Posts filed under ‘Joe Paterno’

The Penn Stater Daily — April 23, 2014

ICYMI, Brian Cuban: Here’s the best piece from Penn State student media I’ve read this week: a profile of Brian Cuban ’83, a “recovered anorexic, alcoholic, drug addict, and bulimic” who is working to raise awareness by telling his story. The author is the the soon-to-be-managing-editor of Onward State, Tim Gilbert, and this story is the very definition of a good read.

‘Forbidden Food’: Restricting food from children may not be a productive way to teach them to eat healthy foods, according to work by Penn State researchers that warranted a story this week on the New York Times’ Well blog. (Aside: Great source for health and fitness and wellness news, with good comment threads, too.) Post-doc Brandi Rollins was lead author on the study, in which preschoolers were given the chance to “work” for food—clicking a mouse four times resulted in a cinnamon-flavored graham cracker. The concept: to study “reactive eaters,” who are highly motivated by food. As with most medical studies, this research doesn’t lend itself to a simple takeaway, so it’s worth it read the whole piece.

A new Paterno statue: Jessica Tully of Onward State reports that a Kickstarter campaign will begin in July to raise $300,000 to build a bronze statue of Joe Paterno in the brick alley near The Tavern. The restaurant’s owner, Pat Daughtery, expressed interest, and Kim Intorre got permission from State College, which stipulated that the statue be built on private property.

Weekly BOT election reminder: The election for three alumni seats on the Board of Trustees opened April 10, and so far, turnout is down. If you’ve not yet voted, check out our Three Questions project to familiarize yourself with the 31 candidates. Voting ends at 9 a.m. EDT, May 8.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

 

April 23, 2014 at 12:34 pm Leave a comment

Clemens Resigns from BOT; Alumni Election Change Passes

For the second day in a row, I find myself wrapping up the Board of Trustees meeting by starting at the end.

Just as board chair Keith Masser ’73 was preparing to adjourn the Friday’s meeting, Al Clemens ’59 jumped in to read a statement. He got right to the point, announcing that he was resigning from the board.

Clemens, a gubernatorial appointee, joined the board in 1995 and was the only one of the four trustees remaining as plaintiffs in the Paterno family’s lawsuit against the NCAA who was on the board when the Sandusky scandal broke. As a result, he is the only one of the trustees who was found to have standing to sue on the claim of defamation.

He said the board didn’t have much information or time to discuss the issues when it voted quickly on Nov. 9, 2011, to fire Joe Paterno: “I will always regret that my name is attached to that rush to injustice.”

He indicated, as well, that hiring Louis Freeh and accepting his conclusions “without review” was another mistake and that he joined the Paterno family’s lawsuit in an attempt to “reverse the misguided sanctions that were designed to punish a football program without blemish.”

He also said his resignation was in keeping with his belief in term limits; the current limit is 12 years, but members including Clemens were grandfathered in when that change was made. He has served for 19 years.

Clemens’ term on the board actually expired in 2012, according to the trustees’ website; staff from the trustees office said that there’s often a long lag between when a governor-appointed trustee’s term expires and when the governor nominates a replacement. Gov. Tom Corbett announced in late February that he was nominating Cliff Benson ’71 and Todd Rucci ’92 to fill the seats of Clemens and Ira Lubert ’73. Those nominations must still be confirmed by the state senate.

Lubert’s term technically ended in 2013, as did the term of vice chair Paul Silvis ’06g, for whom a replacement has not been announced. The terms of two other governor appointees, student Peter Khoury and Mark Dambly ’80, expire in 2014.

Also noteworthy from the meeting:

Alumni election changes pass: All alumni who have email addresses on file with the university will receive ballots in the upcoming alumni trustee election. Trustees unanimously passed a motion to change the procedure in the university’s charter; previously, only alumni who are Alumni Association members or have donated to the university in the past two years automatically received ballots, although any alum could request one.

After the issue was debated and unanimously passed in the January governance committee meeting, Penn State sent postcards to 186,610 alumni without email addresses on file, governance chair Keith Eckel said Thursday during the committee meeting. The cost: $82,000.

