As I sit down to write this column, a record 19 Penn Staters are competing in the Summer Olympics in London.
Here on campus, Penn State students Patrick Hullihen, Digisha Patel, Jessica Raad and Anthony Toczek are finishing up a long days work in the lab, where they patiently study the ability of different drugs to combat leukemia.
And in a far different part of the world, Penn State alumni Matt and Andrew Jones are helping to ensure that Haitian children dont go to bed hungry at night, through a first-of-its-kind movement called Poverty Resolutions.
I share these images because as you begin school this semester, I want you to remember it is these kinds of people, projects and efforts that make up the Penn State experience. As you put on a Penn State T-shirt to go to class, cheer for the Nittany Lions at a first football game, or begin canning for Thon, take heart in the real meaning of Penn State Proud.
In the face of the challenging times weve experienced, I hope you will reflect upon what it really means to be a Penn Stater.
This week marks a new chapter in our history: a time to begin anew. Where and how we start moving forward begins with remembering who we are a world-class university with a mission of teaching, research and service.
Its a mission manifested not only in the images I shared, but in a myriad of ways: Penn State students raising $10.7 million during last years Thon; our students capturing national academic championships including first place in the Weather Challenge, a collegiate forecasting competition, and first in the William R. Hearst Foundations Journalism Awards Program; and Penn States student-athlete 88 percent graduation rate that tops the NCAA Division I average of 80 percent.
Moving forward it is about recognizing and celebrating what Penn State students, faculty and alumni have achieved and continue to achieve in teaching, research and service. It is also about finding new and even more meaningful opportunities to live out our mission.
In the year ahead, one of the most relevant ways I see for our community to live out our mission is to excel in our everyday lives, as Penn Staters everywhere have always done.
It is time to come together as a family and show the world the fabric that makes us leaders in our communities, academia, businesses, research, athletics and philanthropy. We will also use this moment to focus our energy in a positive way on helping identify, prevent and treat child sexual abuse a challenge that, as we have learned in the most personal of ways, knows no bounds.
As we embark upon the 2012-2013 academic year, I encourage students, and the entire Penn State community, to recommit ourselves with an ardor and passion as never before to live out the Penn State mission.
I encourage us to commit ourselves to the pursuit of excellence in both classroom and community.
I encourage us to affirm to all who look in that Penn State is defined not by the actions of a few, but by the deeds of hundreds of thousands committed to making our world a better place.
Rodney Erickson is the president of Penn State.