Thank you for Norman Boucher’s moving Farewell to Joe Paterno (“The Soul of the Coach,” Obituaries, March/April). As the parent of a Brown student, I receive your magazine and look forward to each issue.
However, I’m troubled by Ryan Jones’s article, “After Paterno” (Sports, March/April), which ignored the points made in the Farewell. Moreover, it ignored the fact that Joe Paterno publicly welcomed the selection of Bill O’Brien ’92. It stated that the “skepticism of Penn State fans was countered by praise from the likes of [Tom] Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.” Most Penn State fans also support the Steelers or the Eagles and are not big fans of Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots. In fact, it was Joe Paterno’s public endorsement of Bill O’Brien’s selection that countered the skepticism of Penn State fans. I do not understand why an article in the Brown Alumni Magazine would be so negative regarding Joe Paterno.
Of the many BAM articles on alumni in the March/April issue, only one—on Joe Paterno ’50—mentioned the subject’s religion. And, while your article was positive, noting Joe’s integrity, I wonder why you had to include his parents’ fear of sending their son to a non-Catholic college. Surely not to poke fun at them or their religion?
Was their fear real or imagined? I can assure you that anti-Catholic bias existed in the hallowed halls of Brown University in the 1940s and ’50s. When I attended the graduate school in the late ’50s it was still present, but, thankfully, more from other students than from the faculty. Quite likely Joe learned to strive for a life of integrity and honor from his Brooklyn Italian Catholic family.
Michael D. Woods ScM ’61
Ray Martin ’78
I enjoyed “The Soul of the Coach.” The Paterno brothers lived in Littlefield Hall in 1946–47. I had returned from Europe at the end of 1945 as they were just starting at Brown. Our dorm rooms were close to each other.
However, you have one error in the article. Joe may have proposed a Jewish student for DKE, but that man was not DKE’s first Jewish member. Almost ten years before, Henry Loeb, a member of an old German Jewish family from Memphis, was a DKE. I knew Hank well. When I was working out for the freshman track team, Hank worked out next to me. I was practicing the shot put, and Hank was a hammer thrower. He was a tall, handsome, powerful guy. You had to be very strong to be a good hammer thrower.
A number of years later, Hank became the mayor of Memphis, and he was in office when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. King was in Memphis to speak for the black municipal workers, who were out on strike, and Loeb represented the city.
Thought you might be interested in this bit of trivia.
Richard N. Silverman ’45
Joe Paterno ’50 did not retire from his head coaching job at Penn State. He was fired. If the allegations are true about Jerry Sandusky molesting boys on campus despite Joe’s knowledge, the firing was justified.
As a former assistant to Joe who also happens to be a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I don’t appreciate your softening the truth, even in Joe’s obituary. Joe was not a good or earnest man. His greatest passion was refining his image, not his character. You can find my examples of this at: http://mattpaknis.blogspot.com/2011/11/absolute-power-corrupts-absolutely.html.
This blog led to an unexpected flurry of media attention before Joe was fired. By softening the blow on Joe, you further perpetuate the guise that perpetrators flourish under and you further silence victims everywhere. I expect better journalism, integrity, and empathy from someone associated with Brown. All Joe’s victories and accolades do not equal the destruction of one little boy’s soul, as it appears happened under his watch and with his knowledge.
Matt Paknis ’85