Eckel said Thursday that only 400 of the cards had been returned and noted that while he thought reaching out to alumni was the right thing to do, the “somewhat disappointing” rate of return meant that the gesture likely doesn’t need to be repeated. At Friday’s meeting, he said he’d been told that the number of returned postcards had increased to 700.

The alumni election starts April 10, and alumni still have time to return the cards. All of these changes are taking place after the nomination process for alumni trustees, which ran from mid-January to late February. In the future, all alums with email addresses on file will receive both a nomination form and an election ballot.

Public comment: After several meetings in which the number of speakers during the public comment session shrunk, nine speakers were announced for Friday’s meeting, although only seven showed up to speak. Also in contrast to recent meetings, when speakers covered a variety of issues, most criticized how the board has handled to the Sandusky scandal.

Ceil Massella, an alumna and wife of football letterman Brian, told the board, “Just as I always think of the shooting when think of Kent State, this university will always be associated with Sandusky’s guilt unless the record is set straight.”

Evan Smith ’11 asked the board, “What are you personally doing with your position of power to help serve the Penn State family? How are you helping us fight this battle of public perception?”

Several speakers also reiterated their belief that the board owes an apology to the family of Joe Paterno.

Facts and figures: President Rod Erickson said applications for 2014-15 baccalaureate admission have increased by 9,000 over last year—19 percent at University Park and 8 percent at the commonwealth campuses. Out-of-state applications are up 26 percent, and international applications are up 18 percent. Minority applications he said, are running 16 percent of last year.

He also said that the quality of applicants is higher: Their average SAT score is 20 percent greater than last year’s.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

March 7, 2014 at 8:45 pm 2 comments

Eric Barron: In His Own Words

DSC_4680_Eric_BarronPresident-elect Eric Barron seems to like automotive analogies. He rattled off two when he spoke to the Board of Trustees on Monday afternoon, immediately after being named Penn State’s 18th president:

Auto Analogy No. 1: When Barron was learning to drive, his father told him to lift up his head and look not at the hood ornament, but down the road: “You will discover it is much easier to get where you are trying to go.” Barron found that the tip resulted in “a much better driving experience” and also turned out to be a good life philosophy. “Our job, all of our job, is to see down the road, sense the future, and ensure that this great institution is at the forefront of success and achievement.” (more…)

February 17, 2014 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

Reading List: Eric Barron, Penn State’s New President

Eric Barron_FSUWe are hours away from being introduced to Penn State’s 18th president: Eric J. Barron, the president of Florida State University and a climatologist who spent 20 years in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, including four as its dean.

Onward State broke the story Friday afternoon, a few hours after Penn State announced that the Board of Trustees had scheduled a special meeting for today. The board’s compensation committee is meeting in executive session at 9 Monday morning, to be followed by an executive session of the full board. The public board meeting starts at noon at The Penn Stater conference center; it’s expected that the board’s vote on Barron will be followed by a news conference. We’ll have full coverage Monday afternoon.

Barron’s recent mentions in the media have centered around the investigation into Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who was accused of rape; you can check out his official responses to the news of the accusation and to the decision by Tallahassee officials to not charge Winston here and here.

But a deeper foray into the archives and Google provides a track record that gives insight into how Barron approaches funding issues and controversies, and it illuminates his academic specialty, climatology, as well. No less a respected figure than Richard Alley, Evan Pugh professor of geosciences and a member of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won a Nobel Prize, told the Centre Daily Times that Barron is “one of the real pioneering names in adding climate history to our understanding of climate future.”

This is far from a complete list, but here are some pieces I found interesting:

On state funding and tuition: Like many university presidents, Barron spent a significant amount of his time at Florida State dealing with dwindling state appropriations. (In 2012, Florida State’s appropriation had declined by 25 percent in four years, dating back to before Barron’s tenure.) His circumstance was slightly different, however, in that public universities in Florida can’t set their own tuition rates. When Penn State officials lobby for better funding from the state legislature, they argue that a larger state appropriation will allow them to minimize tuition rates. Barron was lobbying both for more money from the state and for the ability to raise tuition beyond what the Florida government would approve.

