Because of his wife, Patrick Malloy almost never met Joe Paterno.

But that is hypothetical.

In fact, Malloy met the Penn State coaching icon

because

of his wife, Candace.

And as happenstance would have it, the Malloys and Paterno are now likely forever linked.

On Dec. 3, the night before Paterno was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in New York, the Malloys, of Key Largo, Fla., committed $5 million to Penn State football in honor of the 80-year-old coach.

The Malloy Paterno Head Football Coach Endowment is believed to be the first to be named after a head football coach at any of the nation's universities, and also is the largest individual gift in the history of Penn State athletics. Which is saying something, considering the amount of fund-raising the athletic department currently conducts in step with the exploding national trend.

And if it weren't for Paterno's wife, Sue, the endowment may have never happened - in more ways than one.

Almost 25 years ago, when Patrick Malloy had already been successful as the president and chief executive officer of Malloy Enterprises, a real estate and investment holding company, he was invited to a dinner with Paterno and then-Penn State president Bryce Jordan. Malloy accepted with a "We'd love to."

However, the voice at the other end of the line responded, "Oh, the invitation was just for you." Malloy then declined, explaining that he doesn't get to New York very often with his wife, and if there were ever another event that both he and his wife could attend, he would love to be there.

However, Malloy received a call back later that day.

"And this time," Malloy recalled, "the voice said, 'Joe says anybody that won't come without his wife he has to meet. And that he regretted that so many times he didn't take Sue along when he did things.' "

The initial meeting spawned a lasting friendship between the couples, one that proved fruitful for both and beyond. Each fall, Malloy, a 1965 alum, and his wife head back to State College, Pa., for a game and afterward to the Paternos' just-off-campus home for a meal. Likewise, the Paternos have often spent time at the Malloys' summer home in Sag Harbor, N.Y.

The bond of generosity also extends to the university. In the 1990s, when the Paternos were campaigning to raise money and donated some of their own to expand Pattee Library, the Malloys gave to the Diversity Studies Room that now bears their names.

"That's the kind of people they are," Candace Malloy said. "You're swept up in their graciousness."

But the Malloys had never given to the athletic department, even though Patrick played lacrosse at Penn State and the couple developed an affinity for the football program. Upon her first visit to Happy Valley for a game, Candace - a Boston University graduate - instantly was struck and now considers herself an honorary alum.

"I forget that I went to BU," she said.

The Malloys had wanted to find a way to express their gratitude, but it wasn't until they were approached that the idea of an endowment entered the picture. That's where Sue Paterno came in.

As good a fund-raiser as her husband - some say better - Sue wanted to mark Joe's Hall of Fame induction with a big statement. Of course, she needed a donor, and the Malloys were first on the list.

"She has a tremendous feel for people, and she was right on the button with this one," director of athletics Tim Curley said.

This past summer, Sue Paterno, Curley and Joanne Cahill of University Development traveled to Sag Harbor and made their pitch. It didn't take long for the Malloys to decide.

"Not only does [Paterno] have a great record, but he's a leader, a great teacher and a humanitarian," Patrick Malloy said. "There was no doubt in our mind. My wife said, 'This is the right thing to do, if we can afford it.' "

Twists and Turns

Patrick Malloy never even heard of Joe Paterno - then an assistant - when he was a student at Penn State. A native of Johnstown, Pa., Malloy went to his accounting classes, played lacrosse and waited for Vietnam.

An armor officer in ROTC, Malloy fully expected to get drafted. Instead, he volunteered and served in Vietnam for a year and a half, eventually becoming a Green Beret. He was shot down twice in a helicopter during the Tet offensive, damaging two vertebrae and two disks in his back. He also lost the hearing in his right ear.

Malloy was awarded the Bronze Star, two Army medals, and the Vietnamese government's Cross of Gallantry.

When he returned to the States in September 1968, the country had altered significantly.

"He will tell the story of getting off the plane and there are protestors jeering and spitting at them," Candace Malloy said. "Some men took off their uniforms and threw them right there into the trash. He's extremely proud, and has never doubted his service."

According to Malloy, the experience of war shaped him more than anything.

"I don't think I'd be as successful today if I had not gone through that," he said. "It threw you in at a very young age and forced you to make tough decisions."

He worked in commodities for E.F. Hutton for five years before a disagreement with his boss led to his leaving.

"He was the chairman and I wasn't," Malloy said, "So guess who was leaving."

He wouldn't have to worry about answering to anyone for some time. He started his own real estate company in 1973, continued to trade commodities on his own, before also serving as chairman of New York Bancorp Inc. in the 1990s. Currently, he is chairman of the Goodrich Petroleum Corp. in Houston.

But real estate is where Malloy amassed most of his wealth.

"I just decided after that that every time I got a fair amount ahead I would put the money some place where I wouldn't give it all back to the markets," Malloy said. "So that's when I started investing in real estate."

For Malloy, who also returned from Vietnam just as Paterno was starting to make his name in the college football ranks, there are parallels between his and the coach's paths to success. Paterno's Vietnam - albeit much smaller in scale, but no less life-altering - was State College, the farm town he tripped over on the way to law school and never left.

"Life has twists and turns and it doesn't turn out the way you might have planned it when you were young," Malloy said. "If you said you were going to do this when you're 30 or 40 years old, usually it's quite different from what you would have thought you would be doing."

Endowment is forever

It was a small miracle that the endowment was kept a secret up until Sue Paterno and Curley surprised Paterno with an announcement at a private reception of Penn Staters and the Malloys. Of course, anything is possible, considering Paterno's salary was undisclosed for so long.

On Nov. 30, it was revealed that Paterno will make $512,664 for 2007, not including compensation for television, apparel and other contracts. Still, there are those who suggest he doesn't make nearly enough for the number of donors he inspires. And there are others who believe Paterno, who turns 81 on Dec. 21, is still coaching primarily because of he and his wife's fund-raising capabilities.

"I wouldn't connect any of that," Curley said.

And yet, there is no denying the importance fund-raising has in college athletics, especially at Penn State, where the athletic department survives without university subsidies.

"At Penn State, we're self-supporting and we're trying to generate the revenue we need to be competitive, and not take money away from the academic side of the university," Curley said. "The more that we can attract private support, such as this gift, it helps in keeping that funding model in place."

The $5 million gift, according to Malloy and Curley, will be used for purposes ranging from medical care and academic support for players, to expenses associated with recruiting. It will not, however, be used to pay the salary of Paterno's successor.

"It's certainly going . . . to be attractive for future coaches to know that they have this resource available," Curley said.

The money will be invested in perpetuity with a portion of the annual income being used for the original intentions of the endowment and the remaining income added to the principal to ensure its growth.

"We have already had a couple of schools that surfaced that wanted to know particulars about it," Curley said.

And who knows, it may have never happened without the women in Patrick Malloy and Joe Paterno's lives.

"It was a nice evening," Malloy said of that New York dinner all those years ago. "But my wife thought I made a mistake, because she was the only woman in the room."

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.