Posts tagged ‘Alumni Council’

Alumni Council Updated on Presidential Search

Nan Crouter, chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, addressed Alumni Council on Friday.

Nan Crouter, chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, addressed Alumni Council on Friday.

Toward the end of Friday’s Alumni Council meeting, members heard an update from Nan Crouter, chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, which has begun identifying potential candidates to be Penn State’s next president.

This is not an opportunity that’s going to come along very often.

Searches for college presidents are extremely secretive. That’s because the candidates for these positions are generally in other high-profile positions, and they don’t want to be identified. Explained Crouter, who’s also dean of the College of Health and Human Development, “They get very skittish if there’s any whiff they might be interested.”

But the search is in an early phase, and with the university and the executive search firm it hired, Isaacson Miller, soliciting input from faculty, staff, students, and alumni, Crouter explained the procedure to council members and asked what they were looking for in the university’s next president. (Among the answers from council members: someone who can unite the Penn State community, someone who shares Penn State’s values, someone who can make the commonwealth campuses feel more a part of the entire university.)

The process involves two committees. Crouter leads the Search and Screen Committee, which  includes  administrators, faculty, students, and alumni, and which is charged with identifying a short list of candidates. That list then goes to the Board of Trustees’ Presidential Selection Council, which is chaired by Karen Bretherick Peetz ’77 and includes 12 trustees and Peter Tombros ’64, ’68g, chair of the current capital campaign. The latter committee will choose the president.

“We want to make sure,” Crouter said, “that no one gets on that short list that we don’t feel really good about.”

Crouter was asked about the two-committee system; the questioner was concerned about the possibility for confusion or conflict. She explained that the system had been used in previous presidential searches, and she added that the two committees have already met together. She said that four trustees will attend meetings of the search and screen committee, and that four members of the search and screen committee will attend meetings of the trustees committee.

She was one of three officials to speak with Alumni Council on Friday; president Rod Erickson and Board of Trustees chair Keith Masser ’73 also addressed the group. Each person spoke for about 10 minutes and took questions for another 10.

Other notes from the session:

Board of Trustees chair Keith Masser answered questions from Alumni Council.

Board of Trustees chair Keith Masser answered questions from Alumni Council.

—Masser updated Alumni Council on governance reforms that were presented by Jim Broadhurst ’65, chair of the governance and long-range planning committee, at the March trustees meeting and will be voted on at the May 3 meeting at University Park. (For background on the reforms, click here for a previous blog post.)

Among the items: removing the governor and president as voting members, increasing the quorum to a simple majority, term limits for trustees, a longer waiting period before trustees can become university employees and vice versa, and provisions for removing a trustee because of a conflict of interest or other conduct.

The last point prompted a question from council member Liz Bligan ’91, ’98g, who asked Masser about the perception that the final two proposed changes were designed to prevent specific people from joining the board or from staying on the board. She didn’t use their names, but she was referring to Jay Paterno ’91 and current trustee Anthony Lubrano ’82.

Masser answered that the reforms were consistent with best practices as defined by the Association of Governing Boards, one of the higher education groups with which the trustees had consulted. He added that at the May meeting, “a solid debate will come up.” Masser also said that this might not be the end of changes in how the university is governed. “Our self examination is far from complete,” he said. “To be clear, our entire board recognizes the need for continuous improvement.”

—President Erickson thanked the Alumni Association’s Grassroots Network for helping to mitigate potential cuts in Penn State’s state appropriation. Two years ago, Gov. Tom Corbett’s initial proposal was a 50 percent cut in state funding. Last year, it was 30 percent. (Neither proposal was adopted.) But this year, Corbett’s initial proposal was flat funding. “I never thought that would be my wildest good dream,” Erickson said, “but that’s been the case.”

Erickson did agree to a minimal tuition increase. That amount won’t be settled upon until the July Board of Trustees meeting.

—Erickson said his biggest concern is the prospect of budget cuts mandated by the federal sequestration. The full effects aren’t yet being seen, but Erickson said the best guess is that the university will lose between $40 and $50 million in federal research funding. Additional effects: lower Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements at Hershey Medical Center and cuts in student aid, particularly work-study programs.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

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April 20, 2013 at 9:56 am 1 comment

Peetz, Erickson Address Alumni Council Again

Karen Bretherick Peetz ’77 didn’t waste any time. She didn’t beat around the bush. She stood up to speak Friday afternoon at Alumni Council, told members to “ask the questions you want to ask,” and began addressing the issues by saying: “Subject One. The Freeh Report.”

Which, of course, is one of the issues that has divided alumni the most in the past year.

The chair of the Board of Trustees hasn’t traditionally addressed Alumni Council. But this is the second straight session in which Peetz has given a report and taken questions from council members. Both times, she’s attended with President Rod Erickson, and both times, she’s said that doing so is an important part of the board’s outreach to alumni.

On Friday afternoon, she wanted to make a key point: That she understands that the recommendation to examine Penn State’s culture has been “one of the big sticking points” for some Penn Staters. But she added that the recommendation, controversial as it has been, is actually a good thing.