In April 2013, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the Career and Professional Education Act, which did increase funding for universities with “pre-eminent” academic programs. As of now, that’s just Florida State and the University of Florida, which will each receive an extra $15 million from the state. (Other universities can get more funding when they meet certain benchmarks.) Barron wrote this op-ed piece that appeared in several Florida newspapers in April. Among the highlights is this paragraph:

Quite simply, we have demonstrated that we know how to invest a  dollar in quality. Florida State is currently ranked No. 212 in financial resources among all the 270 ranked national universities. Since 1999, Florida State has dropped 46 places in financial resources compared to its peers, while at the same time achieving its highest quality ratings in 15 years.

Here's a photo of Barron, then dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, hanging out with the Nittany Lion.

Here’s a photo of Barron, then dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, hanging out with the Nittany Lion.

On fundraising: When Barron was hired as Florida State’s president in 2010, the initial news story from the St. Petersburg Times made clear that fundraising was one of his charges. (I can’t link to it, sorry; it’s no longer online.) According to the story, trustees had spoken of Barron raising $1 billion for the university’s endowment, which was then $446.8 million. Barron compared Florida State’s development staff to those at the two previous universities at which he’d worked—Texas and Penn State. Texas, he said, had one employee “on the road” raising money for every 3,800 alumni. Penn State, he said, had one employee for every 5,200 alumni. At Florida State, the ratio was one for every 14,000 alumni. Barron told the paper, “We’re not even saying hello.”

Barron did initiate a $1 billion capital campaign, which is about half over.

On changing conferences: At the height of rumors in 2012 that Florida State was considering a move from the ACC to the Big 12, several news outlets obtained an email written by Barron that listed the pros and cons of switching conferences. The list of pros was four short items and focused on improved competition in football and higher revenue. The seven cons fleshed out the fine print of the financial situation, including that Florida State didn’t necessarily have the money it would need to pay to leave the ACC, and included a caution that a switch would not serve the university’s academic mission:

The faculty are adamantly opposed to joining a league that is academically weaker—and in fact, many of them resent the fact that a 2% ($2.4M) deficit in the athletics budget receives so much attention from concerned Seminoles, but the loss of 25% of the academic budget ($105M) gets none when it is the most critical concern of this University in terms of its successful future.

On Bobby Bowden: Given the continuing sentiment that Penn State should honor Joe Paterno in some fashion, I found this piece in the Palm Beach Post particularly interesting: Three years after Bobby Bowden coached his last game, when Barron’s predecessor, T.K. Wetherell, had refused to renew his contract, Barron invited Bowden back to campus to be honored. Bowden’s departure had been contentious—he was so hurt he hadn’t set foot on the campus where he coached for 34 years—but Barron asked him to return to campus for a Bobby Bowden weekend. The culmination: Bowden planted the spear in the field before kickoff. From the story:

“It was important to me all along to make that call,” Barron said. “I knew there needed to be a little bit of space for a lot of different reasons.”

Barron also knew the tribute was necessary because “(so) much of the psyche of the university is tied to this great coach who put football on the map and helped made FSU a household name.”

On academic freedom: Before Barron arrived at Florida State, the economics department received a $1.5 million grant from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation to hire professors. The arrangement became controversial when it was revealed that contract allowed representatives of the foundation, bankrolled by a billionaire libertarian activist, to screen and approve hires. Barron eventually asked the faculty senate to review the contract; a committee found that the arrangement was improper, and the university changed guidelines to prevent future such incidents.

The Tampa Bay Times editorialized:

FSU leaders—including Barron, who joined the university after the contract was signed—did not initially acknowledge that the university had all but sold influence in the economics department’s operation for a paltry sum. But as more details became public in May, Barron requested the faculty review, and on Friday he ordered various campus leaders to take its recommendations to heart. It’s the right direction, even if it took two months to get there.

On a personal note: In 2011, Tallahassee Magazine did a joint profile of Barron and his wife, Molly, that painted a picture of Barron as a undergrad with long hair who favored “cutoff shorts and sandals” and included this fabulous story of how they met:

The Barrons say the tone for their relationship was set on their very first date. Eric had asked Molly to go on a hike in the mountains—but they had to start early so he could be back in town for a seminar.

