University Libraries mourn Coach Joe Paterno

January 23, 2012

The University Libraries join the Penn State community in mourning the loss of Joe Paterno. Barbara I. Dewey, dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communications shares, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Sue Paterno and her family. Coach Joe Paterno's support helped build one of the top research libraries in North America. His and Sue's contributions are as much about ensuring student success as the many endowments and the library bearing the Paterno name. The Paternos are part of the Penn State Libraries’ family, and we are committed to honoring his legacy as a coach, educator and man, and to upholding the shared ideals that shape the Libraries mission to serve Penn State students and the world at large.”

In 1983, when Joe Paterno accepted the award for Penn State's first national football championship, he addressed the University's chance to aspire to academic excellence. People listened when he said, "Without a great library, you can't have a great university."

Leading by example the Paternos committed funds 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. It became an annual reception, giving contributors an opportunity to meet the legendary coach and to hear him talk about his enduring love for the Libraries. The Paterno Libraries Endowment now totals more than $7.5 million and purchases thousands of books each year for all Penn State campuses.

In 1992, Penn State President Joab Thomas named Joe and Sue Paterno to lead The Campaign for the Library, which set out to raise $10 million in private gifts for an 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.

In July 1994, it was announced that the five-story addition to Pattee Library was to be named the Paterno Library, honoring Joe and Sue Paterno for their leadership. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Paterno Library was held on April 25, 1997, and it was dedicated along with the newly remodeled Pattee Library on Sept. 8, 2000.

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.

Over the many years that the Paternos have been active supporters of the Libraries, they have given gifts to a number of areas in the Libraries and to the Paterno Libraries Endowment as well as countless hours of support. More recently, Joe and Sue have been strong supporters of the Libraries new Knowledge Commons. In fall 2010 with Coach Paterno’s 400th win, Sue asked donors to give $400, $4,000, or $400,000 to the Libraries. Nike, Inc. met that request and gave $400,000 to name the Nike Multimedia Classroom, located in the new Knowledge Commons in Pattee Library. The dedication of the Knowledge Commons, scheduled for April 2012, will honor Joe and Sue for their financial commitment as well as their help in the fund-raising.

Even after his departure as coach this fall, Joe with Sue and the Paterno family have continued to be strong supporters of the University Libraries. Less than two weeks before he died, it was announced that the Paternos had given the University $100,000 -- $50,000 to the library and $50,000 to the fellows program in the College of the Liberal Arts.

Joe and Sue have been active members of the Libraries Development Board and were serving as co-chairs of the Libraries' For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students.

A great believer in the power of the intellect nurtured through education, Paterno and his family have given immeasurable support to facilitate the mission of Penn State's Libraries. His leadership will be sorely missed.

The Penn State University Archives have complied a website, offering Coach Joe Paterno biographical information and photographs at For more information, contact public relations and marketing at 814-863-4240.

  • In July 1994, it was announced that the five-story addition to Pattee Library was to be named the Paterno Library, honoring Joe and Sue Paterno for their leadership.

    IMAGE: Chris Koleno
Last Updated July 23, 2012