New Leadership for the Board of Trustees

January 20, 2012 at 10:34 pm 7 comments

Karen Peetz took over as chair of the Board of Trustees.

Generally, the January meeting of Penn State’s Board of Trustees is a pretty straightforward affair. There’s a lot of routine business to take care of—choosing meeting dates for the next calendar year, authorizing the president to confer degrees at commencement—and even the more notable items, such as the board electing its officers, tend to be only minimally noteworthy.

Not so Friday, at the board’s first public meeting since the Sandusky scandal.

The meeting was moved from its usual location—the boardroom on the ground floor of the Nittany Lion Inn—to the larger ballroom on the first floor. We in the media got hand-stamped at the door, assuring us entrée into the post-meeting news conference. Milling around outside the inn were alumni with signs supporting “due process for Joe Paterno,” and milling around inside was a larger-than-usual number of police officers.

And although the day started slowly—at one point, the Twitter hashtag #PSUBOT was agog over the revelation that Penn State had purchased 20,000 pounds of peanut butter in anticipation of a rise in peanut prices, interesting but hardly the key news everyone was waiting for—by the end, there was plenty of news to digest:

Steve Garban ’59 stepped down as the chair of the board, and John Surma ’76—who made the announcement that Paterno and president Graham Spanier were gone—stepped down as the vice chair. (Garban and Surma will remain on the board; they simply gave up leadership positions.)

—The board elected new leaders. The chair is Karen Peetz ’77, vice chairman and CEO of financial markets and treasury services of the Bank of New York Mellon, who was elected by the board as a representative of business and industry in 2010.  The vice chair is Keith Masser ’73, chairman and CEO of Sterman Masser Inc., a family farm, and who was elected by agricultural societies in 2008. Each ran unopposed.

The rest of executive committee, which was to be chosen at this meeting, has been delayed until March.

—Peetz said she will focus on three themes: change, reform, and transparency.

—At a news conference after the meeting, Peetz said Penn State intends to reach out to the alleged victims to pay their medical and counseling bills related to abuse.

—Peetz also said that the trustees will meet with Penn State faculty, staff, and alumni, a decision made after the town hall meetings with President Rodney Erickson made clear that the community wanted to hear directly from trustees. The outreach will start Tuesday at the Faculty Senate.

—Gov. Tom Corbett, an ex-officio member of the board, abstained on what is generally a routine vote—the trustees approve the Committee on Finance and Physical Plant’s construction recommendations. This time, there was one vote on 14 items, which included buying land for a 200-car parking lot at Penn State Abington and awarding final contracts for the renovations of Moore and Cedar Buildings, for installing air conditioning in Rec Hall, and for the much-awaited Pegula Ice Arena.

Corbett objected, saying that he was unable to determine how much state funding was used in the projects and suggesting that with the state having budget problems and the economy still struggling, this is not the time for all such projects. (He said he didn’t have a problem with the hockey arena, funded by a donation from Kim and Terry Pegula ’73.)

Another trustee made a motion to vote individually on each of the projects, but Corbett said that wouldn’t make any difference; he still didn’t have enough information to vote on each, and he would abstain. So that motion was withdrawn, and the construction projects passed. Seven trustees, however, voted no.

—At the news conference, Corbett said Penn State needs to decide whether it will be a public entity—and thus subject to the state’s Right to Know Laws—or a private entity. (As a state-related institution, Penn State is exempt from some.)

—The board also voted to adopt five initial recommendations from the special investigations task force chaired by Louis Freeh: strengthening University policies for programs involving minors, prompt reporting of incidents of abuse and sexual misconduct, compliance with the Clery Act’s training and reporting requirements, administrative reforms, and security at athletic facilities.

As you can see, that’s a lot to digest. We’ll have more coverage of these issues in upcoming issues of the magazine.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

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In Which We Take to the Airwaves Joe Paterno in Serious Condition

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kgilbert78  |  January 21, 2012 at 8:45 am

    While I have great sympathy for the victims in this case, I’m rather surprised the Penn State has stated that they will pay for the counseling and medical bills for the victims. In many cases, as far as we know, such as Victim 1, the only association with Penn State seems to be the fact that the alleged perpetrator once worked for Penn State. This action sets a dangerous precedent, where the university is taking full responsibility for actions they may well not be responsible for. Does this now mean that Penn State will pay compensation for any crime occurring on campus? Or any crime committed by an employee or alumnus? Penn State should pay of course where they are responsible. But not otherwise.

    I also found Corbett’s comments to be disingenuous. If he wants Penn State to be a public institution, he should be prepared to have the Commonwealth pay for it. When I was in school in 1978, the Commonwealth’s contribution to Penn State was around 50% of Penn State’s budget. Now it is far less and he wanted (and wants) to cut more. He seems to want public control without paying for it–or he wants Penn State to be private so that he doesn’t have to pay for it. Either way this response is not that of a true leader.

  • 2. Steve Hall  |  January 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    The change in leadership is meaningless – the system is broken, and selecting a new chair from the current membership just means drawing from the same group that has messed up so much over the last few months. The entire group needs to leave the board (maybe keep a few in advisory roles) and a new board needs to be selected with the specific goal of rewriting the rules. The board currently exercises no real oversight, even though that is its entire job description – time for some real change.

  • 3. Lanny Saunders  |  January 22, 2012 at 12:27 am

    There has been no change in leadership. No honest explanation of Board inaction for six months. No real transparency. No character. No sunshine. No sense. They are in way over their heads, and the Peter Principle has been proven.

    No Confidence!

  • 4. Anonymous  |  January 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Peanut butter and parking lots? The Board needs to wake up and do some meaningful work. I know it is a non-paying job but they chose to run and to serve. They imply that Paterno should have done more, but so should they. They had information as well; former trustee Gov. Corbett knew of the allegations as Atty. General.
    Maybe time to change Board as the football coaching staff has been changed.

  • 5. Anonymous  |  January 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Nothings changed…nothings different. The Board would like to sweep all this scandal under the rug. The Board thinks it did enough by hanging Joe Paterno, and hopes people will move on and forget about this. Has anyone been prosecuted? Where are all the guilty people involved? The must be hundreds of them as this animal Sandusky has been doing this for DECADES! What about Sandusky’s wife? She HAD to know what was going on. Many, many more people did, too, but instead of going after them, the Board went after a senile old man with no clue on this type of thing. And now, he’s gone. The story wasn’t supposed to end like this.

  • 6. Diana Luellen  |  January 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Anne Riley’s speech was a disgrace. She used her father’s death in Joe Paterno’s arms for sympathy. She showed no compassion to JoePa when she voted for his firing as coach. Instead, she should have either voted no or abstained. What a coward she is as were the rest of the trustees who previously touted themselves as friends of the Paterno’s. Placing the blame elsewhere instead of standing up and admitting they made some terrible mistakes is not a Board I want representing my beloved PSU. It’s time to vote out the current Board and bring in new members who will bring transparency and honesty to the table.

  • 7. Bob Jenkins  |  January 23, 2012 at 12:15 am

    The one percenters from BNY Mellon, US Steel and the New York Times (which always seem to have an exclusive inside story on the BOT meetings for some reason….) do not represent the students, faculty or alumni. They can’t even understand that doing the right thing now simply means their resignations, rather than spending a million dollars on a PR firm to spin their no due process process, or their trumped up after the decision investigations by so-called outside investigators. Come on you guys, just do the right thing and get out now. You killed Joe Paterno. For God’s sake isn’t that enough for your puffed up egos.

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