“We get in my pickup truck and we’re driving up the mountain and it’s like 6:30 and I yawned,” he recalled. “She said, ‘Am I boring you already?’”

Molly continued the story: “But then he promised me I’d never be bored—and I never have been.”

“That was part of my marriage proposal,” said Eric Barron. “I said, ‘There’s no telling where we’ll be, what we’ll be doing, but I promise you, you won’t be bored.’”

I think I’ll stop there. I didn’t find any anecdotes about Barron that topped that.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

February 16, 2014 at 10:57 pm 5 comments

The Penn Stater Daily — Jan. 22, 2014

Remembering Paterno: Joe Paterno died two years ago today, and there’s a lot of material to read and reflect on whether you’re heading to tonight’s vigil in his memory at the Suzanne Pohland Paterno Catholic Student Faith Center (if you’re going, dress warm!) or not. Matt Brown ’10 of Sports on Earth writes a smart piece about Paterno’s complicated legacy and the dividing line that is College Avenue. Charlie Thompson of The Patriot-News delves into the behind-the-scenes editing of Paterno’s Wikipedia page. Kevin Horne of Onward State reprints Paterno’s 1983 speech to the Board of Trustees. Have you found other good pieces? Let us know in the comments.

In Memory of Sandy Hook: Phil Clark ’87 had always intended, someday, to establish a scholarship. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School accelerated his plans. The founder of Claris Construction, which is based in Newtown, Conn., site of the school, has established the Penn State Sandy Hook Scholarship to help graduates of Newtown’s high school enroll in Penn State’s College of Engineering. Clark helped to assess the site of the former elementary school, which was razed, and is consulting  with the architectural firm designing the new school.

Penn State’s connection to the Baseball Hall of Fame: That’s John Montgomery Ward, who didn’t let being thrown out of Penn State for helping a friend steal chickens derail his baseball career. This story by Onward State’s Jessica Tully details his life from a Penn State star who’s sometimes credited with inventing the curve ball—that’s erroneous, but he apparently did throw the first curve in Penn State history, on the Old Main lawn—to someone who was honored for helping to lead a revolt against baseball’s board of directors. After his death, his role in reforming labor practices got him elected to the Hall.

Hear a Genius pianist: Jeremy Denk, a classical pianist who received a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship, better known as a “genius grant,” is performing as part of the Center for the Performing Arts’ series at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Eisenhower Auditorium. But you can also catch him at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, at a special “coffeehouse” performance at the Hintz Family Alumni Center. He’ll play a few pieces, and he’ll converse with guests, too. For more info, click on this news release and scroll down to the bottom.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

January 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm Leave a comment

One More Update from the BOT

You can read most of our updates from Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting on this post from Friday evening, but here are a few more for your Monday morning:

—Presidential search update: Board chair Keith Masser ’73 opened the meeting with an update on the presidential search process, which was rebooted in November. He said simply that the process is continuing and that “we are on pace to name the next president of Penn State in the months ahead.”

There is a deadline: President Rod Erickson is retiring at the end of June. Or, as he put it two Saturdays ago when a reporter at the news conference introducing James Franklin asked Erickson if he had any update on the search: “My last day of work is June 30, 2014.”

Click here for a piece by Charlie Thompson of The Patriot-News that gets a little more in-depth on the search.

—A new Joe Paterno statue: Joel Myers ‘61, ’63g, ’71g, chair of the outreach committee, didn’t have a committee meeting to report about Friday; the outreach committee meeting was off the agenda (along with the student life committee meeting) to allow enough time for a retreat with governance consultant Holly Gregory. Myers did ask if he could read a brief statement. The topic: that it is time to unite the various factions of Penn Staters.

That’s a theme Myers has sounded periodically, but this time, he quoted Abraham Lincoln (“A house divided cannot stand …”) and proposed that “now is the time” for there to be a statue of Fred Lewis Pattee and Joe Paterno to be erected in front of the library. The Centre Daily Times has full coverage with a story and text of the speech.

