CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — A new exhibit, “I am a Penn Stater: Nittany Lions in World War II”, at the Penn State All-Sports Museum highlights the courage and sacrifice of over 1,200 student-athletes who joined the military and the American Red Cross.

“We had Penn Staters who served in every branch of the armed forces, in every theater of the war, male and female,” said Ken Hickman, director of the Penn State All-Sports Museum.

Photos, diaries, medals, and clothing paint a picture of wartime Penn State.

Among the stories, visitors will learn about Penn State Wrestler and First Lieutenant Clair L. Hess who jumped with the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day. Plus, Sergeant Max S. Peters, a 1941 Penn State skiing and track graduate who wrote a letter explaining his reasons for fighting and summed it up to: “I am a Penn Stater.”

“We like to use sports as a lens for looking at bigger stories and this is arguably one of the biggest stories of the last century,” said Hickman.

Over the last three years, the curators spoke to family members, some of whom are still local to Centre County, and surviving veterans to learn more.

“In a time where we feel like there’s so much division in this country, it’s great to reflect on a time where everyone came together for a common cause,” said Hickman.

The museum is partnering with local schools to incorporate the exhibit through field trips and in-class presentations. The team said a hometown link could emphasize the reality of the war.

“You can’t understand who you are today unless you understand who we were 80 years ago,” said Lewis Lazarow, programming and education coordinator for the Penn State All-Sports Museum.

No matter who comes to visit, they hope a piece of Penn State history stays with you.

“Names you didn’t know before, but you’re gonna find hard to forget now,” said Lazarow.

The exhibit opens on Friday, June 10, 2022, through June 1, 2025.

MUSEUM HOURS: (1 Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA 16802)

  • Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Sunday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Closed Monday