How many college football coaches have a library named for them? One—Joe Paterno. Just as no other coach has touched the athletic pinnacles set by beloved JoePa, no other coach has made as indelible an impact on academics at a university.
When Paterno spoke to the Penn State Board of Trustees in January 1983 following his first national championship season, he used that platform to insist that Penn State become a great academic university, with a great library. Thus began Paterno’s lifelong involvement with Penn State University Libraries.
Early on, leading by example, Joe and Sue Paterno provided the initial donation to establish a library acquisitions fund, and many of their close friends came forward to add their support. By 1986, the Paterno Libraries Endowment surpassed $100,000, and a reception honoring contributors was held in the Rare Books Room of Pattee Library. (See at photo from the event.) Today, the Paterno Libraries Endowment totals more than $7.5 million and purchases thousands of books each year for all Penn State campus libraries.
In 1992, Joe and Sue Paterno were named by Penn State President Joab Thomas to lead The Campaign for the Library, which set out to raise $10 million in private gifts for a major addition to Pattee Library. The campaign secured $13.75 million in commitments, including a $250,000 gift from the Paternos to name the Paterno Family Humanities Reading Room.
Ground was broken for the new Paterno Library in April 1997. Within the five-story Paterno Library are the Special Collections Library, Social Sciences Library, Business Library, Life Sciences Library, and Educational and Behavioral Sciences Library. The Paterno Family Humanities Reading Room is on the second floor of Pattee Library. The Paterno Library, along with the newly remodeled Pattee Library, was dedicated in September 2000.
The combined Pattee Library and Paterno Library encompass approximately 490,000 square feet; have an estimated two million-volume capacity; and house several subject libraries, an assembly room, an auditorium and a café. Today with the addition of the new Tombros and McWhirter Knowledge Commons in Pattee Library, the facility offers a wide variety of learning spaces to meet student needs, including two presentation practice studios to perfect oral communication skills, multimedia production spaces for audio/video creation, multiple group study rooms, instruction and seminar rooms, a high-tech multimedia classroom, a Reading Room with the latest bestsellers, and “living rooms” with comfortable lounge furniture.
The Paternos have also been strong supporters of the Knowledge Commons. To mark Coach Paterno’s 400th win, Sue asked donors to give $400, $4,000, or $400,000 to help construct the Knowledge Commons. Many donors met the request, including Nike, Inc., which gave $400,000 to name the Nike Multimedia Classroom, located in the Knowledge Commons. At the dedication of the Knowledge Commons, scheduled for April 19, 2012, University Libraries will honor the Paternos for their financial commitment as well as their help in fundraising for the Knowledge Commons.
During the many years that the Paternos have been active supporters of the University Libraries, they have given gifts to a number of areas and to the Paterno Libraries Endowment, as well as countless hours of support. In 1998, the Paterno family established the Paterno Family Librarian Endowment in Literature. (William Brockman, a recognized bibliographer and scholar on James Joyce, currently holds this position.) Even after Paterno’s departure as coach, the Paternos continued to be strong supporters of the University Libraries. At the end of 2011 as part of their annual gift, Joe and Sue Paterno gave the University $100,000—$50,000 to the library and $50,000 to the Paterno Fellows Program in the College of the Liberal Arts.
The Penn State University Archives has complied a collection of Paterno photos, which will be available for a short time.
Check out Penn State University Libraries online. For more information, contact University Libraries Public Relations and Marketing at 814-863-4240.
This story was written from information provided by University Libraries.