The statue of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno being removed from Beaver Stadium in July
AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Christopher Weddle
Republished with permission from the Rutland Herald
WINDSOR, Vt. — A Windsor sculptor with Pennsylvania ties is suggesting that Penn State University trustees put the statue of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno to meaningful use now that it’s no longer on display at Beaver Stadium.
Lawrence Nowlan is a nationally renowned sculptor who created the bronze statues of former Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas and the Wildland Firefighters National Monument in Boise, Idaho.
The 7-foot bronze statue of Paterno was removed after the iconic coach was implicated in the cover-up of child sexual abuse in the Penn State football scandal.
Nowlan was working on his latest piece when he heard on ESPN Radio that children were sexually abused by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. A report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh confirmed that Sandusky abused minors and Penn State officials — including Paterno — covered up the crimes.
Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 victims. Paterno was fired as head coach and his college football legacy was tarnished. He died earlier this year.
A battle heated up over whether to remove the statue of Paterno in light of the investigation and Sandusky’s convictions; it became a lighting rod for controversy as Paterno supporters and opponents battled over what to make of his legacy. Penn State officials removed the statue outside the stadium on July 22.
The whereabouts of the Paterno statue is unknown. Nowlan suggested it would benefit the Penn State community to melt the statue down and recast it into a memorial for sexual abuse victims.
“I’m not trying to get involved. My concept is to simply share the idea,” Nowlan said. “If you take it down and put it in storage, nothing ends. There’s no conclusion to that. My thought was recycle the bronze and use it to cast a healing memorial for victims. It seems like a logical use of the material under the circumstances.”
Pennsylvania sculptor Larry Nowlan inside his Windsor, Vt. studio
Christian Avard photo
Nowlan grew up in Merion, Penn. and attended Millersville State College, now Millersville University, in Millersville, Penn., an hour and a half away from Penn State University in State College, Penn.
Ask Nowlan if he’s a sports fan and he’ll say “yes.” Ask him if he’s a Penn State football fan and he’ll say “absolutely.”
“Penn State was my favorite college team,” Nowlan said.
Nowlan has one supporter backing his idea. Glenn Campbell of Campbell Plaster and Iron in West Rutland said it would be a proper way to respect the victims and help the university move forward.
“Even though it wasn’t him, (Paterno) turned a blind eye to a number of horrible events,” Campbell said. “Taking the statue and turning it into another memorial would make a wonderful statement.”
The Paterno statue was designed in 2001 by sculptor Angelo Di Maria of Reading, Penn. and was a fixture at Beaver Stadium until the sex abuse scandal. Di Maria was unaware of Nowlan’s idea.
He understood that people believe it might be a proper way of honoring the victims but it was not the right time to make a decision.
“Why would you want to melt something down and then create something new when it carries such a stigma? The best thing is to let it remain there because the issue is still too fresh in everyone’s minds,” Di Maria said. “I understand (Nowlan’s) viewpoint. But you have to consider the Paterno family and ask how do they feel about it.”
Nowlan reiterated his idea is only a suggestion. His main concern is that Penn State and the victims can heal from the past and move on.
“There’s a lot of people that were hurt over the last 15 years. But at the same time (a new memorial) a visual symbol of where there are and how they’re coming out of this mess. It lies in the creative spirit and the healing,” Nowlan said.
Penn State officials will determine the statue’s final resting place. Penn State spokesman David La Torre declined to comment.
Jenni Kahler, right, holds her daughter, Emma, 4, as they have a photo taken with the statue of Joe Paterno located outside Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. (AP Photo)
Christian Avard (link is email) is a staff writer for the Rutland Herald’s Southern Vermont Bureau and a Starting Five contributor