Sue Paterno was welcomed into the president’s suite inside Penn State’s Beaver Stadium on Saturday, marking the first time in at least 11 years that she was there, according to a viral social media post from a university trustee.
Sue, a longtime philanthropist and the widow of Joe Paterno, was able to watch a stadium-wide pregame video that included audio and video of her husband. And she was also on-hand the same afternoon that the 1982 championship team was honored, with a cheer going up when Joe Paterno’s name was mentioned.
“Sue Paterno stopped by the box with her son, Jay, who is an invited trustee to the president’s suite,” university spokesperson Lisa Powers told the CDT in an email. “Both came to commemorate and honor the 1982 championship Nittany Lions football team. President (Neeli) Bendapudi was pleased to see Sue at the game and enjoyed speaking with her.”
The previous administration often seemed to have a hot-and-cold relationship with the Paterno family, following Joe’s 2011 firing in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal. Past athletic director Sandy Barbour once referred to the hockey team wearing “409” decals — alluding to JoePa’s record 409 FBS college football wins — as “inappropriate and insensitive,” before apologizing. Although the athletic department did formally honor the late Paterno in 2016, on his 50th head-coaching anniversary, many alumni felt the university didn’t recognize him enough.
Current Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi, who took over in May, was photographed with Sue Paterno during Saturday afternoon’s game against Central Michigan, a 33-14 win for the Nittany Lions. And athletic director Patrick Kraft, who started in April, reflected back on his fond memories of JoePa during his introductory news conference.
“Thank you Dr. Neeli Bendapudi and Dr. Pat Kraft for your leadership,” Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano wrote on Facebook.
Sue Paterno has remained an active member of the community, volunteering for events involving Thon, the Special Olympics and many others. She has also continued to donate to charitable causes, most recently — at least publicly — giving $100,000 to support Penn State students during the pandemic.