LANTANA, Fla. - The news of Joe Paterno's death hit hard even in Palm Beach County.
Now, members of the local Penn State Alumni Association remember the man synonymous with their alma mater, even as they prepare to carry out his legacy.
"I remember growing up as a kid here in Florida, and being a football fan, all I could remember is Don Shula, and Joe Paterno," said Tom Peeling, a Penn State Alum, and the former President of the local Penn State club.
Throughout his 62 season tenure on the Penn State sidelines, Paterno made his presence known both on and off the field.
"You think of Joe Paterno, you don't think of football if you're a Penn Stater, you think of the University. His name is kind of synonymous with the University," said Peeling.
"There's a part of the Pattee library, that is called the Paterno library. I think that's a legacy that he left every student, not just the football team," added Becky Peeling, Tom's wife.
Becky and Tom met while attending Penn State, and have a long, shared history with the University. Becky currently serves as the Treasurer of the local Penn State Alumni Association.
The Peeling's believe that Paterno's dedication to education did play an important part in his coaching strategy.
"It didn't matter how good a player you were, if you didn't make the grades...you weren't playing. 85 percent of his football players graduated from Penn State. Take a look at any other school that you'd like, and you'll find the percentages are much lower than that," said Tom.
"His dedication to academics and character...I think that's really important. I think as alumni, we have a responsibility to carry that on," added Becky.
Despite the controversy surrounding Paterno's Nov. 9 dismissal, his memory lives on, bent, but not broken.
It's an all too human reminder that the legend was, in fact, just a man after all.
"Joe's an imperfect role model, just like everybody else. He told it like it was. He would just say what he thought. It may not be what you wanted to hear all the time," said Tom.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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