—BOT nominations continuing: There’s still plenty of time—until Feb. 26—for alumni to submit their nominations for one of the three alumni seats up for election in 2014. (If you’re a member of the Penn State Alumni Association or have donated to the university within the past two years, you should have received a nomination form in your email. If you’re an alum and would like to request one, click here.)

Mike Dawson ’02 of the Centre Daily Times checked in with the three incumbents—Myers, Jesse Arnelle ’55, ’62g, and Marianne Ellis Alexander ’62—during the meeting to ask whether they are running for re-election; all said they hadn’t decided yet. None of the alumni trustees who were on the board in November 2011 have been re-elected.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

January 20, 2014 at 9:07 am Leave a comment

With Bold Talk and Home-State Pride, James Franklin Takes Over at Penn State

There were a few lines that James Franklin had almost certainly rehearsed.

“I’m a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart.”

“It’s about people. I’m a relationships guy.”

“We now have two daughters and 95 new sons.”

But what might have been the most memorable moment of the press conference announcing Franklin as Penn State’s 16th head football coach on Saturday afternoon appeared entirely unscripted. Wrapping up an answer near the end of the presser, Franklin was emphasizing how much this particular job meant to him. “Best day of my life,” he said.

DSC_0573_Franklin

There was a pause of two or three seconds before Franklin, noticing his two young daughters, Shola and Addy, in front of the podium, added, “I’m sorry. Third best day of my life.”

There was laughter among the overflow crowd in the Beaver Stadium press room. Having spent the better part of an hour convincing the assembled media and a national TV audience that he had accepted his “dream job,” the 41-year-old Franklin had earned a pass. It was easy to believe that, the births of his daughters aside, Franklin had indeed landed what he sees as the job of a lifetime.

Flanked by university president Rod Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner, Franklin met the media Saturday after signing a six-year contract worth up to $4.5 million each year. For Nittany Lion fans, the hiring of one of the nation’s most coveted young coaches confirms Penn State as one of the top coaching jobs in college football. “Our program requires a very special kind of leader,” Erickson said. “We ran a careful and deliberate search process, and I believe we have found the right person to lead our program.”

Franklin is a Langhorne, Pa., native who grew up believing “everybody in this state is a Penn State fan.” He first stepped on campus in junior high, when he attended a summer football camp. “I thought I was good enough to play for Penn State,” he said. “I was not.” But he was good enough to be a record-setting quarterback at East Stroudsburg, a career that set him on the path of a 15-year assistant coach, with stops at seven different schools and a year with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.

He got a chance to lead a program in 2011, taking over a historically weak Vanderbilt program and quickly making the Commodores competitive in the talent-loaded SEC. Vandy, with its academic prowess and Cinderella appeal, became one of college football’s feel-good stories, but there were some things the job couldn’t offer—namely, a 107,000-seat stadium, and national recruiting appeal, all close to where he grew up.

“I’m excited to be home,” he said.

Franklin inherits a program that, while still facing NCAA sanctions, finds itself on stable ground after the two-year tenure of Bill O’Brien. Franklin and O’Brien coached together at Maryland in the early 2000s (former Penn State linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden, then the Terps head coach, actually hired Franklin in College Park), and Franklin said he expects O’Brien would be a “great resource” as he settles into the job his former colleague just left.

Among the noteworthy ground Franklin covered Saturday:

* When asked how long he planned to be at Penn State, Franklin made no promises but said all the right things. “I’d still be at Vanderbilt right now if this wasn’t such an amazing opportunity. We plan on being here a very long time. This is my dream job. This is where I want to be.” He also called himself a “college guy,” consciously or not signaling a key difference between himself and O’Brien, whose NFL ambitions were never a secret.

* Franklin, renowned for his recruiting prowess, was blunt in describing his philosophy for drawing talent: “We are going to dominate the state.” He promised a strong regional and even national recruiting approach, but emphasized that the wealth of in-state talent meant his priority would be keeping Pennsylvania’s best players in Pennsylvania.

