Penn State Smeal dad, grad stuns family with master’s degree

September 23 dawned cold and wet, but the Quayle family didn’t care; “Dalegate” was planned for that day’s Iowa at Penn State White Out football game, so the weather was inconsequential.

For the last 10 years, Dale and Peggy Quayle have traveled across the country to organize a large family tailgate at a Penn State football game. “Dalegate,” as they affectionately call it, draws in the three Quayle children — Penn State alumni Mary, Peter, and Thomas — as well as extended family and friends. Dozens and dozens of them.

As far as anyone knew, this was just another installment of a fun yearly family tradition. Dale had a secret, but Peggy had a plan — “The Big Reveal.”

In the final accounting, Peggy said she had 175 T-shirts printed for the occasion to give away to tailgate attendees. They read, “Penn State DALEGATE. WHITE OUT. Two rules … Wear White and Don’t be an Idiot,” the long-standing family motto to have a good time while staying safe.

A (mostly) Penn State Family

Dale Quayle is the president and CEO of RF Code, a company that provides automated, real-time asset management, environmental monitoring, and power monitoring solutions for large enterprise data centers. This is his latest stop in a series of senior executive positions at private and public high-tech firms.

He and Peggy, a 1981 Penn State graduate with a degree in liberal arts and sciences, have been married for 36 years. During that time, they watched as all three of their children traveled across the country from their home in California to attend Penn State.

First, Mary earned degrees in political science and communication arts and sciences in 2012. Her eventual husband, Tucker Korus, earned a finance degree from Smeal the same year.

Peter was next. He was part of the Class of 2014 with a degree in economics.

Finally, it was Thomas’ turn. He graduated in 2018 with a degree in communications arts and sciences.

“Dad supported us through our Penn State undergrad journeys — proofreading papers; brainstorming projects; cheering us on during THON, football games, graduations; and traveling with us to bowl games and more, always going above and beyond for us all,” Mary said.

Dale, who graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in business and economics, was surrounded by Penn State alumni and, as any Penn Stater will attest, was welcomed as an honorary Penn Stater.

“His love and connection to Penn State only grew over time,” Mary said. “He would always joke when people asked if he was a Penn State alum, saying, ‘After sending three kids here, I reckon I should be considered an “honorary” Nittany Lion.’”

Peter agreed: “As far as I was concerned, he was a member of the PSU community, even without the piece of paper. He had attended multiple big football games and bowl games since meeting my mom and then putting all three of us kids through the university, never missing a parent’s weekend, tailgate, or a graduation.

“Keep in mind that he lived in California during our time at Penn State, but that never stopped him from being there for every major event.”

Let’s make it official

So, while Dale was a warmly welcomed but unofficial member of Nittany Nation, something still gnawed at him. Despite what Peter said, Dale himself felt he did need “that piece of paper,” he said.

So, at the height of the pandemic, he decided it was about time to officially join the Penn State family.

“To be honest with you, it was probably more family than anything. All of my kids went to Penn State. My wife went to Penn State. Lots of family members went there. I was there all the time for all the time my kids were there. I mean, we went to State College at least twice a year. I fell in love with the place,” Dale said. “In 2020 — the timing seemed right, given some unusual downtime. So, I explored what the options were at Smeal and applied. A master’s degree was something that I always wanted to do, and Smeal has a world-class reputation. I was so excited when I was accepted.”

Telling only Peggy, Dale decided to secretly enroll in Smeal’s online master’s in corporate innovation and entrepreneurship, which Penn State World Campus delivers. It was a personal journey, he said, and he didn’t want anyone to know.

In August, Dale graduated with a 3.95 grade-point average — all A’s and one B+.

“It still really bothers me about that B+,” Dale said with a bit of a snicker.

Now that he was officially a Penn State alumnus, he said, it was time to fill in the family on his little secret. But, how? Dalegate, of course!

The Big Reveal

As plans came together for the annual Dalegate, which was scheduled to be held before the Iowa at Penn State game, Peggy kept this one a secret. Dale said didn’t know what Peggy had planned.

“I assumed we’d tell the kids at some point, but I had no idea, When Michelle showed up with the megaphone, I knew what would happen. I was a bit embarrassed, to be honest,” Dale said.

Everyone gathered, as usual, and then things started happening. Dale sported a cap and gown and was presented with a facsimile of a degree certificate by Michelle Rockower, managing director of online specialty master’s and certificates in Smeal’s Office of Professional Graduate Programs.

“We were deep in the throes of a pretty fun and energetic, spirited tailgate. My wife picked that time to drop it on everyone. I think the best part for me was looking over at my daughter. I mean, she was crying. She was happy. So, it was it was fun to see that. The reactions from my two sons were extremely special; they were dumbfounded. They had no idea, and they were so excited and happy and proud and all the things that would go along with it,” Dale said.

Peter confirmed that he was, indeed, caught off-guard.

“I did not know what was going on at first. As you can probably tell from the pictures, it was pandemonium at the time the announcement was being made,” Peter said. “After the pictures were done, I walked up to my dad and asked him what was going on and he said, ‘I got my master’s degree from Smeal.’ I didn’t know what to say, so I just gave him a big hug.”

For Mary, it was a full-circle moment.

“It was cold, it was wet, it was amazing! It truly was overwhelming. We all got to glimpse the pride he must have felt watching his little Lions graduate from Penn State,” she said. “Despite his long list of business achievements and bustling schedule, he took the time to further his education and connect even more deeply with our family’s Penn State legacy. His quiet journey is a testament to his constant need to further himself and his boundless love for his family. His commitment to our shared legacy and passion for Penn State further unites our already tight-knit family.”

Thomas, while admittedly surprised, said he shouldn’t have been.

“Despite the shock of the moment, in retrospect, it isn’t surprising at all,” he said. “He’s always been the most driven, motivated man I know.”

Dale also stacked a management consulting certificate with his degree.

“Kudos to Penn State because he did not know about that [being an option]. It was Michelle. She was a good adviser because otherwise, I think he would have probably not realized it was available,” Peggy said.

Now that he’s gotten a taste of Penn State and Smeal, Dale said he can’t get enough. He is currently working with the faculty and staff in the Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship to volunteer his expertise as an alumnus.

“I have offered to get involved with Smeal’s institutional investment funds, the Garber Venture Capital Fund. I did some work with the faculty on maybe a little bit of a class redesign, let’s call it. I’m going to be a guest speaker at a couple of classes this fall having to do with understanding how the venture capital process works,” Dale said. “I want to help aspiring entrepreneurs realize their business dreams.”

And Dale’s probably not going to be the last of the family to connect academically with Penn State.

“I owe so much of my life as it is today to Penn State,” Mary said. “Now, my husband, Tucker, and I are raising our own Lion cubs to love Penn State. It brings us such pride to see Dad, not just as a symbol of Penn State spirit but as a genuine, degree-holding Penn Stater. Every ‘We are …’ he belts out now feels even more special, resonating with the heartbeat of a true Nittany Lion.”

Learn more about the Master’s in Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship offered online in partnership with the Penn State Smeal College of Business through Penn State World Campus.

Media Contact:
Mike Dawson