Good Life

Penn State alumni sponsor garden at the campus they consider home

Vin and Suzann Tedesco sit Tuesday at the Suzann Andrews Tedesco family garden at Penn State.
Vin and Suzann Tedesco sit Tuesday at the Suzann Andrews Tedesco family garden at Penn State.

The hydrangeas were the purple ones, I think.

An inventory of The Suzann Andrews Tedesco Family Garden has just been rattled off, and while I’m doing my best to keep up with the accompanying hand gestures, there’s a chance that I may have missed a step or two.

I can say with some degree of confidence that we were strolling the path that winds in between the Henderson and Biobehavioral Health buildings at Penn State’s University Park campus. After that things start to get hazy.

“It’s a garden for all seasons,” Suzann Andrews Tedesco tells me — and I figure she should know, being the garden’s namesake and all.

She and her husband Vin sponsored this garden and they met me there early one morning to discuss why they did that instead of — I don’t know— purchase some jet skis.

Vin pointed to a bench and told me that I should sit. It sounds like an order but it wasn’t, a distinction made clear by the tone in which the words are spoken and the apology that comes tumbling down after.

“I’m sorry. I’m a soldier,” Vin said.

Suzann, who was clearly paying attention during rehearsal, immediately followed that up with “and I’m a detail freak.”

Theirs is a sweet and altogether very endearing double act. You would watch these people in prime time, all the way up through the inevitable flashback sequence that would take us back to the spring of 1963 on the former HUB-Robeson Center patio.

Vin and Suzanne were the first in their respective families to attend college, arriving at Penn State through the grace of scholarships and financial aid. They met, hit it off and married in relatively quick succession — and all without leaving campus.

“This school means a lot to us because it opened both of our families to a true middle class existence,” Vin said.

Suzann studied home economics — mostly inside Henderson — and Vin was in Army ROTC.

After graduating, his career as a second lieutenant took them to more than 30 different locations, before they eventually settled in Lock Haven.

Frequent trips to University Park for theater and sporting events convinced them — well, her — that it was time for one last move.

“She informed me that she was moving to State College and that I was welcome to come,” Vin said.

Suzann often uses the word “family” to describe their ties to the university, whether it be in reference to their three children, an adult grandchild or the plethora of fellow alumni they’ve rubbed elbows with since graduating, all united under the umbrella of a Penn State degree.

That’s the intended purpose of the garden we were sitting beside, even if the roots don’t yet stretch quite as deep as the Tedesco’s.

What good is a family that can’t enjoy a meal together — or sit in a quiet spot and admire a few (fingers crossed) hydrangeas?

Suzann, who long ago laid claim the mantle of Penn State Master Gardener, comes from a brood of farmers and it seems only natural that she would associate a touch of green with her beloved blue and white.

“Anybody else can take and enjoy this as their family garden too,” Suzann said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready