Robert P. McKinnon, Ballot Position No. 29
GALEWILL Design Inc.
Hastings on Hudson, N.Y.
Read McKinnon’s official bio and position statement here (PDF download).
1. What should Penn State be looking for in its next president?
In eulogizing his brother Bobby, Senator Ted Kennedy said “The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.” Similarly, our future must be placed in the hands of someone who can blend vision, reason and perhaps most importantly courage in their personal commitment to the ideals of our great university. A person who will stand up for her, defend her and chart a course forward that we can all get behind and believe in. A person who reflects the best of us, who understands what Penn State is really all about and who can with pride and persuasion tell the world the true story of our school. To paraphrase a more famous portion of Kennedy’s speech, we need “a good and decent person, who sees wrong and tries to right it, sees suffering and tries to heal it, sees conflict and tries to end it.”
2. What changes or reforms should the Board of Trustees consider to help the university progress after the events of 2011 and 2012? Please explain why—or, if you don’t think reform is needed, please explain why not.
Real change starts from within. A recent survey of Penn State alumni showed only 16% having a high degree of trust for the Board of Trustees. And within that same survey, when asked to give examples of “wrong actions taken” over the last two years, it became clear why. I was proud to have Joe Paterno contribute to my book, Actions Speak Loudest. In his essay, he quoted Martin Luther King Jr.—“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Many will argue whether he himself met this standard. But at least he reflected back upon the situation, with humility and humanity, and acknowledged, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I would have done more.” In order to regain our trust, the Board of Trustees must reflect back and with the benefit of their hindsight, tell us what more they should have done. We should give them the space to do this, without fear of using their own honesty against them. In order to move forward, we need them to first look back. There has been much discussion about Board Reform, and I agree with many of the Auditor Generals’ recommendations. But before getting into fixes, we need to own our problems. We are an institution of higher education and there are lessons still to be learned.
3. How do you define the role of an alumni trustee, and how would that inform the way you would approach your term on the board?
An alumni trustee has a special role on our Board. Although they are small in number, they represent the largest single constituency to which the University and the Board are beholden. And because they are elected by their peers, I believe they have a duty to act as their eyes, ears and voice within the Board of Trustees. If given the honor of representing my fellow alumni, my own approach would directly reflect this. As your… Eyes: I want you to see what I’m seeing. I believe in increasing the openness and transparency with which we operate. A more informed and engaged alumni base is a better one. In addition, I also want to make sure we are looking at these issues through the lens of “How will this affect our current and future alumni?” Ears: I want to hear what you think about the issues impacting our University. We need active listeners on our board, who are tuned into the issues, open to differing perspectives and always listening out for what’s in the best interest of our University and alumni Voice: Finally, our alumni need more advocates on our Board, whose voice brings weight, substance and value to all ongoing debates. We don’t need board members who either quietly go along to get along or those that confuse raising their voice with raising good points. We need skilled communicators who can move people to do the right thing for our alumni, students and the entire Penn State community.