By Sara Lynn Rinkunas
Just as traditions are sacred in families, they are also revered in athletics. They connect individuals from the players on the field to the coaches on the sidelines reaching out to the fans in the stands and the security guards at the gates. Long-established traditions gain power as they transcend generations instilling loyalty to a certain team or a sport in general. Shaking hands after a games end, the seventh inning stretch, passing the Nittany Lion through the student section, and the PSU Drum majors' pre- football game flip are traditions that keep us going, keep us connected, and keep us loyal like generations of a family. At Penn State Worthington Scranton we are no stranger to traditions as we carry on the practices of our mentors, our teachers and even our own family members.
In 1968 when Penn State Worthington Scranton found its home in Dunmore, PA a Lackawanna Trail area native and Penn State graduate brought his passion for education, athletics, and competition to the new campus. Joe Simoncelli was Penn State Worthington Scranton's first Athletic Director who instructed everything from scuba diving, alpine skiing and sailing to coaching a variety of varsity athletic teams including cross country and tennis. Coach Simoncelli lives the Penn State traditions in more ways than one. Not only was Joe a graduate and an educator of the Nittany Lion family but his own father sported blue and white. A 1936 captain of the Penn State Baseball team at University Park, Joe's father Ben Simocelli, passed on to Joe the family traditions of excellence, determination and compassion mixed with Penn State's traditions of honor and perseverance. This mix of traditions shaped Joe Simoncelli into one of Penn State Worthington Scranton's most admired and respected educators, coaches, and friends.
In 1975 The Scranton Times Saturday paper featured PSWS's modern gym facilities at the time and Mr. Simoncellis sound varsity, intramural and physical education programs. Joe put his heart and soul in to the students at Penn State Worthington Scranton and worked effortlessly into molding students and athletes into confident and successful young adults. For 35 years Mr. Simoncelli enthusiastically began new athletic programs at our campus that many students enjoy today such as Intramural flag football, co-ed bowling, strength training and alpine skiing. Coach Simoncelli put all efforts forth into passing on the pride and honor that was instilled in him not only to students who moved on to become managers, teachers and coaches but he passed them on to our current Athletic Director Jeff Mallas.
Coach Simoncelli racked up numerous PCAA State Championships including his 1972 Men's Cross Country Team. With a 6-1 record the team roster included student-athlete Jeff Mallas. Forty years later Coach Mallas, Athletic Director, carries on his predecessor's pride in Penn State Athletics overseeing eight varsity sports, intramurals and instructing kinesiology classes. Coach Mallas says "Joe Simoncelli was one of the very best professors at Penn State Worthington Scranton. He taught us about life, hard work, and commitment. He never turned anyone away. The man was a true educator."
Today Penn State Worthington Scranton Athletics has pride in upholding past traditions and creating new ones for the future. Coach Mallas and his son Doug mimic Joe Simoncelli and his father as Doug coaches a local soccer team and aspires to be an educator like his father after recently graduating from Penn State. The same rings true of Jeff's 1972 Cross Country teammate on Coach Simoncelli's roster, Nick Remish. Nick's son Nicholas, also a recent Penn State grad will follow suit in carrying on the learned traditions. Penn State pride runs deep at Worthington Scranton and the ties are as strong as family bonds.