For eight of the last 10 years I have been the parent of a student at Penn State University which has been a time of great joy and struggle as you navigate through a period where your children grow and your bank account dwindles. 

(L-R) Kevin's son Brandon with Alex during graduation weekend at Penn State
(L-R) Kevin's son Brandon with Alex during graduation weekend at Penn State (Townsquare Media NJ)

Jane and I watched Brandon graduate in 2008 and two years later Alex follow in his footsteps and begin her tenure in Happy Valley. That period officially ended at noon on Saturday when she graduated along with nearly 900 others from the College of Communications as part of a commencement weekend where close to 9000 received their undergraduate degrees.

To say I was proud would be an understatement and I will admit to shedding a tear or two.

It was a weekend of celebration and reflection for our family as we thought of all the trips to State College for move-ins, move-outs, football games, parents weekends and more. Your children begin as wide-eyed freshman wondering if they’ll find their place and then before too long fall in love with a place that they don’t really want to leave.

I know every school as their uniqueness and tradition but only Penn State students, alumni and parents can explain the grip Old Main has on you.  There is something truly special about walking down College Avenue,even when you’ve done it dozens of times.  There's nothing like stopping in The Rathskeller, which opened just three days after the end of prohibition and is the oldest continuously-operated bar in Pennsylvania, Searching for a new tee shirt at Lion’s Pride, even though you have a dozen that say Penn State or Nittany Lions on it.

Many people have assumed that because of my “fandom” I too am an alumnus of THE Pennsylvania State University but that is not the case.  We have always been a “PSU family” because of my father’s nearly life-long friendship with the late George Paterno, the younger brother of the football coach who helped build the school into what it is today.

“JoePa,"  by the way is still very much beloved in Happy Valley despite the way his career and life ended and a mere mention of his name by commencement speakers resulted in loud ovations.

While I’ve always been a fan of the blue-and-white there was nothing quite like the eight years of being a Penn State parent and now that time is over.

Well, almost.

Alex is staying for a few more days as part of a new “Senior Week” tradition and we still have to pay apartment rent for a couple of more months. However Alex will move on and begin the next phase of her life and so too will Jane and I. Something tells me I’ll have the hardest time adjusting.

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