Posts tagged ‘Rodney Erickson’
For the members of the 2011 Senior Class Gift Committee, the process was just like every other year, planning and fundraising for months—until they sat down to lunch with the family of the late Lt. Michael P. Murphy.
They spent the afternoon reminiscing about Murphy’s time at Penn State: how he always got good grades, loved going to the Rathskeller, and was once chased by a squirrel on the Henderson Mall. They also talked about how Murphy ’98 was humble, how even as a student, he always put others ahead of himself.
He did the same thing as a Navy SEAL. He was killed in Afghanistan during a reconnaissance mission in 2005, but before he died, he exposed himself to the enemy to give his men time to get to safety. (Read more about his heroic efforts here.) He was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration.
Murphy’s family opened up to the committee about their son after learning the forthcoming class gift, a Veterans Plaza, would be constructed near Old Main to honor Penn State veterans and their son, Penn State’s only Medal of Honor recipient. To many veterans and community members, a military memorial on Penn State’s campus was long overdue.
“Having the opportunity to sit down with his family and talk about Michael and his time at Penn State and what the gift would mean to his family—it was very touching,” says Geoff Halberstadt ’11, gift development chair for the Senior Class Gift Committee. “It was really rewarding to see how meaningful this gift was for not only their family, but also other Penn State families. The whole process was just remarkable.”
The committee raised more than $250,000 from students, alumni, and people in the State College community, the highest amount in class gift history.
“Seeing how many students felt a connection to this gift and were willing to give so much to make it one of the better gifts—that made it one of the most successful gifts in the history of the program,” says Ben Witt ’11, overall chairman for the committee.
The committee got creative with fundraising for the plaza when they hosted the Warrior Games in 2011 with the Penn State Veterans Organization. The event was based on “The Murph,” which was the workout routine Murphy practiced: a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats, topped off with another one-mile run. “Half Murph” and “Mini Murph” versions of the workout were available for students to participate. Witt says it was one of their most successful events.
After many months of hard work, construction for the plaza, located off the northeast corner of Old Main, is almost complete. It will feature a circular walkway with a stone wall surrounding a representation of a warrior’s shield. With its central location on campus, Witt said the plaza is a convenient spot for students to relax, study or meet with friends.
From 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday on the Old Main patio, visitors, alumni, and students can learn more about the plaza and pay respects Murphy. Among the speakers at the dedication ceremony will be President Rodney Erickson, trustee and former Navy SEAL Capt. Ryan McCombie ’70, university archivist Jackie Esposito; and Lt. Murphy’s father, Dan Murphy. Seating is limited, but all are welcome.
Erika Spicer, intern
Of all the answers former FBI director Louis Freeh gave today after the release of his group’s 267-page report on the Sandusky scandal, this might have been the most blunt. The report’s findings center on a Penn State leadership culture devoid of accountability at the highest level, in which a handful of men—Graham Spanier, Tim Curley ’76, ’78g, Gary Schultz ’71, ’75g, and Joe Paterno—failed in their responsibility to expose a serial pedophile. Their motivation, in Freeh’s words, was “avoiding the consequences of bad publicity.”
The Board of Trustees is cited as well for a failure to press for answers and hold the university’s administration accountable. The picture presented is clear: Jerry Sandusky ’66, ’71g was the monster in all this, but he was enabled, directly or not, by many others who had the power to stop him.
On Thursday, as throughout the scandal, much of the attention focused on Paterno’s accountability. On this, Freeh was careful but direct. “We have a great deal of respect for Mr. Paterno, and condolences for his family on their loss. He’s a person with a great legacy, terrific legacy… he, as someone once said, made perhaps the worst mistake of his life. We’re not singling him out. We’re putting him in a category of three other people who were major leaders of Penn State. He was also a major leader of Penn State. The facts are the facts… There’s a whole bunch of evidence here. We’re saying he was a major part of an active attempt to conceal… I regret that. But what my report says is what the evidence and the facts show. We laid that out as fairly and clearly as we can.”
The reactions from elsewhere in the Penn State community followed later in the day. Late Thursday morning, the Paterno family released a statement that defended its patriarch. “The idea that any sane, responsible adult would knowingly cover up for a child predator is impossible to accept,” it reads. “The far more realistic conclusion is that many people didn’t fully understand what was happening and underestimated or misinterpreted events.”
The family statement goes on: “Joe Paterno wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes and he regretted them. He is still the only leader to step forward and say that with the benefit of hindsight he wished he had done more. To think, however, that he would have protected Jerry Sandusky to avoid bad publicity is simply not realistic.”
