T-shirts and track shoes and canes. Oh, my!

Author: Nicole Maloy, W’95

I’ve always said that one of the best things about working at Penn as an alumna is having one place to put all of my Penn stuff. In any other work environment, it might appear a bit odd, if not obsessive or psychotic. Yet here, it’s perfectly appropriate to have a shelf that looks like this:

At a university, this kind of thing is totally normal. This might not go over so well in, say, a doctor’s office. Especially the track shoes.

To be fair, this is not all of my Penn stuff. There is that whole matter of the shirts and other wearable items I’ve collected between the fall of 1991, when I arrived as a freshman, and the fall of 2011, as I greet the incoming class of 2015. (2015?!) The collection started well before my first semester, though. Its origins go back to the previous December, when I discovered I’d been admitted via Early Decision.

I got home from school and picked up the mail on my way in. My grandmother was staying with us at the time, so she was home. She sat on the couch, pretending to be calm as I opened the letter from Penn, took a deep breath, and began to read it aloud. I got as far as, “We are pleased…” and then started jumping up and down, doing the happy dance. Upon reflection, I am so glad she was there for that. I know how proud she was.

She was, perhaps, slightly less proud when I picked up the phone to call my Mom at work.

“Hi, Mom.”


“I got the letter from Penn.”

“Yeah?” More pretending to be calm. It’s clearly genetic.

“Yeah, I got deferred.”

“WHAT?!” Momentary loss of composure from Mom. Grandma, who probably heard that, sat shaking her head saying, “Oh, Nicole,” while trying not to laugh.

Mom immediately caught herself and began to reassure me despite the fact that I knew she was cursing out the Admissions Office in her head. “Well, OK, so we’ll get the applications together for the other schools, and (other things I don’t remember because I was giggling into my hand and couldn’t hear her).”

“Mm-hmm. Thanks. By the way, I’m just kidding. I got in.”

I won’t write what she said next, but I assure you, it was said with great love in her heart. Then three generations of the women in my family shared a good laugh full of joy, relief, and pride.

With Mom and Grandma at my high school’s Senior Awards Ceremony. Mom is rockin her favorite Sally Jesse Raphael glasses. Work it, Mom!

That night, while I was watching TV, my Mom called me. I went upstairs. She asked if I’d get the clothes out of the dryer for her. I went back downstairs, a little annoyed that she made me go all the way upstairs only to go back down – she’s got volume, and could have asked for the laundry from where she was, saving me a couple of trips. But, hey, I deserved it, no? So I went down, grabbed a basket, opened the dryer, and pulled out two brand new sweatshirts, tags still attached. One was emblazoned with “PENN,” the other with “WHARTON.” Turns out, she’d bought them from The Bookstore during our visit that October, and had kept them hidden until tonight. Pretty sneaky, sis.

From then through years of jumping with Track & Field, singing with The Inspiration, living in Du Bois College House, joining Friars, and generally just being at Penn, followed by years working at the University, and encountering a clearance sale at Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear before they closed (remember them, oldheads?), it’s no wonder I sometimes didn’t even realize I was covered with Penn.

Here is a sampling. This doesn’t include the hats, the jackets, the sweatpants, my varsity sweater, or assorted other bits and pieces. Maybe one day my Mom will make these into a quilt. You reading this, Mom? You’re not still mad about that admission thing, are you? 😉

One day, I was in downtown Philadelphia and decided to observe a martial arts class. The guy next to me said, “So, do you go to Penn?”

I’m thinking, STALKER! I said to him, a bit defensively, “How did you know that?”

He said, “Um, your Penn hat, your Penn shirt, and your Penn shorts.”

“Oh. Heh. Heh.” It’s a good thing we were sitting, or he might have noticed the Penn windbreaker tied around my waist.

Ah, well, back to the office. Lots of memories on this shelf. Here are some close-ups of the shrine.

That’s my Hey Day cane! (The skimmer is a replacement.) DP article from the day after Hey Day with arrow pointing to me in the crowd. Friars wine bottle cover, baseball cap, and honor cord. Photo board has Hey Day shots with buds, along with shots of us at our 10th reunion. Bottom right is us trying to recreate our poses from when we visited as high schoolers. Mine’s pretty close – see center photo.

Photos with The Inspiration. My International Student Card from study abroad in France in 1993 along with a group shot with my fellow Lyon adventurers. The High Jump Shoes, Captain’s plaque, photo with Olympic and World Champion Decathlete Dan O’Brien, Penn Relays baton and program, and Franklin Field watercolor print (thoughtful goodbye gift from another Penn department). On the right – my graduation day kente cloth and tassel.


1 Comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Memories of Penn, Nicole M., Philadelphia, Traditions

One response to “T-shirts and track shoes and canes. Oh, my!

  1. Pingback: Penn Alumni Haiku Reflections | Frankly Penn

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