H. Jesse Arnelle graduated in 1955 as an accomplished athlete, scholar, and ambassador. He earned All-American honorable mentions on the football field and remains Penn State’s only All-American on the basketball court. Arnelle ended his career as the Lions’ all-time leading scorer with 2,138 points (a record that stood for 56 years). He became the first Nittany Lion to play in the NBA and later with the Harlem Globetrotters.
During his junior year, Arnelle was elected as the first Negro in the nation to serve as student government president of a major white university. He graduated from the Dickinson School of Law in 1962, following service as an Air Force officer.
In 1968, Arnelle was presented the first Alumni Association Award, but he publicly turned it down in protest of Penn State’s poor minority recruitment. The following year, he became the first Black person elected to Penn State’s Board of Trustees and worked to change the minority recruitment process and strongly supported the University divesting from companies with interests in South Africa.
In 1996 Arnelle was elected as the first African American Chair of the Board of Trustees, and he celebrated his 40th year on the Board in 2009.