It’s approaching two years since Penn State, in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, took down the Joe Paterno statue and carted the likeness of the legendary football coach off into nearby Beaver Stadium.
The university has been tight-lipped since then about what became of the statue, and hasn’t said much more than that publicly about how it plans to treat Paterno’s legacy moving forward.
Tired of waiting, several State College residents say they are moving forward with plans to bring their own statue of the man to downtown State College.
“This is something we can do on our own schedule,” said Ted Sebastianelli, a candidate for the Penn State board of trustees and one of the locals behind an effort to create a new Paterno statue. “We don’t have to wait.”
Sebastianelli has teamed up with local business owner Kim Intorre to develop a bronze statue of Paterno sitting on a bench and reading a copy of Virgil’s epic poem, the Aeneid. The project is called “Joe’s Bench.”
The statue, to be created by Philadelphia-based sculptor Zenos Frudakis, is expected to cost $300,000. The organizers are hoping to raise the first $50,000 by asking for $1 donations on Kick starter.com starting in July.
Organizers hope the statue can be installed by November 2015.
Pat Daugherty, owner of The Tavern restaurant downtown, has expressed interest in allowing the statue to be placed in the alley outside his business. That’s private property, borough officials said, and Daugherty wouldn’t need permission from State College to place a statue there.
Daugherty stopped short of saying the location for the statue is a done deal, and said he wanted to speak with an adjacent property owner before giving final word over whether the project can move forward there.
“I do think Joe will eventually be honored,” Daugherty said Wednesday. “Penn State will do something. Athletics will do something. The town will eventually do something. Everybody says that who I talk to. I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s going to happen.”
A survey of Penn State alumni from December supports that sentiment.
Of the alumni who participated, 81 percent felt strongly that Penn State should recognize Paterno for his 61 years of service to the university. Alumni strongly agreed with the Paterno question in the two previous surveys in May and December 2012.
Most of the 31 alumni seeking three seats this year on the university’s board of trustees supported recognizing Paterno when asked by the Centre Daily Times how they would deal with the late coach’s legacy for an election preview.
Those suggestions ranged from renaming Beaver Stadium to apologizing for the Freeh report, the Penn State-commissioned investigation that implicated Paterno and top university officials of covering up child sexual abuse allegations against former assistant coach and convicted pedophile Sandusky.
“There must be a revelation of sorts in order to correct this miscarriage of justice,” Sebastianelli told the CDT when asked about Paterno. “So, let the court cases proceed, get discovery on those key documents, get to the university’s emails and open it all up to public scrutiny. Those events will show the world Joe Paterno was not an abettor. That is when Penn State will best be able to write a new ending for our beloved coach’s legacy.”
The Freeh report’s findings were used by the NCAA to impose sanctions against the university that, among other things, stripped the school of 111 wins accumulated by Paterno-coached teams. The Paterno family has since attacked the Freeh report and its findings, and is suing the NCAA to have the sanctions overturned.
The Paterno statue was removed from outside Beaver Stadium on July 22, 2012. The NCAA sanctions were handed down the next day.
Intorre, another member of the Joe’s Bench group, also has been fighting to restore Paterno’s legacy in other ways.
She was among a group of passionate Paterno supporters behind an electronic billboard emblazoned with phrases such as “success with honor” and “409 forever” that last year greeted Penn State fans headed into town along U.S. Route 322 from points east.
“The person he was and what he gave to the community are what we are trying to honor,” Intorre said at the time.
Intorre’s work to bring a Paterno statue to downtown State College will be one storyline in the recently announced documentary film, “The People’s Joe,” according to Michelle Hagan, of The Porterfield Group.
The company also produced the films “The Joe We Know” and “365 Days: A Year in Happy Valley.” The new project will feature interviews with people Paterno touched, whether they had met the man or not, and will film in several locations, including State College and Brooklyn, where Paterno was born, Hagan said.
Some proceeds from the film will be given to the Joe’s Bench project, she said.