Pennsylvania State University Veterans Plaza


Pennsylvania State University Veterans Plaza

The gift of the Pennsylvania State class of 2011, the Veterans Plaza is a memorial to honor Penn State veterans, including the late Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Medal of Honor recipient.


Lt. Michael P. Murphy was a United States Navy SEAL officer who was awarded the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the War in Afghanistan. He was the first member of the U.S. Navy to receive the award since the Vietnam War. His other posthumous awards include the Silver Star Medal (which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor) and the Purple Heart.

ἢ τὰν ἢ ἐπὶ τᾶς

This legendary phrase is thought to have been spoken by a Spartan mother to her son, before a battle. In ancient Spartan tradition, a warrior was never without his shield, and either returned home from battle alive, carrying his shield, or dead, carried upon it by his comrades. This notion of honor and sacrifice, as brought forth above, was central to LT Murphy’s philosophy, indeed the code he lived and died by. It is therefore the central theme of this memorial design, about which all else both literally and figuratively revolves.

In a pivotal location adjacent to the historic lawn of Old Main, its quad and Pollack Road, the Plaza occupies a culturally and spatially significant place on campus at the intersection of major circulation paths. 

Important “threshold” conditions include a site shift from the main expansive lawn to a dense fabric of trees offering isolation and contemplation, a significant transition of grade and a transition from 20th-century architecture to the historic 19th-century core of the campus. In facilitating these transitions and knitting together surrounding spaces, the memorial exists not as an isolated object of admiration but as an integral component within the campus fabric.


The Plaza’s design features a walkway and curved precast wall encircling Mark Mennin’s sculptural interpretation of a warrior’s shield: an eight-foot-diameter disc symbolizing honor and sacrifice. 

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02 Cover Image

Hovering above the grass, the polished black jet-mist granite disc is carved to simulate rippling water, thus evoking a feeling of contemplation and tranquility. 

The wall bears a Greek inscription, believed to have been spoken by Spartan mothers to their sons before battle – “Come home with it [your shield] or on it" – a constant reminder of Lt. Murphy’s bravery – and the heroism of all Penn State veterans.



State College, PA
1,900 GSF


Design Partner
Richard Olcott
Management Partner
Timothy Hartung
Team Members
Sean Baumes, Andrew Burdick, M. Gregory Clawson



Poulin + Morris, Inc.
Mark Mennin
Precast Concrete
US Concrete Precast Group
General Contractor
G.M. McCrossin, Inc.