* Franklin was asked about the ongoing investigation into a rape case at Vanderbilt involving a number of his former players; while a Nashville DA has cleared Franklin of any wrongdoing regarding his knowledge of the alleged assaults, some in the media have criticized his hiring in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. “It couldn’t have been a more thorough interview process,” he said. “It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever been through personally—as the father of two daughters—and professionally. What I think came out of all this, through their background checks and all the information they got, was that we were honest and up-front, we made decisions quickly, did everything we possibly could to respect the situation, and also worked hard and supported the young men that we have in our program.”

Added Joyner, “This was maybe the most thorough vetting process of any search of any position at this university. We utilized multiple third-party and independent sources … It couldn’t have been a more thorough vetting process with our committee, and with people that asked hard questions and got honest and true answers. My belief, without a doubt, is that James Franklin is a man of extremely high character.”

* Franklin wasn’t put off by the fact that Erickson is scheduled to retire and be replaced by an as-yet-unknown president within the next six months. “That was a concern,” he said,” but what I was sold on, and what I believe, is that Penn State has a plan and a purpose, and a certain type of individual will be attracted to this institution. That’s what made me very comfortable.”

* The status of his Penn State staff, including the possibility of retaining longtime defensive line coach Larry Johnson, remains up in the air. “I am fiercely loyal as a person, fiercely loyal to the people I’ve worked with,” Franklin said. “But I’m also going to have some discussions with people who are here.”

* Franklin joked—well, we think he was joking—about how far he’d go in embracing the off-field responsibilities of the job. That included a pledge not to turn down any speaking engagements, and even to “blow up balloons at kids’ birthday party.”

* Asked about the transition from Vandy’s 40,000-seat stadium to a home field that holds well over double that, Franklin made a promise that doubled as a challenge to his new fan base: “That stadium will be sold out every… single… game from here on out.”

Ryan Jones, senior editor

January 12, 2014 at 12:09 am 4 comments

As Bill O’Brien Might Say, “Next Man Up.”

One year ago, almost to the day, dozens of media members sat in the Beaver Stadium press room listening to Bill O’Brien explain—and, to an extent, defend—his interest in NFL jobs before finally reconfirming his commitment to Penn State. As I wrote at the time, O’Brien “hasn’t—and at this point, clearly won’t—put an end date on that commitment.”

DSC_0013

On Thursday, Athletic Director Dave Joyner ’72, ’76g sat in front of a slightly smaller group of media to confirm that O’Brien was resigning his post to take the same position with the NFL’s Houston Texans. You can read the university’s official statement on the search for O’Brien’s replacement here, but here’s the takeaway:

* A national search for O’Brien’s successor is already underway. The six-person search committee is led by Joyner and includes VP of administration Tom Poole ’84g, associate AD Charmelle Green, recreation, park and tourism management professor and faculty athletics representative Linda Caldwell, men’s soccer coach Bob Warming, and Football Letterman’s Club director Wally Richardson ’96, ’03g.

* Long-time defensive line coach Larry Johnson, now the only holdover from Joe Paterno’s staff, is leading the program on an interim basis.

* Emphasizing that he hopes for a quick resolution to the search, Joyner said the “atmosphere of this search is very different, much more attractive” than the drawn-out process that led to O’Brien’s hiring two years ago. “We were very deliberate then,” Joyner said. “We’re going to be deliberate this time, but much faster.”

* Joyner said Penn State has already been contacted by potential candidates or their representatives. “We have a tremendous amount of interest in this position,” he said, adding that there would be no official comment on potential candidates during the search process.

* Of O’Brien, Joyner was consistently complimentary. “I want to emphasize how happy we are for Coach O’Brien and this tremendous opportunity for him, and that we’re extremely grateful for the past two years,” Joyner said. He said he believed O’Brien came to Penn State with plans for a longer tenure—”We always worked on the future … things we could do to improve our program”—and that the coach “always had Penn State’s bests interests at heart.” Ultimately, Joyner said that while he believed Penn State made “every effort to make it attractive for him to stay … I believe he was presented with an opportunity that, for his family and his future, he just could not pass up.”

* Asked if he was hoping to find a coach who was likely to stick around beyond two seasons, Joyner said, “I think that’ll be very important. Consistency is important.”

* Joyner said that while a Penn State connection isn’t a prerequisite, it’s a factor the search committee would consider.

