Q&A: Alumni Association's Tucson Chapter gearing up for Fiesta Bowl

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nittany Nation is set to descend upon the Valley of the Sun later this month for the Fiesta Bowl, and both of the Arizona-based Alumni Association chapters are roaring to go. Click here to read a Q&A with the Phoenix Chapter, and learn how the Tucson Chapter is preparing for a big week in the Alumni Association’s Q&A below with chapter president Gary Kortyna, a 1973 Penn State graduate. 

Penn State Alumni Association: What are your chapter’s plans for the Fiesta Bowl, and how important are these next few weeks, leading up to the game? 

Gary Kortyna: The Penn State Chapter of Greater Tucson will be having two events around the Fiesta Bowl: 1. A football-watching gathering at one of our member’s home for a pot luck (with chili cook-off) complete with food, munchies and drinks. Also, halftime giveaways of Penn State items — T-shirts, license plates, hats, etc. 2. Gathering in Phoenix at the game with a pre-kickoff tailgate party (hosted by our chapter secretary), followed by attending the game.

We use our website, listserv mail, and Facebook site to get the word out to our alumni and friends in southern Arizona of our activities and any information needed to be a part of our gatherings. It is a part of our efforts to get our Penn State alumni and friends involved in our chapter.

Penn State Alumni Association How much of an opportunity is the Fiesta Bowl for your chapter, and what will your messages be for alumni/Penn Staters you meet? 

Gary Kortyna: The Fiesta Bowl is a great opportunity for our chapter to gather either at our game-watching party in Tucson or at the game in Phoenix. Our message is for those around us to enjoy gathering with our fellow Penn Staters to support our football team and help cheer them on to another victory in the traditions that we have come to embrace as Nittany Lions.

Penn State Alumni Association Following up, what’s your message when you meet Penn Staters who don’t have any experience or prior knowledge of your chapter? How do you get them excited/engaged with what you’re doing, and how important is it to get new members into the chapter?

Gary Kortyna: Every time I see a car with a Penn State plate or decal or a person wearing Penn State garb, I make the effort to engage them in conversation about our Penn State experience and then invite them to join our group at one of our weekly football-watching gatherings, annual luncheon or other activities. I will point them in the direction of our website and get their name, number and email (to add them to listserv to receive announcements of our activities), so we can contact them later to invite them to our chapter activities, if they are interested.

Penn State Alumni Association On a personal level, how exciting is it that Penn State is playing in the Fiesta Bowl, and that Penn Staters from across the country will converge on your state? How do experiences like the Fiesta Bowl bring together Penn Staters of different generations? 

Gary Kortyna: I’m excited that Penn State football is on the map again in a big way competing in a major bowl. It gives us a chance to show the world that Penn Staters of all generations are the best fans and that we meld together to support our school and proud tradition of “winning with honor.”

Penn State Alumni Association What led you to Penn State as a student, and how has Penn State prepared you for your personal and professional life? Are there any lessons you learned at Penn State that have stayed with you? 

Gary Kortyna: Even though I got accepted to Carnegie Mellon as well as Penn State, I chose to go to Penn State because at the time I thought my focus would be chemical engineering, which would have worked fine at Carnegie Mellon; however, Penn State was much bigger and had so many other options for majors and courses of study. As it turned out, I moved very quickly out of chemical engineering and into the medical/science majors, where I would be able to become part of the healing professions and work with helping people rather than dealing with the nonpersonal abstracts of chemistry.

There were many lessons I learned at Penn State. Some in the classroom, but most of them living among my fellow alumni — that have served me well in my life through the years. To highlight a few: 1. A foundational strengthening of my faith through my involvement with the Navigators. 2. A strong sense of duty, honor, country (and respect for the flag) through my ROTC program and fellow cadets, and then serving 10 years in the military. 3. A bond of friendship and community with roommates and others in my housing environment that has led to my active involvement in the Penn State alumni groups wherever life and careers have taken me. 4. A desire to help others whether through my career choices or outside interests being involved in a multitude of community projects, personal mentoring of others, and helping those less fortunate to get on their feet.   

Penn State Alumni Association: What are some things you’re especially looking forward to at the Fiesta Bowl? Seeing the Blue Band, cheerleaders and Nittany Lion? The game? Tailgating?

Gary Kortyna: I’m looking forward to having our Fiesta Bowl game-watching gathering at one of our member’s home where we gather to cheer our Nittany Lions on to victory and enjoy food and drink together. At the potluck gathering we will have some chili for the chili cook-off, and a host of other food and munchies to enjoy, along with the halftime giveaways of Penn State items. Several others from our group will be at the game with our chapter secretary hosting a tailgate party before the game.

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Last Updated December 20, 2017