Not long after Penn State seniors Cydney Goldman and Tara Devine started singing the 1990s pop song “Barbie Girl,” the crowd at the midnight karaoke fundraiser for the university’s Relay for Life paid $5 to have them stop.
That was the point, but Goldman, of Landenburg, thought she and her friend only had 20 seconds before they were yanked.
Devine, of Fredericksburg, Va., thought it was quicker than that — 10 seconds.
Regardless of the crowd’s distaste for the song itself, or the singers’ rendition of it, the two friends recall that April night at Medlar Field as one of many that stand out in their Penn State careers.
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This weekend is graduation for those two and many, many more, and it punctuates a school year full of bright spots, record-breakers, sports championships, controversy and the on-again-off-again scandal that students say they are tired of talking about.
Ceremonies start Friday, with two colleges — Engineering and Earth and Mineral Sciences, followed by other ceremonies Saturday and Sunday.
For Elizabeth Dingcong, of St. Marys, the gray cloud that hung over the university from the Jerry Sandusky scandal did not ruin her time here.
An accounting major, she had her post-graduation plans essentially finalized in October, when she accepted a job as a consultant with Deloitte & Touche in Washington. She’ll start later in the summer.
She got the lead on the job from a networking opportunity through the Smeal College of Business, and for that she is grateful.
“I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten that if it weren’t for Penn State,” said Dingcong, who posed for photos in her cap and gown at the Nittany Lion Shrine with her friend Alissa Carl, of Danville, earlier this week.
However, the events of the scandal are something that she indicated she will remember from her time here. However, she turned the negative into something positive, as she recalls how the crowd at Beaver Stadium emphasizes the lyrics to the alma mater “May no act of ours bring shame.”
“It’s very positive just because I feel like that’s going to be a tradition,” she said.
Football was arguably the biggest change at the university, and the graduating class was the first in decades not to have Joe Paterno prowling the sidelines.
Despite some early losses, Paterno’s successor, Bill O’Brien, guided the upstart Nittany Lions to an 8-4 season. The surprise success, in light of the NCAA sanctions, fueled off-season speculation that he would seek out a bigger payday in the NFL. But he chose to stay.
Also in the off-season, Penn State students shattered their previous record for the amount of money raised for the Four Diamonds Fund at the Hershey Medical Center. The fundraising efforts, which culminated in celebration at the 46-hour Interfraternity/Panhellenic Dance Marathon in February, brought in more than $12.3 million to support the families of pediatric cancer patients at the hospital.
The total also pushed the all-time fundraising amount over the $100 million mark.
The student body was witness to other feats, too.
Penn State’s wrestling team won its third straight national championship, and the Lionettes, the university’s dance team, won its second straight championship in April at the national competition in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The women’s soccer team reached its first title game, but came up short in a 4-1 loss to North Carolina in December.
The men’s basketball team, mired in a dismal season, stunned then No. 4 Michigan 84-78 at the Bryce Jordan Center in February.
But not all was rosy here.
A photo of some sorority sisters, decked out in sombreros and ponchos and holding up derogatory signs at a Mexican-themed party, surfaced in October and put the unwanted spotlight back on the university. The sorority was put on probation, and university officials issued a scathing repudiation of the women’s actions.
The court cases related to the Sandusky case cropped up from time to time, whether it was a hearing or a document that brought up the history all over again.
Over the past few months, students have said they are tired of hearing and talking about the case.
For people like Goldman, her face lights up when she talks about her time here, and she can rattle off a long list of activities or organizations she had a part in: Special Olympics, American Red Cross, homecoming, the dance marathon and Penn State’s Blue and White Society, which is the student branch of the alumni association.
And she even got to meet Jay Paterno at the campus Relay for Life.
Her involvement in those activities has her thinking she will pursue a career in fundraising, instead of her major, psychology.
“When I came here, I majored in something I liked and I found something that I loved,” Goldman said.