Updated June 12, 2009
By Nate Althouse
This article was originally printed in the Beaver Stadium Pictorial for the 2007 Iowa Game. To buy copies of this year's football game programs, visit the Penn State University Athletics Online Publication Store.
The Varsity "S" Club is an Alumni Interest Group (AIG) designed to maintain ties between the University and former student-athletes, managers, cheerleaders, mascots, and dance team members who were varsity letterwinners at Penn State's University Park campus.
Today, we celebrate Varsity "S" Day and pay tribute to all those who donned the blue and white, or played an important role in the success of our teams. A record number of alumni returned today for our Varsity "S" event outside the Bryce Jordan Center.
The five primary goals of the club are to enable our former student-athletes and those who have contributed to our athletic programs as managers, cheerleaders, mascots, or dance team members to (1) remain connected with the athletic department; (2) have annual opportunities to return to campus to reunite with former teammates, coaches, and other student-athletes and athletic department personnel; (3) maintain, strengthen and promote the traditions, ideals and spirit of Penn State athletics; (4) support our current student-athletes, coaches and teams through program sponsorship, team-oriented activities and recognizing outstanding academic/athletic performances and (5) make financial contributions to the Nittany Lion Club that directly support their former team and/or strengthen the athletic department's general scholarship fund.
A summary slogan that encapsulates the five goals of the Varsity "S" Club is that our purpose is to Reconnect and Reinvest.
The Varsity "S" Club is a way for former athletes, coaches, managers, cheerleaders, mascots, and dance team members to connect with each other and maintain the relationships built during your years at University Park. We are constantly trying to update our databases to make sure we include all the former Nittany Lions who are eligible for membership.
One of the challenges in keeping former athletes updated on alumni events for the University and their respective sports is maintaining accurate contact records. In order to provide the highest level of service to the athletes who helped build the great Penn State tradition, we encourage all former varsity letterwinners, managers, cheerleaders and dance team members to get in touch with the Varsity "S" Club to update your contact information.
Why is it reinvesting instead of investing? First, all Varsity "S" Club members have invested their time and energy to building the tradition of academic and athletic excellence at Penn State during their days as students. Reinvesting means giving back to Penn State athletics to ensure that our current coaches and players have the resources necessary to continue this tradition for years to come.
In order to provide the highest level of support to our current student-athletes, coaches and teams, we are beginning a new program exclusively for members of the Varsity "S" Club that allows former student-athletes to earmark their contributions to the Nittany Lion Club to go directly to their former team.
Penn State athletics continues to be self-sustaining, meaning that it does not receive financial support from the state or the university. For the athletes who already give back to ensure that the programs at Penn State have all the resources necessary to carry on our rich tradition of showcasing highly competitive teams fielded by student-athletes in the truest sense, we thank you. For those of you who are not members of the Nittany Lion Club, we encourage you to consider giving back to your school and to your team.
There are many ways to give back to Penn State. We always are looking for our former athletes to speak at or attend alumni functions at Penn State or in your local communities (especially the Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Washing-ton, D.C., and New York City areas).
You also can contact the Morgan Academic Support Center to assist current student-athletes by serving as mentors for internships or resources for employment. All it takes is one phone call or email to the Varsity "S" Club and we can help you get involved in supporting athletes and athletics at Penn State. Reconnect. Reinvest.
Varsity "S" Club History
During the club's first seven years, membership required qualified graduates to pay annual dues of $15 per year. During those years, nearly 25 percent of qualified graduates consistently elected to participate in the organization.
Since 2003, the club has received annual funding from the athletic department and now offers free membership to all former University Park varsity athletes, team managers, cheerleaders, mascots and dance team members who participated in such activities while enrolled as undergraduate students at the University Park campus and graduated from Penn State. As a result of free membership, the total number of members now exceeds 11,000.
In July of 2007, the Nittany Lion Club assumed administrative responsibility for the Varsity "S" Club. Prior to July of 2007, Assistant Athletic Director Mark Sherburne oversaw the operations of the Varsity "S" Club as part of his responsibilities as the Director of Student-Athlete Services for seven years. In 2007, former Nittany Lion basketball player Dr.Nate Althouse was hired as the full-time Varsity "S" Development Coordinator. In 2009, Nate assumed new responsibilities as an academic adviser in the Morgan Academic Center. After Nate's departure, in July of 2009 the Nittany Lion Club hired their current Varity "S" Club Coordination and former Penn State Baseball player, Mike Milliron .
The primary activities supported by the club each year include:
~ Four Nittany Lion Club Newsletters per year with special Varsity "S" inserts exclusively for our Varsity "S" Club members;
~ Varsity "S" Day (fall social event);
~ The Intercollegiate Athletics homecoming float for our current student-athletes, cheerleaders and student Nittany Lion Club members;
~ Special athletic team reunions;
~ Various educational outreach efforts made by the Morgan Academic Support Center's CHAMPS Life Skills program;
~ Student-athlete formal; and
~ Two academic team grade-point average awards presented each spring at the annual Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) Academic Achievement Banquet.
In addition to the services traditionally provide by the Varsity "S" Club, we also are looking to add some additional programming to better serve our membership.
Some changes that have been made for the current school year are as follows:
1. All Varsity "S" Club members receive associate Nittany Lion Club memberships at the Lion Patron level.
2. Updated Web Site with online contact questionnaire for former athletes, online directory and information on upcoming alumni events (coming soon).
Recognizing Success In The Classroom
One of the proudest traditions of Penn State Athletics has been our track record in the classroom. Penn State is third in the nation in the number of Academic All-American selections since the honor was introduced in 1952. In April, at the 20th annual SAAB Academic Banquet, 244 student-athletes were named as Big Ten Academic All-Conference honorees for their work during the 2005-06 academic year. The women's teams had a combined grade-point average of 3.26 and the men's athletic teams averaged a 2.96. The average GPA for all Penn State varsity athletic teams was an impressive 3.10.
Accepting the team GPA awards were the men's soccer and women's gymnastics teams. The women's gymnastics team won the overall Team GPA Award with a phenomenal 3.52 team grade-point average.
The Varsity "S" Club will continue providing leadership and opportunity to former student-athletes, managers, cheerleaders and mascots while supporting our current student-athletes, coaches and athletic teams. To find out more about the club, contact the Nittany Lion Club at 1-800-NITTANY (800-648-8269) or email club President John Barnes.
Two Big Requests For Former Athletes
1. UPDATE YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION and encourage your teammates to do the same. Contact the Varsity "S" Club so we can keep your coaches up to speed and keep you informed of opportunities to congregate with your former teammates, coaches and friends. Get involved!
2. Although you receive a complimentary Nittany Lion Club newsletter to stay connected, please CONSIDER JOINING THE NITTANY LION CLUB as a full contributing member to support our current student-athletes.