Walk by the Willard Building on Penn State’s University Park campus on any given day, and you’ll likely walk past a tall, gray-haired man with glasses and a booming voice. Gary Cattell, or the Willard Preacher as he’s known to students, has been preaching about everything from masturbation to heaven and hell for decades. While Cattell is known for preaching for hours on end, he does so regardless of his audience’s interest and size.
Many of the hot topics the Willard Preacher chooses to cover are at the very center of college culture, such as sexual identity and sexual health. According to a previous VALLEY article on Cattell, he is known to strategically speak about things like nightlife and sex on Thursdays or Fridays when the average number of social gatherings is higher.
Cattell’s opinions have been known to turn heads and hit nerves. These very reactions show that even if students aren’t agreeing, they are paying attention.
VALLEY spoke to students outside the Willard Building to see what their reasons were for taking part in the audience.
Steven Irvin, a sophomore studying political science and journalism, says the Willard Preacher offers “an interesting perspective to say the least.” Irvin says that he listens to Cattell in passing when he has the time.
Another student, Christopher Meredith, says that he first learned who the Willard Preacher was on a tour of campus. As a freshman, Meredith says that Cattel is a figure he also listens to in passing.
“I feel like most of the time it’s for entertainment,” Meredith said about the students who will actually walk up to Cattell in the middle of his monologues.
Not everyone is listening to Cattell with the intention of actually absorbing his preachings.
Senior Sophie Pelillo, @sophiep44 on TikTok, took interacting with the Willard Preacher to the next level when she performed the viral “Rick and Morty” dance right in front of him, interrupting his preaching.
After a video of Pelillo’s went viral of her performing in front of the George Atherton memorial, Pelillo says she was requested by comments to do the same for the Willard Preacher. Three days before she posted a TikTok confirming the time and date of the performance, notifying her followers and other fans.
Pelillo says she was actually working up the courage to go up to Cattell when a girl asked her if she could “do it soon” because she had a class at 2:30. Pelillo walked up to Cattell, tapped him on the shoulder, said “Gary,” and then began to dance.
Afterward, Pelillo says that Cattell simply looked at her and said “Okay” before turning around and continuing to preach.
Do you have any stories or interactions with the Willard Preacher and want to share them? Tag us, @VALLEYmag, on Twitter and share your thoughts.