Another Alumni Election Sweep for PS4RS
For the second year in a row, candidates endorsed by Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship swept the three seats in the Board of Trustees alumni election. When the new trustees take their seats in July, none of the nine alumni trustees who were on the board when the Sandusky scandal broke—and when Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier were fired—will remain.
Alice Pope ’79, ’83g, ’86g, a psychology professor at St. John’s University, finished first with 10,025 votes; Albert Lord ’67, former chairman and CEO of Sallie Mae, finished second with 9,516 votes; and Robert Jubelirer ’59, ’62g, an attorney and former state senator, finished third with 8,101 votes.
“We do have nine new people in three years, and I think that should put to rest the idea that the concerned alumni are a vocal minority,” Pope said. “The Alumni Association survey showed that the alumni who are concerned about the leadership of this university are not a minority. So now it’s really time for us to be taken seriously and to work together in a very genuine way. It is over the time to be saying ‘us’ against ‘them.’ That time is gone. We must do whatever it takes to bridge that divide.”
A divide does exist. Jubelirer, who said he was involved in about a dozen elections as a politician, said this campaign was both the most difficult—because of its length and structure, and the importance of social media—and the nastiest in which he was involved. “People can say whatever they want,” he said. “My whole personal life was laid out on Facebook. … There’s a handful of people who made it that way. I want to make that clear. Not everybody’s nasty.”
Board turnover isn’t limited to the alumni trustees. Two new gubernatorial trustees, Cliff Benson ’71 and Todd Rucci ’92, were confirmed by the state legislature April 9 and took their seats at this meeting, replacing Ira Lubert ’73 and Al Clemens ’59. Business and industry trustees Linda Brodsky Strumpf ’69 and Jim Broadhurst ’65 stepped down; they’ll be replaced by Daniel Mead ’75, ’77g, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, and Walter Rakowich ’79, retired CEO of Prologis.
Pope, Jubelirer, and Lord (who did not attend the meeting) were endorsed by PS4RS, which has criticized the board for its firing of Paterno and Spanier, its acceptance of the Freeh report, which they say led to NCAA sanctions, and the board’s unwillingness to keep pushing to find the truth of what happened in the Sandusky scandal. But Pope and Jubelirer say they also bring additional qualities to the board.
Jubelirer says he has “relationships in Harrisburg that I think will benefit the university,” and Pope, as a college professor, says her understanding of higher education is particularly important on a board that has far more trustees with corporate backgrounds than higher ed backgrounds.
“The business of education is not like other business,” she said. “The products are not the same. Yes, corporate models have some place in universities, but the educational mission has to be put first and foremost.”
The PS4RS candidates won their seats handily. The fourth-place finisher, Ted Sebastianelli ’68, was 2,400 votes behind. The only incumbent running, Joel Myers ’61, ’63g, ’71g, finished seventh with 3,511 votes. The other two incumbents, Marianne Ellis Alexander ’62 and Jesse Arnelle ’55, ’62g, decided to not run for re-election. Arnelle served as a trustee for 45 years; he was first elected in 1969.
Overall, voter turnout was down, with 29,791 ballots cast. More than 33,000 alumni voted in 2013, which was in turn down from more than 37,500 in 2012, immediately after the Sandusky scandal.
Other notes from Friday’s meeting:
—Agricultural trustees Keith Masser ’73 and Betsy Huber were re-elected, but trustee M. Abraham Harpster ’94 said that a candidate had complained about voting irregularities in one county. He added that election officials had not been able to confirm this, and so the election results stood.
—The resolution to add a permanent student trustee—selected by students—was withdrawn because governance chair Keith Eckel said Gov. Tom Corbett will appoint a student to replace Peter Khoury ’12, who is graduating with a master’s degree this weekend, before the board votes on tuition in July. Should the appointment not materialize, the board will call a special meeting to assure there is a student on the board for the tuition vote. The possibility of a permanent seat for a student will be considered with the rest of the governance reforms, not separately.
—Speaking of governance reform, Eckel said that consultant Holly Gregory has a sense of the issues that trustees want to address after Wednesday’s small-group sessions of the governance committee, which were not open to the public. He hopes to present the full board with recommendations at its July meeting, making it possible to vote on the package at the September meeting. This will likely involve an interim committee meeting between now and then, and trustees have said that will be an open meeting.
—In his final presentation to the board, retiring president Rod Erickson gave updated application numbers: As of May 5, Penn State had received more than 81,000 undergraduate applications, 14 percent higher than 2013 and 5 percent higher than 2012. Including grad school, law school, and medical school applications, Penn State has received more than 120,000 applications, 600 more than in 2013 and 1,200 more than in 2012.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Entry filed under: Board of Trustees. Tags: Al Clemens, Albert Lord, Alice Pope, Cliff Benson, Ira Lubert, Jim Broadhurst, Joel Myers, Linda Brodsky Strumpf, Marianne Ellis Alexander, Robert Jubelirer, Todd Rucci.