'Collegian Chronicles' takes new look at Penn State history

January 04, 2007

University Park, Pa. -- If it is true that journalists write the first draft of history, then since 1887 the student writers of The Daily Collegian have been compiling the first draft of Penn State's story. Now that saga -- written over the course of nearly 120 years on newsprint now yellowed from time -- has been collected in a new book, "The Collegian Chronicles: A History of Penn State from the Pages of the Daily Collegian, 1887-2006."

Produced by the Collegian Alumni Interest Group, the compilation of 101 chapters and 384 pages serves as a contemporary account of the life and times of Penn State throughout its history as told by the student reporters and editors. The book explores how the world impacted campus life and how students impacted life beyond the campus.

Editor Marv Krasnansky, a 1952 journalism graduate, and project manager Pete Waldron, a 1984 journalism graduate, put together an editorial staff of more than 90 former Collegian writers, editors and business managers from eight decades to contribute all-new, all-original stories to The Collegian Chronicles.

The Collegian AIG, led by the efforts of Krasnansky, chronicled each year in the paper's 120-year history with firsthand accounts going as far back as the early 1930s. For earlier years, writers delved into the paper's archives to bring Penn State's history alive, as reported by earlier generations of student scribes.

"Through 'The Collegian Chronicles' not only have we captured 120 years of history, but we also present a colorful account of shared Penn State community experiences unrivaled in collegiate journalism," said Krasnansky, who served as editor-in-chief of The Collegian in 1951-52. Krasnansky added he believes this is the first time that the history of an American college has been based on the student experience.

The story begins with 2003 graduate Mike Caggeso's look at how Penn Staters, beginning with the first edition of The Free Lance (the Collegian's precursor) in 1887, tackled the role of women and first found football while seeing the growth of the old Farmer's High School into a large college. University graduate and historian Michael Bezilla covers the Roaring Twenties in the intriguingly titled chapter "Money, Booze and Women." In it Bezilla examines the effects of Prohibition, the battle between a college president and governor over Penn State's budget and plans, and struggles against Pitt on the gridiron, among other notable events.

John Troan, a 1939 graduate and editor, takes a look at life at Penn State during the Great Depression and the lead up to World War II. Collegian staff from the 1940s -- including 1942 graduate and editor Ross B. Lehman, who passed away before the book's publication -- meanwhile examine year-by-year the effects of World War II on campus.

In the 1950s, there were debates over loyalty oaths and a Collegian campaign to bring a big-time football coach to campus (resulting in Rip Engle and then-assistant coach Joe Paterno). Dave Jones, a 1954 grad and editor-in-chief and later New York Times consulting editor, writes about 1953-54 when Penn State transitioned from college to university.

Paul Levine, a 1969 graduate and editor-in-chief and now an acclaimed novelist and screenwriter, takes a sweeping glance at the 1960s -- an era in which a growing war, civil rights movements and rising counterculture played a significant role at the University. And from 1970 through Penn State's Orange Bowl win in January 2006, former writers and editors take broad views and give year-by-year details of Penn State's history,

Sports, especially football, have always played a key role in the life of Penn State and its students and alumni, which is why, Krasnansky said, Joe Paterno was selected the Collegian's No. 1 Newsmaker.

"With such a rich history and a group of extremely talented alumni, we are thrilled to have compiled this book involving input from alumni from Hawaii to London," said project manager Waldron. "'The Collegian Chronicles' is a book that will resonate not only with Penn Staters, but also with anyone interested in how our history has affected us all."

The book also features a rich assortment of photos drawn from The Collegian and Penn State University archives, the resources of Paterno Library, individual collections and previously unpublished photos.

For more information visit http://www.psu.edu/dept/comm/chronicles/index.html online. The retail cost of the book is $29.95, plus $7.95 for shipping and handling, and is available through the Penn State Bookstore at http://psu.bkstore.com/bkstore/content or 800-543-5659.

Started in 1997 by the Penn State Alumni Association, The Collegian Alumni Interest Group (AIG) reconnects alumni with the University and each other. The group also offers a new generation of Collegian staff members support though scholarship awards, mentoring and other on-campus programs.

  • 'The Collegian Chronicles' is a new look at the history of Penn State from the writes who reported as it happened.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010