By Tom Shakely, January 8, 2014
In early December Roger Williams, Executive Director of the Penn State Alumni Association, delivered the keynote at The Willow Gathering, The Nittany Valley Society’s annual community event. This month, Roger writes about The Nittany Valley Society in AlumnInsider, a publication that reaches more than 100,000 alumni. His column, titled, “New Blue-and-White Shoots Are Sprouting Up,” perfectly captures the mission and spirit that we’ve been putting into practice in the Nittany Valley and beyond. Here’s Roger:
The Nittany Valley Society germinated not quite two years ago. The goal of this non-profit organization is to create a “cultural conservancy” to uncover, conserve and project the history, traditions and lore of the Nittany Valley. The society is a close cousin to the “physical conservancy” that is the Mount Nittany Conservancy, which has been working for decades to protect the largest physical symbol of our alma mater.
The society’s mission is “to foster a spirit of community across time for Penn Staters, Central Pennsylvanians, and friends through a knowledge of our past and an affection for our spirit as a living treasury for our future.”
What’s particularly impressive, is that the society has forged its own press—the Nittany Valley Press. And the Press, through a partnership with the University Libraries and the advantages of digital publishing courtesy of Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Apple, has already brought forth a number of volumes on topics old and new:
- The Pennsylvania State College 1853–1932: Interpretation and Record, by Erwin Runkle, professor of philosophy and ethics, part-time librarian, and the putative father of the University archives. George Henning ’63 provides the introduction. Until now, Runkle’s history existed as an unpublished manuscript.
- The Legends of the Nittany Valley, by Henry W. Shoemaker, with a foreword by Christopher Buchignani, president of the Nittany Valley Society, and with contributions from Simon J. Bronner, Distinguished Professor of American studies and folklore at Penn State Harrisburg.
- Conserving Mount Nittany: A Dynamic Environmentalism, by Tom Shakely, which offers the history of central Pennsylvania’s best-known mountain and the efforts to preserve it in its natural state.
- Is Penn State a Real University? An Investigation of the University as a Living Ideal, by Ben Novak ’65, a meditation about Penn State spirit and the role of students in the life of the University over time.
- The Birth of the Craft Brew Revolution, also by Ben Novak ’65. This is a compilation of Novak’s 71 columns first published in the Centre Daily Times.
- Reminiscences of Dr. F.J. Pond. This is a personal account of Penn State in its formative years from one of the notable professors of the George Atherton era (1882–1906).
The Nittany Valley Society hopes not only to unearth and publish neglected histories plus contemporaneous accounts on topics of interest to the Nittany Valley. It also works to convey that history to new generations of Penn State students and Happy Valley residents, both old and new.
The society does this through events and receptions, live readings (“recitations”) and speaking engagements. Annually, the society holds its “Willow Gathering” in early December with a substantive historical presentation, music and fellowship.