“These essays are reminiscences of past things that seem to be missing in the present—things that people wish were here but often think impossible because they have never seen them. These essays can remind you that once they were here, and therefore could be again. This is the real meaning of conservation—to have a conserving spirit. Spirit is indestructible. But only if, in a practical sense, we allow it to come alive in us.” —Ben Novak, Author’s Introduction
This series of essays by former Penn State Trustee Dr. Ben Novak first appeared in the pages of State College Magazine in the late 1980s. Now, for the first time since its original publication, The Nittany Valley Society is proud to present the complete version of “Is Penn State A Real University?” in one collection, updated and framed with original commentary by the author and a foreword by Thomas A. Shakely.
In answering the work’s central question, Novak delves into the institution’s lost history and examines what lessons it still holds for us today. At 95 pages, the book packs an impressive volume of thought-provoking substance into a very quick read. Especially now, it holds great treasures for Penn Staters seeking ways to better understand their Alma Mater within a hopeful, common context. As the entire Penn State family grapples with an unprecedented existential crisis, we humbly offer this work as a guidepost on the path to reform and rejuvenation.
You will be issued a challenge to ponder a question whose “answer is so simple and yet so profound, so great and yet so ordinary, that only a whole community can respond to it creatively and concretely.” Is Penn State a real University?
Own It Now
“This is precisely the reflection Penn Staters of all generations, especially future ones must read in search of their university’s very soul. More than a slogan to be branded or a brand to be marketed, it’s a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper meaning of ‘We Are Penn State.'”
– Amazon User Review 12/4/12
“Dr. Novak’s essays… are incredibly prescient given the challenges the University has faced in the past year. A look into the history of the University and the history of student governance is a great way to help us determine what is the best path forward as we think critically about what makes up a “real” University. I highly recommend this quick read for any Penn Stater to help understand more about our past.”
– Amazon User Review 7/19/12
“Highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in Penn State, education, or town/gown relations. Ultimately, the book shines because of its honesty and the no-nonsense approach the author takes to the topic.”
– Amazon User Review 6/5/12
Cover Image: Penn State Photos by William Ames Photography