Well, I lied. Not the first time, won't be the last.
Writing to you from State College, PA. Two days of writing, hiking, sightseeing, getting rained on, meeting new people, and getting rained on under the books. One more full day today and a partial day tomorrow.
Many of you know that my son went to Penn State for a year. I will keep the reasons why private, but he decided to stay home in 2013-14 and has transferred to Frostburg State for the fall. His memories of Penn State and the area are fond and he and I have travelled to Happy Valley together several times for football games and other events. And we'll be attending the Penn State-Maryland game in November-- wearing blue and white, not red and black. He is by all appearances, proud of his Penn State experience and regards this place fondly.
So that's him. What is it about this place that I enjoy? I went to Johns Hopkins-- a much different setting, but also, another world-class institution with high standards (which are sometimes violated in the most horrible ways, as at Penn State) and brand-name reputation.
The thing about the setting strikes a chord. Hopkins is in the middle of Baltimore City. Very crowded, people on top of people, excise it from the city and the city goes on. Hobbled to be sure, but it goes on.
On the other hand, State College IS Penn State. And the other way around. Remove Penn State and this place ceases to exist. It has wide open spaces, small mountains and big sky. The blue and white of the sports uniforms are reminiscent of the sky and the line after line of ridges that go from a hazy Atlantic green to dark blue as you go towards the horizon. And the beat of this town goes as the University goes-- right now it's a bit sleepy and quiet. On certain autumn Saturdays it turns competitive and spirited, and one weekend in February for the THON dance marathon, it is especially service-oriented.
And it is a proud place. Not selfish pride, but the pride in having attained something of value. A pride that reflects confidence and even serenity. The pride is evident in the helpfulness of people in local businesses, in the willingness of a bystander to help out, in the service provided in a professional meeting. It seems an almost congenital quaity in the people here.
And it is diverse. It is diverse in ethnicity and socioeconomic level and in field of endeavor and in every other way that diversity can be measured. Diverse, but with all sharing the same mission-- excellence in achievement, from engineering to agriculture to chemistry to theater to athletics to art to biology. As much as I admire JHU, it simply does not have the capability to world-lead in so many diverse fields. At Penn State they do and they take advantage of that environment.
A quiet place, occasionally energized, in the middle of a beautiful environment that values truth, diversity, and excellence in everything it does. Guess I don't wonder why I love the place anymore.
25 more days until Howard County Schools open. Still now agreement between the HCPSS and HCEA.
And let's be careful out there.