A Penn State junior — who also happens to be the third-string quarterback on the Nittany Lion football team — was one of five students from across the nation who earned a $5,000 scholarship through a national essay competition sponsored by the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation.
Shane McGregor, who carried a 3.89 grade-point average into the start of the fall semester while majoring in journalism and English, was thrilled when notified of his success in the competition that attracted entrants from 30 colleges and universities across the nation.
"It’s awesome, a very good thing," said McGregor, a walk-on member of the football team from Ebensburg, Pa.
According to the prompt for the writing contest, entrants were directed to write a profile about someone influential in the sports community on their campus. For McGregor, the choice was easy and obvious.
"When you have Joe Paterno as your coach, it’s pretty clear what the story should be about," McGregor said. "The hard part was that it had to be under 1,000 words, so you had to choose your words wisely, but I liked the story."
The judges for the contest — Vic Carucci of NFL.com, Larry Dorman of The New York Times, Ron Green Jr. of the Charlotte Observer, Mike James of the Los Angeles Times and Vicki Michaelis of USA Today — clearly enjoyed the story as well.
With McGregor’s success, he became the third Penn State student to earn a scholarship from the foundation in the past five years. Previous winners were Josh Moyer in 2007 and Mark Viera in 2008.
That success has come in large part because of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, housed in the College of Communications.
"For me, getting a chance to walk onto the football team was a big reason for choosing Penn State, but the academics and the programs were important, too," McGregor said. "The College of Communications and Center for Sports Journalism have great reputations."
McGregor, who has already started writing his first book and regularly writes in his journal, is the son of Beth and Bernie McGregor and has one sister, Maura. His mother is a Penn State graduate. In his spare time, McGregor enjoys writing, sailing, playing tennis and hanging out with friends
The Murray Foundation was established in 1999 to perpetuate the legacy of Jim Murray, the late sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Murray, a columnist for the Times from 1961 until his death in 1998, earned numerous awards, among them a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1990, during his illustrious career. He was named America’s Best Sportswriter by the National Association of Sportscasters and Sports Writers 14 times, and was inducted into the writers’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988.
Murray’s widow, Linda McCoy-Murray, serves as president and founder of the foundation. She established the foundation to honor her late husband’s legacy and share his dedication and love of sports journalism with future generations of sports journalists.
The foundation added the Curley Center to its scholarship program in May 2007. At that time, Malcom Moran, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and director of the Curley Center, said the University would work hard each year to identify a student worthy of selection as a Murray Scholar. With three selections in the past five years, Penn State student have lived up to that promise.
The Center for Sports Journalism was established in 2003. It was named the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism in September 2006, honoring Curley, whose more than five decades of newspaper experience included work as a reporter, editor, publisher and, ultimately, president, chief executive officer and chairman of the Gannett Co. He was the first editor of USA Today.
Along with classroom instruction, the center’s mission stresses the value of interaction, from on-campus guest lectures and on-site visits by students to real-life experience gained through internships. Sponsored programming includes lectures, panels and workshops on journalism and the role of sport in society as well as research on sports journalism topics.