Olympic gold medal winner and former Nittany Lion track star Horace Ashenfelter III ’49, ’55g will serve as the 2008 Homecoming Grand Marshal, Oct. 17–19.
Ashenfelter gained Olympic fame when he won his gold medal in 1952 at the Helsinki games—just three years after earning his bachelor’s degree from Penn State. He was the surprise winner of the 3000-meter steeplechase in world record time, beating the Russian runner who was favored to win. The story of Ashenfelter—by then an FBI agent—beating a Russian in the Olympics during the beginning of the Cold War caused quite a sensation. Later that same year, Ashenfelter was named the United States’ top amateur athlete and given the James Edward Sullivan Award.
Ashenfelter went on to compete in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, but did not medal. To date, Ashenfelter is one of only two American men to win gold in the 3000-meter steeplechase.
Before making the U.S. Olympic teams, Ashenfelter was a Nittany Lion track star. At Penn State in the 1940s, Ashenfelter received All-America honors four times and was the NCAA two-mile champion in 1949 and finished second in the event at the 1947 NCAA cross-country championships. He was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975.
Serving as Grand Marshal is not the first honor from Penn State for Ashenfelter. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1977 and, in 2001, the Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track at Penn State’s Multi-Sport Facility was dedicated in his honor. Ashenfelter’s Olympic gold medal is on display at Penn State’s All-Sports Museum at Beaver Stadium.
As Grand Marshal, Ashenfelter will be at the Homecoming Student-Alumni Ice Cream Social at 1:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 17, at the Hintz Family Alumni Center. Later in the day, Ashenfelter will ride in the Homecoming Parade and will be recognized on the field during halftime of the Penn State–Michigan game in Beaver Stadium.
To learn more about all Homecoming 2008 events, visit: http://www.alumni.psu.edu/events/Homecoming08.html.
(Photo by Wayne Baker)