Here’s to a quick, thorough, and successful search.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

January 2, 2014 at 6:27 pm 1 comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Nov. 20, 2013

Paterno movie update: Jessica Tully of Onward State checked in with David McKenna, the screenwriter for a planned biopic on Joe Paterno based on the book by Joe Posnanski. There’s still no timeline. There’s still no casting update, although Al Pacino is still apparently slated to play Paterno. McKenna said he had admired Paterno growing up, since he’d watched Penn State’s 48-14 victory over Pitt in 1981. Said McKenna: “I vividly remember asking myself ‘Who’s that little Italian guy with the glasses on the sideline?’ Well, let’s just say I was hooked after that.”

Married on campus: It shouldn’t surprise anyone that when Buzzfeed decided to do a list of “insanely beautiful colleges you can get married at,” Penn State made the list. I don’t think the photos do this place justice, though. Old Main is a great venue, but I can’t believe Buzzfeed couldn’t find wedding party photos from the gardens outside my office at the Hintz Family Alumni Center or at the Arboretum. Photos like those might have put Penn State higher than No. 13.

Income gap widening: Economists in the College of Agricultural Sciences released a report Tuesday that’s sobering for residents of Pennsylvania: the state lost 16,000 jobs from 2001 to 2011, and the economists also found what Ted Alter, professor of agricultural, environmental and regional economics, called “major shift in employment from higher to lower wage industries.” Ted Fuller, development economist in the college’s Center for Economic and Community Development, noted that “this loss of high-middle wage jobs–through recent cyclical ups and downs alike–probably does not bode well for the Pennsylvania economy.” You can read the Penn State news release by clicking here or check out the full report at this link.

Trumka celebrates Lincoln: And if you’ve not yet digested enough coverage of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, which was Tuesday, you should check this out: Richard Trumka ’71, president of the AFL-CIO,  participated in a project by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and PBS in which celebrities recited the Gettysburg Address. His reading clocks in at 1 minute, 51 seconds. It’s a genius speech, so it’s always worth your time to listen.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

November 20, 2013 at 11:26 am Leave a comment

Emeritus Trustees Become Point of Contention

It’s certainly not news that Penn State’s Board of Trustees has some divisions:

—In the past two alumni trustee elections, candidates upset with the board’s handling of the Sandusky scandal—and particularly its treatment of Joe Paterno—won election by large margins.

—Friday’s election for vice chair won’t be a formality, because there are two candidates, Ryan McCombie ’70 and Paul Silvis ’06g. Although it’s not unprecedented to have an actual vote, it is rare. (And there were three candidates until Linda Brodsky Strumpf ’69 withdrew Thursday morning.)

—Five of the trustees have joined the Paterno family, former Penn State football coaches and players, and Penn State faculty in a lawsuit against the NCAA.

But for a vivid example of the division—and the emotion involved—look no further than the governance and long-range planning committee’s discussion Thursday afternoon at Penn State Fayette about whether to recommend two former trustees for emeritus status.

The background: Emeritus status is granted to former trustees who have “served as a board member for 12 years or more with distinction,” according to the board’s standing orders (click here for a PDF; scroll down to page 11 for the specific criteria considered). Making clear the role of emeritus trustees and deciding upon more specific criteria has come up in discussions about governance reform, but the issue hasn’t really been discussed deeply.

On Thursday afternoon, for the first time since the scandal, the governance committee considered recommending former trustees for emeritus status. Keith Eckel, the new chair of the committee, put forth the names of the two alumni trustees who left the board in June 2012: David Jones ’54, who decided to not run for reelection, and Anne Riley ’64, ’75g, who was defeated. Both had been on the board since 1997.

Immediately, alumni trustee Anthony Lubrano ’82 spoke up.

“These two may well be qualified to receive that status from this board,” he said. “But I think we would be sending the wrong message to our community if we granted them the status today when we haven’t yet decided what status we give to Joe Paterno, who gave 61 years of exemplary service.”

