Penn State mourns loss of former two-sport athlete, school's first Black student body president
The Penn State athletics family is mourning the loss of former Nittany Lion basketball and football All-American H. Jesse Arnelle, Class of 1955.
The Penn State community mourns the loss of an icon in Jesse Arnelle, Class of 1955.
Jesse was a trailblazer, serving as the first Black student body president during a storied career as a standout student-athlete in football & basketball.
— Penn State Athletics (@GoPSUsports) October 26, 2020
A prominent attorney in the San Francisco area for the past three decades, Arnelle passed away at the age of 86 on Wednesday, October 21 in San Francisco. Arnelle made history when he was elected as Penn State University’s first Black student body president in 1954 as a junior.
Arnelle is the Nittany Lions all-time leading rebounder with 1,238 and was the basketball program’s only first-team All-American. For 56 years, Arnelle held the career scoring record at Penn State with 2,138 points. He was a four-year starter on the court and served as the team captain, earning MVP honors for the 1954 NCAA East Regional and was named to the 1954 NCAA Final Four All-Tournament team. On the gridiron, Arnelle played three seasons as a wide receiver and set a single-season record for receptions.
Upon his graduation with a political science degree in 1955, Arnelle was drafted by both the Los Angeles Rams and the Ft. Wayne Pistons. He opted to play for the Pistons, and helped advance them to the 1956 NBA Finals.
He went on to serve as an officer in the U.S. Air Force and served as a director of the Peace Corps in India and Turkey. Arnelle then attended Dickinson Law School and in 1962 earned his law degree, then went on to become a trial lawyer with the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, before opening his own practice in 1987, Arnelle & Hastie. He retired in 1998 as the firm’s senior partner.
At Penn State, he co-founded the Penn State Renaissance Fund while serving as a member of the Penn State University Board of Trustees, a post he was elected to in 1969. He served as trustee for 45 years on the Board, being elected as Chair in 1996 and designated trustee emeritus in 2014.