2017-08-04 / Spotlight

Full Report

Katie O’Toole, Adjunct Instructor | Penn State

For 24 years, Katie O’Toole brought the weekly news to students in 38 states with her WPSX-TV show “What’s in the News.” “I just loved my job,” she says. “I loved to go in every day because you never knew what the next story was.” Covering current events with student reporters at her side, O’Toole visited the depths of the ocean in the Alvin submersible and flew sky high in the “vomit comet” used to trained astronauts.

Now, she teaches in Penn State’s College of Communications and has recently taken on a larger role with the Centre County Historical Society.

“I didn’t show up a meeting and I was elected president,” she jokes. It’s her work with CCHS that led her to start her latest project, a podcast called “Dead Centre,” in which she explores local history — and has a lot of fun doing it.

“Once you’re a journalist, you always want to tell stories.”

We caught up with O’Toole to see what, besides her husband, Gary Gray, six children and four grandchildren, belongs in her own story.

“This is how I have started every day for as long as I can remember. I’m a newspaper fanatic. I read The New York Times, CDT and Wall Street Journal hard copies every day. Since I was a kid I’ve loved newspapers; I started out reading the comics… and little by little I started reading the stories around the comics.”

“I started doing podcasts for the Centre County Historical Society last year, and it’s just been really fun. I love local history so it’s been an opportunity to go out into the community and talk to people that I wouldn’t have talked to otherwise. I keep discovering little things that I thought I knew everything about.”

“We go to San Fermin, Spain, every year for the running of the bulls. You wear the red sash and pañuelico, the red scarf. I’ve run with the bulls probably about 25 times. Gary of course has done it over 100 times. Over the course of doing this for 35 years we’ve become very close to a couple of families over there, and it has created this whole other family over there for us and our kids.”

“The only thing I’ve ever cross-stitched in my life are stockings for my kids. Now I’m making them for the grandkids. The stockings are getting bigger and more complex. Everybody used to make fun of the fact that I was the only one with a store-bought stocking, so last year my daughter made one for me. It says ‘O’Toole’ because that’s what all my grandkids call me.”

“We have this farm out in the country that’s just really special to our family. Our first two children who have gotten married both had their weddings there. Two more are getting married there next year. We keep the horses out there a lot of the year and bring them back [to our house in Lemont] for the winter.”

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