Penn State president Rod Erickson and the university trustees met the media in Scranton in mid-afternoon. Board chair Karen Peetz ’77 and Ken Frazier ’75, who led the board’s investigative panel, both emphasized the trustees’ collective accountability in the scandal. Said Frazier, “We, the Penn State Board of Trustees, failed to provide proper oversight for the university’s operations.” Peetz echoed that statement, but said no trustees planned to resign, focusing on the acknowledgment of culpability as the first step in moving forward.
Both Peetz and Frazier addressed Paterno, commending his accomplishments and his massive positive impact on the university. But Peetz also acknowledged the “clarity that comes out of that report, that shows 61 years of excellent service to the university is now marred.”
The Board’s official statement on the Freeh Report, including details of action already taken and future plans, can be found here.
The public response to the report was immediate and harsh, much of it damning of Paterno and demanding NCAA sanctions against the Penn State football program. In Oregon, Nike announced that Paterno’s name would no longer adorn the childcare center at its headquarters. Phil Knight, the Nike founder and longtime Paterno family friend, said in a statement, “According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences. I missed that Joe missed it, and I am extremely saddened on this day. My love for Joe and his family remains.”
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Describing something as “normal” isn’t always a good thing.
But on the heels of two special, emotional issues — the Jan./Feb. coverage of the Sandusky scandal and the March/April tribute to Joe Paterno — our staff will tell you that the latest Penn Stater is a welcome return to business as usual.
Though that’s not to say the May/June 2012 issue, which is already hitting mailboxes, is boring: There’s an in-depth Q&A with new Penn State president Rodney Erickson, who talks candidly about the challenges he’s faced since November; a feature about a breakthrough in leukemia research, discovered by two Penn State scientists; and a fun collection of concert memories submitted by our readers.
Plus, you’ll find all the regular stories you may have missed these past few months.
Let us know when you receive your copy. And as always, let us know what you think.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
Six months after the Sandusky scandal broke, there are still questions. Lots of them. And, as Penn State president Rodney Erickson told Alumni Council, “There may be some questions we’ll never have answers for.”
That said, Erickson and Karen Peetz, chair of the Board of Trustees, answered as many as they could Friday afternoon from members of Alumni Council. They touched on everything from the relationship between the trustees and the president (something they agreed is not well enough understood) to what Peetz called “the super-positive of the enduring spirit of Penn Staters.” And they fielded several questions about Joe Paterno, including one that’s been asked at just about every opportunity: When and how will Penn State honor its late football coach?
Peetz said, as she has previously, that Penn State must wait until the Freeh report, more formally known as the findings of the trustees’ special investigations task force, before moving forward on plans to honor Paterno. She called the upcoming report “the ultimate in transparency.”
Former FBI director Louis Freeh was hired by the trustees just weeks after the scandal and charged with looking into all of the issues surrounding the scandal since. His findings—which Peetz said will not be edited by the board—are expected in August or September.
The task force does not have subpoena power. But Peetz said she spoke with Freeh’s investigators for three hours, that more than 200 people have been interviewed, and that Freeh is working with the state attorney general. “These people are not kidding around,” she said. “This is the FBI incarnate, and I don’t think anyone’s lying, I’ll tell you that.” (more…)
It was a unique day at Penn State, indeed.
Wednesday was the annual Old Main Open House, a day to celebrate Penn State’s history. The event — which also featured free food, arts and crafts and guided tours of Old Main — was hosted by the Lion Ambassadors. When I stopped by at 3 p.m., there were about 75 visitors mulling around the area, taking in the partly sunny April afternoon.
As visitors waited for their guided tours — highlighted by a trip up to the Bell Tower for a scenic view of campus and downtown — they munched on free popcorn and frozen ices.
At 4, President Rodney Erickson opened his doors for a one-hour office hour session. Students could stop by to talk about anything — or just get to know the president.
Visitors also participated in tug-of-war, cider scrap, and push ball scrap — better known as scrap games. It’s OK if you don’t know what scrap game are. I needed a brush up on the term, as well. Between 1885-1916, freshmen and sophomores would duke it out for bragging rights in a series of competitive games. Among the visitors who seemed to enjoy the revival of the competitions was the Nittany Lion, who apparently participated in a few games of tug-of-war before I arrived.
This year’s Open House featured some new surprises — notably Boomer, the soon-to-be 6-year-old mini mule who hung out by the HUB and was impersonating Old Coaly, Penn State’s first mascot. She and her handler made the 3-hour, 45-minute drive from Butler County the morning of the event.
After I said hello to “Old Coaly,” a tour group walked by. What appeared to be the younger sibling of a prospective student turned to his father and asked, “Do they always have a mule hanging around here?”
