The Senior Column from a Guy Who Doesn’t Normally Write Columns
I feel like a fish out of water. This should normally come in the form of a written speech, not an article like this.
For as long as the station has existed (to my knowledge), CommRadio seniors have had the opportunity to make that senior speech at our year-end banquet, reflecting upon their time at Penn State and what being a part of the station has meant to them.
This year, the senior class obviously will not get that opportunity. So I wanted to try to adequately express my thoughts on the past four years and formally say goodbye to Penn State in the best way that I still can. I was inspired by reading columns from other Penn State student media outlets, so I am writing one of my own accord. Thanks again to my fellow student journalists for all the laughs at sporting events. It’s one of the things I’ll miss most.
I came to Penn State simply trying to find my way among what was, at the time, the largest freshman class the university had ever seen. I wouldn’t wish being thrown into the fire the way that I was on anyone, but joining CommRadio and participating in the final fall semester that freshmen could join greek life quickly forced me to figure it out.
It meant taking a bid without even being in State College for longer than a month as a student and sitting in a CommRadio sports meeting before I completely understood just how big of a deal Penn State football is to so many people. Picking the team to go 8-4 in 2016 was considered a fairly bold prediction at the time, yet people would just about blow a gasket if it lost four games in a season now.
The craziness that has been the past four years at Penn State has been well-documented, but starting college with two football riots and a clown riot in one semester was quite the way to kick things off.
There’s something to be said for being a kid from Massachusetts at a school with many people who are not. You learn quickly that you’re vastly outnumbered by New York, Philly and Pittsburgh sports fans, who have had a totally different upbringing than you have, mainly not having as many championship parades.
You make your own connections and try to meet as many people as possible. Sometimes that includes joining a fraternity that gets kicked off campus before your sophomore year ends.
The turning point for me came in January-February of that year. In the midst of recovering from the flu and grieving for a friend who unexpectedly fell off a cliff to his death in Argentina, I managed to hit rock bottom. Watching the Eagles beat my beloved Patriots in the Super Bowl didn’t help, but we all know what happened the next year. (Thanks for being offsides, Dee Ford).
The most important moments sometimes happen when you least expect them. I wasn’t happy with where I was at that point and knew I needed to up my game if I ever wanted to be taken seriously as a broadcaster and a person by those around me. I felt like I had done nothing to stand out my freshman year (other than dressing formally for Monday meetings, long story there), and knew I needed to get it together. Bernie and Kyle, thanks for being such great roommates those first two years.
I began asking questions and learning from people much wiser than I was about how to make the most of everything Penn State has to offer. Working in the Cape Cod Baseball League after that school year made me realize just how much more students around the country were doing.
It hasn’t been totally smooth since, but I’ve been lucky enough to cover and broadcast some pretty cool events. From calling a hockey game at Madison Square Garden to an NFL Draft, Super Bowl 54 and traveling to call Penn State football games, it has been an incredible four years given the opportunities I’ve had.
I would not have had nearly as fruitful an experience at Penn State without the help of many.
There have been faculty members like Jeff Brown, John Affleck, Steve Kraycik, Brian Shoenfelt, PJ Mullen and Mike Poorman, who have helped me personally and professionally. I’m also grateful for the advice of alumni like Brian Tripp, Tyler Feldman, Alex Gilliland and Zack Rickens who have helped me make smarter decisions and guidance through the current crisis.
To Brightman, Mandy, Bobbyn, D'Avella, Milewski, Chandler, Berti, Pelter, Arroyo, Gross, and Shively, thank you for showing me the way and helping make sure I learned my place, so I didn’t appear to be as much of a dumb ass as you all know I can be.
There are a ton of seniors to thank but namely Brian McLaughlin, Will Desautelle, Travis Sutton, Mitch Stewart and Tyler Olson. You guys have been great friends and people I look forward to keeping in touch with for a very long time (you can opt out in like 2022 if you want). Brian, Will and Travis, I’ll miss the Mario Kart races and endless sports debates. Hopefully the next time we all see each other, my ability to back up takes will be better than the 2019 Cubs bullpen (sorry, Bri).
I’m excited to see what the future brings for CommRadio, and I’m hopeful that at minimum, students will at least be able to broadcast games next year, even if there are no fans. I know the future is in great hands with Josh Starr and Joe Skinner running things, and that next year might mark the most returning staff members that the management team for the station has had in a long time. Josh and Joe, you’ve been great friends and I’ll miss sitting out at the labs with you guys watching three different sporting events at a time.
To the fellow juniors, sophomores and freshmen, make the most of being at Penn State every chance you get. If friends want you to come out with them, do it (unless you’re calling a game the next morning). If you’re debating whether to visit another school or not, do it. Maximize your time in college to the best of your abilities. Network with everyone you meet because you never know who they know.
I never thought I would be so endeared to Penn State, but after four incredible years, all I can say is thank you. I am incredibly excited for the next chapter, and hope to tell you all about it soon enough. But for now,
“The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I'd something more to say.”
Zach Kaplan is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.