“Boy, it must be great to live here:” After 40 years of football weekends, Happy Valley is the ultimate retirement destination

May 22, 2022

By Cara Aungst

This feature is part of a series about what makes Happy Valley such a popular destination for retirees. We interviewed individuals and couples about what drew them to the area and about the ways they contribute time, experience, leadership and business knowledge to the community. Hear how today’s retirees are bringing resources and expertise to the area, turning ‘Brain Drain’ into ‘Brain Gain.’

Jeff and Sharon Hyde said that the University was a major attraction when considering retirement destinations. “We have a lot of connections to Penn State,” they said. “...There is always something interesting going on — speakers, events, the arts, sports.” Photo provided. 

“I was here in Happy Valley for five years and got two degrees,” Jeff Hyde said. After that, he says he visited Happy Valley nearly every year for 40 years. Now, we’re sitting on the screened porch of his home in College Heights, with his wife Sharon sitting beside him, and dog Jack begging to play a game of fetch. It’s clear that somewhere along the line, the Hydes’ 40-year streak of visiting what Jeff calls “his favorite place in the world” turned into something a lot more permanent — and became their ultimate retirement destination.

Jeff and Sharon Hyde both went to Dickinson School of Law, living in and around major cities throughout their married life — Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and just outside New York City, in Connecticut. Throughout the years, they kept coming back to Happy Valley. 

“State College was a nice decompression zone during my working years when we owned a ’weekend condo’ here,” Jeff said. “When I retired from my position as senior tax counsel of General Electric, we hadn’t decided where we wanted to live.”

“We knew that we wanted to be near family,” Sharon said. “ Our younger daughter went to Penn State and now lives in State College so we decided to retire here. Our older daughter and son-in-law live only a few hours away in New York so it’s easy to visit them. The university offers interesting speaker series and there is plenty of entertainment and sports so we always have something to do.”

Jeff and Sharon Hyde came back to State College 40 years after they graduated. “It is a great place to retire and to be part of,” Jeff answered. “We endorse it.” Photo provided.

“We have a lot of connections to Penn State,” Jeff added. “I serve or have served on three Boards of Visitors within the University’s College of Liberal Arts, and there is always something interesting going on — speakers, events, the arts, sports. The University was definitely a major attraction for me.”

The couple bought a property in College Heights (just three blocks from Jeff’s first dorm room in Beam Hall), and worked with a local architect and contractor to create their forever home that the couple says they’ll leave “feet first” — a place cozy enough for the two of them, but with plenty of room for football guests during their active fall weekends. 

The verdict? “There’s a lot to do,” Sharon said. “It’s walkable to downtown, restaurants, and events on campus. We have some students living in the neighborhood with us, and there is something about having them here that is energizing. Plus,” she said with a laugh, “When they have parties, they have really good playlists.”

Jeff said that having a Research I University fosters culture and energy. “The vibe is created by the University and the 45,000+ students,” he said. “Together, it brings something you can’t find in other places.” 

The Hydes jumped right into the community. Among other gifts and endowments to the University, they established the Jeffrey L. Hyde and Sharon D. Hyde McCourtney Endowed Career Development Professorship in the School for Public Policy within the College of the Liberal Arts. Jeff is also a member of the Dean of Liberal Arts Development Council. Sharon is involved in several civic organizations, including the League of Women Voters, Fair Districts, Global Connections and the State College chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

They joined a great gym as well, One on One Fitness, where they are always making new friends. At the Centre Hills Country Club, Jeff golfs with a group referred to as the “Fun Bunch,” a dedicated group of men ranging from their 40s and into their 80s and 90s who share an affinity for Happy Valley and tee times. Sharon and Jeff attend OLLI — Osher Lifelong Learning Institute — events where the learning adventures take them from dairy farms to nuclear reactors to an Amish table. “OLLI does a good job of drawing you into the community,” Sharon said. 

And then, when football season comes around, their home fills up with family and friends from across the country. “Our friends call to pick their football weekend as soon as they can,” Sharon said with a laugh. “Even people who have no connection to Penn State — they enjoy coming for football weekends.” 

“It is a great place to retire and to be part of,” Jeff answered. “We endorse it.”

Sharon agreed, “It’s easy to make friends here, and very, very relaxed. It’s a peaceful place for us to be.”

 

Check back next week for the next story in the series, where we sit down with a photographer and videographer who covered John Cappelletti, Hurricane Agnes, the Berlin Wall and decades of Capitol Hill news. When it was time to retire, he says that Happy Valley checked off seven very specific requirements. 

Cara Aungst writes about industry, innovation and how Happy Valley ideas change the world. She can be reached with story ideas and comments at Cara@AffinityConnection.com.

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