Barbara Doran ’75, who just joined the board after becoming the top vote-getter in the most recent alumni trustee election, immediately backed him up. “I think it’s a legitimate issue because of where the alumni are,” she said. “One issue is how Joe Paterno has been treated. I know the board has said at some point in time it’s going to honor Joe Paterno, but that time is not here yet. So I think this timing on this … the time now is not ideal in terms of alumni feeling about this.”

The first voice for the opposing view was another alumni trustee, Marianne Ellis Alexander ’62, who has been on the board since 2005: “I think it would be unfair to hold these two people hostage. … We’re talking about status for people who have served on the Board of Trustees; this is a very narrow subject that we’re talking about. In the case of these individuals, they’ve done exactly what I think would qualify them to be an emeritus trustee. Quite frankly, I think we need their help out there … for example, as ambassadors for the good of the university. I think they should be recognized. This is a separate issue from the former issue.”

The discussion continued in the same vein for about 15 minutes and included a heated exchange between Lubrano and board chair Keith Masser ’73 over the procedure used in May to vote on the governance reforms. Lubrano accused Masser of going back on his pledge to vote on each individual reform separately; Masser said he had provided an opportunity to do so via a procedural move to save time and added, angrily, “I fulfilled my word!”

Another new trustee, business and industry appointee Richard Dandrea ’77, said he agreed with Alexander. “There’s no reason to obstruct the recognition of these individuals because, Anthony, of your desire to see the recognition move at a different pace than apparently the board has decided to go.”

Also weighing in was Bill Oldsey ’76, another newly elected alumni trustee, who is not a member of the committee but was sitting at the end of the meeting table. It’s not unusual for trustees from other committees to sit in on discussions, but they generally sit in the area provided for the public to observe, as McCombie was doing during this discussion.

Oldsey said he doesn’t know Jones, but that he knows Riley well. “Anne will never stop being an ambassador for Penn State, whether she’s granted emeritus status or not,” he said. “She’s one of the truest Penn Staters. I may not agree with every decision she’s made, but she’s an extraordinary Penn Stater. I don’t think you can take that out of Anne Riley. It’s just part of her DNA.

“Many times in business, you have to hold off on one decision to leverage what is perhaps a more important decision. This is the way things happen sometimes. The phrase holding hostage, I’m not sure is completely apropos here. I do think some of us have an extraordinarily good radar right now for how the alumni base will react to certain things. You may believe it or choose not to believe it. That’s up to you. But the alumni base may not respond particularly well. We have to decide as a board whether we care or not.”

After a little more back-and-forth about the qualifications for and duties of  an emeritus trustee, Oldsey’s statement prompted Jim Broadhurst ’65, the former committee chair, to weigh in on behalf of Riley:

“I hate to do this,” he began. “But you can’t know her that well in that you don’t know how important this distinction is to her. I have never, in my many years on the board, ever seen anyone up for this status that was so anticipating that occurring in her life.” Broadhurst turned to address Oldsey directly. “You ought to go talk to her about it, see how important it is to her. It’s extremely important.”

Broadhurst talked a bit about how the role of an emeritus trustee has changed; they are less involved than they were in the past, and the board is still considering exactly what the emeritus trustees’ role will be in the future. He talked about what Riley has done for Penn State, how she teaches classes and has been helping oversee the restoration of the Land Grant Frescos in Old Main. He pointed out that in the past, trustees qualified for emeritus status received it within months—at the meeting after their final board meeting—but that the current contenders had been on hold for a year.

“I think to hold this up would be a travesty,” he concluded. “As much respect as I have for Joe and everyone else … I feel sorry for the alumni that would be disappointed in this action, I really do.”

The committee then voted on whether to recommend Riley to be named emerita trustee. Lubrano voted no loudly and said he would like his vote “absolutely recorded.” Doran voted no as well, but she did so silently, by raising her hand, and Tom Poole ’84g, the board’s secretary, made sure to clarify what the final vote was. It was 5-2.

The committee next considered Jones, and while the discussion was shorter and less passionate, it followed the same basic framework. The vote was the same, too: 5-2 in favor of recommending emeritus status for Jones. Among its other business Friday—including approving a tuition increase and electing a vice chair—the full board will vote on the recommendations.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

July 12, 2013 at 7:03 am 17 comments

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