IST internship coordinator doubles as author on Blue Band and Penn State history

Sarah Rothfleisch
November 19, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State alumni find various ways to stay connected to their alma mater. Some give time and money to support their favorite programs, while others join alumni groups and represent Penn State in their local communities. For Thomas Range, 1989, internship coordinator and career coach at the College of Information Sciences and Technology, he remains involved through his connection to the Penn State Blue Band.

Range participated in his high school’s band as their much-needed sousaphone player, and he brought his love for music as a Penn State student in the late 1980s, joining the Blue Band in his first year on campus.

“I had actually received a music scholarship, but I chose to major in math.” said Range. “If the College of IST had been around when I was a student here, I probably would have chosen IST as my college. (While I opted for an analytical major,) being in the Blue Band was a way for me to still do music.”

Now working at the College of IST, Range has been able to keep his musical passions and Penn State pride alive in a variety of ways.

Writing the Blue Band’s legacy

Range’s experience with the Blue Band led him to co-author two books on its history — one in 1999 to celebrate 100 years since the start of the band, and one in 2009 to recap a remarkable decade for the band.

Authoring books is not something new to Range and his family. His father, an avid collector of postcards, wrote three books for the Postcard History Series on New York City’s subway station, the Pennsylvania Dutch, and New York waterways. That is what inspired Range to highlight his own passions in print.

“It was around 1996 or 1997, when we got the idea for the Blue Band centennial book,” Range said. “My father had already written several postcard series books and I thought, ‘My dad has written all these books before, so why can’t I?’ and so I got started on writing it with other alumni.”

The first book, which Range co-authored with fellow alumni Sean Smith, 1991, titled “The Penn State Blue Band: A Century of Pride and Precision,” details the Blue Band’s history — from its start in 1899 as a small drum and bugle corps comprised of six students, through the growth throughout the 20th century, to the band as it was at the time of the book’s publication in 1999.

The second book, co-authored with alumni and current Penn State English professor Lew Lazarow and titled “Into the Game: The Penn State Blue Band 1999-2009,” encompasses an exceptional decade for the Blue Band, including the band’s inclusion in an issue of Vogue magazine, the opening of the Bundy Blue Band Building, and the band being awarded the Sudler Trophy in 2005 as the nation’s top collegiate marching band.

Capturing Penn State’s history through postcard collections

Range’s father posthumously inspired a third book for his son to author.

“My father collected postcards, a lot of them from New York,” Range said. “When he passed away, I inherited his postcards on Penn State. He was planning on writing a book about Penn State’s history using these postcards he collected.”

Dedicating his book to his father, Range compiled his family’s collection as well as the postcards he had sent during his time as a student and began writing the book his father started.

Postcards in the book range from historic accounts of the conception of the University with pictures of the original Old Main, the Armory, and the Old Botany Building; to pictures of Fraternity Row as it appeared in the early 20th century; to postcards marking winning football seasons and trips to the Creamery.

“You can see how everything has changed — some buildings are gone, some new buildings have been built,” said Range. “But it’s still essentially the same Dear Old State.”

In addition to the collection started by his father and some older postcards he won in online auctions, Range noted that some postcards in the book hold a special meaning for him.

“Several of the postcards in the book were actually sent by me to my father when I was a student,” Range said, flipping through the pages in his book to find an example. Pointing to a postcard from 1986, the second time in a single decade that Penn State won the National Championship for football, Range noted, “This one I actually bought and sent to him. This one is excellent.”

Generational loyalty

One of the main takeaways of his books, Range explains, is the way things have changed at Penn State — both with the Blue Band and with the student body — while also maintaining many of the familiar trademarks that can span generations.

“The architecture and the technology at Penn State may have drastically changed since 1899,” said Range. “But the loyalty and love both current and former students have for this University is universal.”

Range regularly attends football games and continues to play alongside his brother, Vince Range, 1992, in the Penn State Alumni Blue Band. In Penn State’s most recent Homecoming football game, his image was featured on ESPN, complete with his hard-to-miss blue-and-white painted sousaphone.

“My phone was blowing up when I was on ESPN,” said Range, chuckling at how many of his friends and family were excited to see him playing on the television. “On the field, you don’t really see the cameras; you’re just marching and doing what you need to do.” 

From writing books on Penn State history to marching on the field as an alumnus, Range has never lost his affection for the Blue Band and the University, which is exactly what he hopes to impart on those who read all his books.

He concluded, “The books are a great way for readers, whether they’re alumni or current students, to remember that one commonality we all have — the love and the loyalty for this University we all have.”

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Last Updated November 19, 2019