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, the only Penn State alumnus awarded the Medal of Honor.
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.
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In a pivotal location adjacent 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 included 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 campus. In facilitating these transitions and knitting together surrounding spaces, the memorial exists not as an isolated object of admiration but as integral component within the campus fabric.
The Plaza’s design features a walkway and curved stone wall encircling an artistic representation of a warrior’s shield: an eight-foot-diameter disc symbolizing honor and sacrifice.
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 – “With it [your shield] or on it" – a constant reminder of Lt. Murphy’s bravery – and the heroism of all Penn State veterans.