Penn State

Ice cream social sweetens homecoming weekend for returning Penn State alumni

They say that home is where the heart is — but ice cream is pretty good draw too.

Small serving stations from the Berkey Creamery were positioned inside and outside of the Hintz Family Alumni Center on Friday afternoon in honor of Penn State’s pride of returning lions.

There were still hours left before the annual homecoming parade kicked off and alumni young, old and everything in between were killing time by reacquainting themselves with their alma mater’s signature chilly treat.

Leslie Lewis Montz had other priorities.

She was busy searching one of the many tables positioned outside of the alumni center, where lapel pins with dates ranging from the year 1933 through the present were stacked in dozens of plastic bins.

There was a pin for every year and a plastic bin for every pin, but Montz was focused on the ones belonging to the class of 1941. Sure, it was a rudimentary form of identification, but how else could she recognize — let alone be recognized by — former schoolmates?

“You kind of have to get your glasses on and peer closely,” Montz said.

Montz has a long history with Penn State. She met her late husband there, served on the alumni council and as a sorority adviser and watched her daughter graduate with the class of 1971.

She recently purchased a condo in State College so that she could be close by for football games but she spends colder parts of the year sequestered in the climates of California.

The passage of time hasn’t changed much — Penn State still feels like home.

“It’s weird when you look in the mirror. Otherwise, once you’re Penn State, you’re always Penn State,” Montz said.

She would know. Next summer, Montz will attend her 75th reunion.

“Actually I’m planning to last until my 80th,” Montz said.

Until then, there’s always ice cream. Two additional creamery stations were set up inside the alumni center, where the Penn State Alumni Blue Band performed songs like Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun.”

Alto saxophonist Thomas Burnett graduated from Penn State in 1964. He resides in New Jersey but has returned to the fold of the Alumni Blue Band every homecoming for nearly 30 years, a rare opportunity to visit with old friends.

“It’s the only time that we would get together normally during the year,” Burnett said.

One those friends is fellow Blue Band musician and 1964 graduate Stan Weimer, who will join Burnett and the rest of their troupe when they perform at Saturday’s homecoming football game.

Their only practice session usually takes place roughly four hours before the game, but it doesn’t take them long to pick up where they left off.

“It’s like driving, I guess. You never forget,” Weimer said.

Caitlin Relich hasn’t been away long enough to forget.

A member of the Class of 2015, Relich graduated last spring and has since been working as a nursing assistant at a hospital in Pittsburgh. Homecoming weekend marks her first trip back to campus since the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and she’s still having trouble thinking of herself as an alum.

“I kind of get caught off guard when I have to say that I’m an alumni,” Relich said