Before I get to the Willard Preacher I wanted to answer a question from last week’s post about Old Coaly. His skeleton, as far as I know, is still on display at the HUB. If you go through the main doors off of Pollock Road and take a right just before the stairs it’s right by the entrance to the Freeman Auditorium. (I saw it in June when I came for NSO so I’m pretty sure that it’s still there.)
Now to the good stuff…
Upon arriving at Penn State I had heard about the Willard Preacher a couple of times. One of the times was of course, on a tour I did of campus. I never really stopped to think about it until I got to campus and I walk by his post almost every day.
The Willard Preacher is a mystery to most. However, Onward State, The Daily Collegian, the Huffington Post, and many other news sources have been able to get an interview if not more information on the mysterious figure.
So for those who don’t know much about him, here is a brief summary of the information we do know about the infamous Willard Preacher.
He started his daily speeches, rants, or whatever you want to call them in 1982. His actual name is Gary Catell and a member of the Orthodox church here in State College. He has his own website, http.//thewillardpreacher.com, for those who want to check it out. You could also make a donation to him if you want. He also has his own book titled The Christian Vs. The University.
Now, before Gary Catell was the Willard Preacher there was another preacher that students here at Penn State followed. The preacher was known as Bro Cope. Bro and had started preaching in 1977 in the same spot our current Willard Preacher preaches. Catell started at Penn State in 1979 but didn’t become interested in preaching until his junior year, according to an interview with Lions Pride’s PSU Sports Blog. Eventually, Bro Cope. Bro passed on the preacher post to Catell when he was just 25 years old. And he has been preaching in the same spot ever since.
In 1999, though, the university wanted to implement areas called “free speech zones” where students could basically be their own version of the Willard Preacher. And I’m sure you can see where this is going; the area in front of the Willard Building where Catell takes his post was not one of those areas. But that didn’t stop him. He continued to come back. The police even tried to talk to him as well as some of the university’s administrators. He wouldn’t budge. Eventually Catell and the university came to an unspoken agreement and he stayed put.
Onward State also did an interview with Catell in which they asked him 10 questions. Most of them are pretty basic (i.e. What is something you do for fun?) but there was one that caught my eye and I thought I would share it with you guys. About four questions into the interview with OS, Catell was asked, “Rumor has it, Gary, that you actually sold your soul to the Devil and for every day that you preach he gives you two more days to live. Is that true?” to which he responded with, “No comment.” I found it interesting because I had never heard that rumor before.
I don’t know a lot about the Willard Preacher, I don’t think most people do either. So I thought that researching him was pretty interesting. During another interview (with the Daily Collegian), he was asked what he did before he started preaching outside of the Willard Building full time. He responded with, “I used to work with severely retarded children. They had a group home in town, and I worked there. I used to [preach] and that at at the same time, and as I started to [preach] more and got married and had kids, I pretty much couldn’t do everything. I started doing this full time.”
Now, I usually don’t have time to stop and listen to the Willard Preacher when I walk by. But apparently on Thursdays and Fridays he has a usual “rant” where he talks about the weekend’s upcoming events, i.e. partying. He takes those two days to discuss all the ramifications, etc. about partying, getting drunk, etc. And here’s a fun fact for you, according to the Onward State article Catell used to be a partier himself. During the rest of the week, he improvises and sometimes even goes off of what some students have to say to him.
Now, when I first started at Penn State and was told about the Willard Preacher I had so many questions. The one question that I always think of as I walk by is: How does he make a living if he’s basically in front of this one building 24/7? Apparently he gets by though. He gets a small amount from a church downtown, but it’s not a lot. And his wife is a substitute teacher, which helps too. But, as I mentioned earlier, you can donate to his cause if you wanted to on his website. And that is how he mostly gets by.
Here are some last minute fun facts about our very own Willard Preacher:
- He has four children (one even went to Penn State).
- He does not get paid in any way by the university.
- His overall message to students is, “Christianity is the only true religion.” (In his own opinion.)
- He has his “regulars” that come to listen to him, and they vary each year.
- He likes watching sports.
So there you go guys, a post on the Willard Preacher. I have a couple topics in mind for next week so let me know what you think. I might stick with the infamous penn State people topic and write a post about Mike the Mailman (since he is retiring soon). Or I might go a different direction and do something about Beaver Stadium (and the Bryce Jordan Center).