On a chill winter evening in Pennsylvania, Penn State students hold a candlelight vigil outside Beaver Stadium to commemorate the life of Joe Paterno.

This is my memorial to a great man! Not just for winning 409 games, more than any other coach in NCAA history, but for giving 60 plus years of his life to the education of students. JoPa is one of the few heros in my life! JoPa inspired me to do better, to act with integrity, and I am sad to lose him.

In my years at Penn State, I saw Joe Paterno consistently make decisions that put integrity above winning.  For six decades, he demonstrated his mission was to make better men through football in what he called his Grand Experiment.

After the announcement of his hiring in 1966, Paterno set out to conduct what he called a “Grand Experiment” in melding athletics and academics in the collegiate environment, an idea that he had learned during his years at Brown. As a result, Penn State’s players have consistently demonstrated above-average academic success compared toDivision I-A schools nationwide. According to the NCAA’s 2008 Graduation Rates Report, Penn State’s four-year Graduation Success Rate of 78% easily exceeds the 67% Division I average, second to only Northwestern among Big Ten institutions. In 2011, Penn State football players had an 80% graduation rate and showed no achievement gap between its black and white players, which is extremely rare for Division I football teams. The New American Foundation ranked Penn State No. 1 in its 2011 Academic Bowl Championship Series.

Paterno was also renowned for his charitable contributions to academics at Penn State. He and his wife Sue have contributed over $4 million towards various departments and colleges, including support for the Penn State All-Sports Museum, which opened in 2002, and the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, which opened in 2003. After helping raise over $13.5 million in funds for the 1997 expansion of Pattee Library, the University named the expansion Paterno Library in their honor.

In The Words of Nike President Phil Knight

Life Events

Paterno was named as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman Of The Year in 1986.

Based on a timeline from Penn State Sports

  • Dec. 21, 1926 — Joe Paterno was born in Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • 1944 — Paterno graduated from Brooklyn Prepatory School and enrolled at Brown University to play football. He served in the Army in the final year of World War II.
  • 1950 — Following his graduation from Brown, Paterno follows coach Rip Engle to Penn State as an assistant coach. Paterno, making $3,600 a year, had intended to stay two seasons, pay off his student loans and enroll at Boston University law school. (Harry Truman was president of the United States.)
  • 1959 – Paterno helps Penn State to a 9-2 record and just its third-ever bowl bid, a 7-0 win over Alabama in the Liberty Bowl. (Dwight Eisenhower was president of the U.S.)
  • 1962 — Paterno marries Suzanne Pohland of Latrobe, Pa. (John F. Kennedy was president of the U.S.)
  • Feb. 19, 1966 — One day after Engle announced his retirement, Paterno was named as Penn State’s 14th head coach. His initial salary was $10,000. (Lyndon Johnson was president of the U.S.)
  • 1984 — Joe and Sue Paterno establish the Paterno Libraries Endowment with gifts totaling $120,000. The endowment is now worth more than $4 million.
  • Jan. 1, 1986 — Unbeaten and top-ranked Penn State fell to Oklahoma 25-10 in the Orange Bowl.
  • 1986 — Paterno is named as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year and also received the AFCA Coach of the Year award for a record fourth time.
  • Sept. 4, 1993 — Penn State debuts as a member of the Big Ten with a 38-20 win over Minnesota at Beaver Stadium. (Even though Paterno was just 66 years old at the time, there were already indications that Big Ten coaches were using his age against him in recruiting. He has outlasted all of them.)
  • April 25, 1997 — Groundbreaking begins on the $34.4 million Paterno Library addition.
  • *Sept. 12, 1998 — Paterno becomes just the sixth coach in NCAA history to win 300 games with a 48-3 win over Bowling Green.
  • May 16, 2006 — Paterno was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame after rules were changed to allow active coaches over the age of 75 to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Paterno was injured in a November 2006 sideline collision at Wisconsin. His induction into the Hall of Fame was delayed until Dec. 4, 2007, because of that injury.
  • Oct. 29, 2011 — Penn State rallies for a snowy 10-7 win over visiting Illinois, giving Paterno his 409th win. That allowed him to move past Grambling’s Eddie Robinson for sole possession of the Division I record with 409 wins.
  • January 22, 2012 — Died at the State College hospital while suffering rom lung cancer.

Joe and Sue Paterno raised $13.5 million and gave millions of their own money to build a better Penn State Library.

Honored As A Man

  • Husband to Sue Poland for almost 50 years.
  • Father of 5: Diana, Joseph Jr. “Jay”, Mary Kay, David, and Scott. All of their children are Penn State graduates,
  • Grandfather to 17.
  • Nominated by three U.S. Congressmen for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor.

Honored As A Coach

  • On Oct. 29, Paterno led Penn State to his 409th victory over Illinois (10-7) to move past Grambling’s Eddie Robinson as the NCAA Division I career wins leader.
  •  Tied with Amos Alonzo Stagg for the most Division I games coached at 549.
  • 701 Games coached as a PSU assistant or head coach.
  •  Led Penn State to two national championships (1982 and 1986)
  • 3 Big Ten championships
  • 5 undefeated/untied seasons
  • 23 top-10 finishes
  • A record 24 bowl wins
  • Coached 26 Father-son combinations.
  • 47 Academic All-Americans in his tenure.
  • 260 Academic All-Big Ten picks, the most of any school since PSU joined the league in 1993.
  • Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (1986)
  • 5x AFCA COY (1968, 1978, 1982, 1986, 2005)
  • 3x Walter Camp COY (1972, 1994, 2005)
  • 3x Eddie Robinson COY (1978, 1982, 1986)
  • 2x Bobby Dodd COY (1981, 2005)
  • Paul “Bear” Bryant Award (1986)
  • 3x George Munger Award (1990, 1994, 2005)
  • Amos Alonzo Stagg Award (2002)
  • The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award (2005)
  • Sporting News College Football COY (2005)
  • 3x Big Ten Coach of the Year (1994, 2005, 2008)

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for emerging leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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