt that The Pennsylvania State University is one of the greatest “civilizations,” as it were, of the Nittany Valley. Penn State is an expression of the magic of the place, and of the importance that location continues to bear even in a flat world. And there are many other stories predating and parallel to our University to share of the history and achievements and expressions of our place.

Familiarity is the requisite context for love. So while physical travel is no longer the daunting thing it once was—we can dine in Boston tonight if you’d like—familiarity, which is also the requisite context for community, seems to cry out for existence more than ever before.

This is why The Nittany Valley Society exists—not as presenter of any singular or imperious, definitive narrative, but as a means to share our histories as a means to inform our future. We are not mere transients occupying a point on a map, rather we are heirs to an extraordinary place. And if we come to know it and partake in it, we can carry it within us throughout all the journeys of our lives.

As a storehouse of culture we hope in whatever way to contribute to the  physicality of the Nittany Valley, in this way helping one another draw upon the spirit here that gives rise to our great and many triumphs.