Emily Kaplan, intern
In keeping with President Rod Erickson’s pledge for more open communication in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, Penn State launched a new website: openness.psu.edu.
The site provides information on legal and public relations fees related to the scandal and the investigations, salary contracts for top administrators, and the impact on recruiting, admissions, and fundraising. More than 20 questions are answered—many with exact figures—in the FAQ section.
The university will update the site regularly.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
Rodney Erickson promised “openness and communication.” He promised them twice, in fact, during his opening statement Wednesday night at a town hall meeting with alumni in Pittsburgh. He called those values his “guiding principles and watchwords,” ones he learned growing up on a farm in Wisconsin, and he said they’ve served him well during his career in higher education, the past 34 years at Penn State and the past nine weeks as the University’s president.
“I know there’s a perception that we at Penn State have not always done as well as we could to be open, to respond to questions and to be as transparent as possible with all of our constituencies—alumni, faculty, staff, our students, and the public and the media who report on our great university,” he said. “We will do better in the future based on those guiding principles of openness and communication that I just stated. I’m here this evening to begin to demonstrate these values.”
He promised, also, to listen to whatever the more than 600 alumni who attended the town hall had to say about the Sandusky scandal and its aftermath. (And anything else.) Those alumni took Erickson at his word. They were polite, but they didn’t hold back.
The first speaker introduced herself by saying that she’d brought her baby daughter and son home from the hospital in Penn State sleepers “because (more…)
Chima Okoli didn’t see the fight. He was graduating. For the second time.
This was Saturday, when a post-practice altercation between starting quarterback Matt McGloin and receiver Curtis Drake ended with McGloin suffering a concussion and apparent seizure after his head hit the concrete floor of the Nittany Lion locker room. Even under normal circumstances, this would’ve been big news for a high-profile, bowl-bound team. But under current circumstances? The sizable media scrum around McGloin during Monday’s pre-bowl media day told the story as well as anything.
The fight was the story Monday, a figurative black eye (McGloin’s faced appeared unscathed, for what that’s worth) on a program that doesn’t need any further blemishes. All involved, including McGloin and interim coach Tom Bradley ’78, ’86g, downplayed the incident Monday, with Bradley referring to “an activity in the locker room” that differed little from countless other instances of competitive young men losing their cool. That didn’t stop reporters (more…)
The most dramatic moment happened almost an hour into Tuesday night’s Town Hall Forum, in which President Rodney Erickson and seven other top University officials took questions from Penn State students.
Students had never before had such an opportunity—not in “the history of the whole university,” student government president TJ Bard stressed in his introduction—and the ones who came took it seriously. They pressed for assurances that the Sandusky scandal would not affect their internship or job prospects, wondered why no undergraduate students were named to the special investigations task force appointed by the Board of Trustees, and asked whether Penn State’s commitment to transparency would include reassessing its exemption from Pennsylvania’s open-records law.
Then a woman stood up and said she not only had a question, but that she wanted to tell the eight administrators on the stage how she felt: “I don’t know if all of you feel this way, but Jerry Sandusky is part of the Penn State family. And I feel shame.”
The room fell silent, broken by one loud clap of approval. Then the woman added, softly, “What do I do with these feelings?”
More silence. And suddenly, the forum took on a different feel. It wasn’t about who may have done what or how things should have been handled or what the University is doing to recover from this, but about the emotions that Penn Staters have been coping with over the past 27 days.
The officials rallied. Hank Foley ’82g, vice president for research and dean of the graduate school didn’t even wait for the microphone before he said, “Acknowledge them.” Once he got the mic, he added, “We have to acknowledge them, recognize how how you feel. And admittedly, a lot of us feel some of the same feelings. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like that. At all. And there’s nothing wrong with expressing that, either. I think it’s completely understandable.” (more…)
No one seemed to notice the man in the suit milling around at the front of the room. There’s a lot of activity in Sam Richards’ classroom before class officially starts, and between the “what do you still want to talk about” feed scrolling down the right-hand side of the big screen, the reminder on the other half of the screen that Quizno’s was donating a percentage of its Tuesday night profits to The Haiti Project, and the reggae music blasting from the speakers, it’s hard to keep track of everything.
And then Richards started his Tuesday SOC 119 class—the second given over to the Sandusky scandal and its ramifications—with a moment of silence “for all that has happened, and in particular for the people whose voices are very often silenced.” Immediately afterward, he introduced a guest—“Dr. Rodney Erickson, who’s going to say a few words …”
That grabbed the students’ attention. And even before (more…)