CARLISLE -- Commencement at the Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University took a brief detour from solemnity yesterday for a symbolic nod to the near completion of the merger of the law school and the university.
Joe Paterno, Nittany Lions football coach, and longtime law school professor Louis F. Del Duca met midway across a stage to join two pieces of a giant replica of the law school's new signature mark.
?Two Italians going to try to put something together. If this works, anything's possible,?? said Paterno.
Some graduates said the special presentation added excitement to an already momentous day.
?It's a double whammy -- the year 2000 plus the merger,?? said graduate Jeff Addis of Connellsville.
?The Dickinson School of Law had and still has a great reputation as a law school. Now, the Penn State name can go on resumes and will be on diplomas,?? said graduate David Tshudy of Jonestown.
?Living and working in this community, the Penn State name goes a long way. The influence of the college is incredible,?? said graduate Christy Appleby of Hershey, who will work in the state attorney general's office of consumer advocacy.
Gov. Tom Ridge, a 1972 law school alumnus, called it a ?win-win situation. A marriage not made in heaven, perhaps, but in ivory towers.??
He told the 161 recipients of law degrees and 11 who earned master of law degrees that they will have the main role in shaping the 21st century.
In a technology-based industry, ?ultimately, you'll decide whose copyright is on it ... who has access to it ... who gets paid for it,?? Ridge said.
?You will be asked by scores of non-billable clients to help shape the community. Say yes?? to serving on committees, as youth sports coaches and in other volunteer roles, he urged.
The Rt. Honourable Lord Thomas Henry Bingham of Cornhill, lord chief justice of England and Wales, received an honorary degree in the ceremony held on the adjacent Dickinson College campus.
Bingham's selection recognizes the law school's international focus and the common law tradition his country shares with the United States, a college spokesman said.
Law school Dean Peter G. Glenn cited benefits of the Penn State alliance.
He said applications to the school have risen 36 percent in the last year, and donations from alumni and friends since 1997 -- when the three-year merger process began -- equal $9.5 million. Students have access to more computers, and joint degree programs have grown from one in 1996 to an expected seven next year.
?Our hopes have been more than amply fulfilled,?? Glenn said.
Some alumni have said they are unhappy about the merger, mourning the loss of the 166-year-old school's independence. The Dickinson board will drop its governing role and serve in an advisory capacity starting July 1 when the merger is finalized.
Penn State President Graham B. Spanier said yesterday that ?the cultures of Penn State and of the Dickinson School of Law are fully compatible.??
And Paterno, who was on hand for the graduation of his son G. Scott, said the partnership has filled a void.
?Many of us at Penn State have long looked forward to the day that the university would be complete with ... a law school,?? he said.
He cautioned, however, that the merger would bring slim hope for fulfillment of Del Duca's self-professed dream of starring in a Lions game.
?In my fantasies, I have played quarterback, halfback and most other positions on your outstanding teams,?? Del Duca said.
?I'm glad,?? Paterno said to the senior academic, ?they're fantasies.??