Raise the Song

February 7, 2012 

What legends the fall has made.

From crisp scholastic stacks emerges

no broad shouldered brute, no gridiron giant

but a bookish, bifocaled man.

Disciplinarian. Educator coach.

A man with a thousand sons –

all who passed through his care

when they needed him most.


Great men begin with an ideology

With this they build an institution.

If they continue long enough

those of us who share their ideology

are prone to confuse the man with the institution


From the slings and arrows,

the trials and horrors life uncovers – we witness

no canonized saint, no infallible demigod

but a human being.

A man who also felt overwhelmed. A man who also felt fear.

A man who was betrayed by his own institution.


Of that institution, the simpler parts -

the brisk October Saturdays,

a valley soaked in golden foliage,

sun simmering on the rim of the stadium -

that’s when we’ll miss him most.


He was a man who never asked for praise,

but demanded respect.

A man who showed pride in quiet humility.

He spent a lifetime building the character

of all those around him.


One hundred thousand voices have raised up

to sing his name.

The lights burning on from an empty stadium.

leaves swept away from empty trees

As Mount Nittany stands in silent requiem.

Coke-bottle glasses collapsed.

Khaki pants neatly folded into a dresser.

A modest man who has left behind an institution

that the rest of us will carry on.

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