“I can recognize the discomfort it causes,” Peetz said. “We’ve all loved the culture. But let’s consider culture in the abstract first, and let me pose some questions. Do you, in your business, examine why your organization consistently succeeds in certain areas and maybe falls short in others? Do you ask yourself why you do or don’t retain certain types of employees? Or why everyone seemingly stays at work until midnight … or, alternatively, why you have to tread cautiously at 5 p.m. so you don’t get trampled by the mass exodus?

“These are the cultural issues of an organization. It’s the way an organization acts, and in my experience, the best of organizations have as an underpinning of the culture and their practice a process of continual improvement, which includes an examination of that very culture. As a world class institution, we need to continue to do this.”

Subject No. 2 for Peetz was whether the board understood that the Freeh report would be used by the NCAA as a justification for sanctions. She said she would not get into the NCAA’s rationale—“that’s unproductive at best, divisive at worst”—and encouraged anyone who doesn’t understand the decision to read the reasons Erickson gave for the decision and additional explanation from Gene Marsh, an NCAA expert who was retained by the university. The information is available on the Board of Trustees website in a transcript of the Aug. 16 meeting; you can get a PDF of the transcript by clicking here. Erickson’s remarks start on page 25; Marsh’s start on page 16.

She reminded everyone that “we were faced with catastrophe” and also that Erickson has called the decision the hardest he’s had to make in his entire career. “And he did not make the decision alone,” she added. “He consulted with the executive committee of the board.”

Peetz finished her prepared remarks by asking for two things from council members: their “understanding and tolerance” as the board and the university continue dealing with fallout from the scandal, and their “visible support” in continuing to “speak out for Penn State” as leaders in their communities.

When Peetz and Erickson finished speaking, there was time for a few questions. Greg Malone ’95, president of the Connecticut Valley Chapter, immediately asked the other question that has divided alumni: how and whether Joe Paterno will be recognized. He noted that the university has missed opportunities for a video tribute and for a moment of silence and added, “I believe this posture has been a real sticking point for alumni who are otherwise eager to move on.”

Erickson fielded this one.

“We’re hearing from a lot of individuals, a lot of alumni, on both sides of this issue,” he said. “And that suggests to me that there’s still a lot of divergence of opinion about what to do. I personally think that we need some more time, time for reflection. I personally think to do something right now will push us apart rather than push us together.”

Peetz added that any such commemoration would be university-driven, not trustees-driven.

Council member Liz Bligan ’91, ’98g asked another question that’s been on the minds of many alumni: “When will the Board of Trustees fight back, defend Penn State, demand due process? You have not done that, and we are anxious for you to do that.”

Peetz noted that Tim Curley ’76, ’78g and Gary Schultz ’71, ’75g will have due process; their trial is scheduled for January. “So, frankly, after all that is said and done, then we’ll have to say, ‘OK, what does that inform us about the situation, and what do we do at that point?’” Peetz said. “Who knows what will be at that point? I’m sorry I can’t give you a more definitive answer, but the answer is: There’s more to come.”

Other notes from the session:

The Blue White Vision Council, a group that will be facilitated by former University of Illinois president Stan Ikenberry and chaired by Peetz herself, is ready to begin meeting. The council, which includes faculty and students as well as trustees, will broadly examine Penn State’s mission and goals.

—Much of Erickson’s talk centered on Penn State’s enrollment. The Sandusky scandal did not have an effect on the current freshman class; Erickson said the current freshman class has about 7,700 students. But applications for next year are down between 10 and 35 percent so far, although Erickson also noted that “paid accepts” are holding pace with last year, and he assured council members that the quality of students hasn’t waned.

Some of the decline may be from the scandal, he said. But he thinks bigger changes in higher education—particularly students’ climbing debt loads and the lack of economic growth in Pennsylvania; possibly the rising application fees, which may be causing students to apply to fewer schools–might be additional causes. “We’re in a totally different era,” he said.

—Erickson also touched on fundraising. The Campaign for Penn State Students passed the $1.65 billion mark a few weeks ago, he said, and there are still 20 months remaining for the capital campaign to reach its $2 billion goal.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

October 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm 706 comments

A Visit From Bill O’Brien

Right after football practice last evening, and right before he headed up to Rec Hall for the basketball Hoops Madness event, head football coach Bill O’Brien paid a visit to the Penn State Alumni Council, which is having its twice-yearly meeting this week.

Our executive director always tries to have a special guest as a treat for the Council members, and O’Brien was obviously a good choice—they gave him a standing ovation when he was introduced and another when he was finished speaking 15 minutes later.

Alumni Council members seemed pretty happy to see Bill O’Brien.

To say that O’Brien is a popular speaker wherever he goes would be an understatement. Some fans and media may have been a bit skeptical when O’Brien was hired, but by now I don’t think there’s anyone in Nittany Nation who hasn’t fallen in love with this guy.

A sampling of his comments to the alumni volunteers last night:

“We have played well on the field, and all the credit goes to the players. We have a very unique team. We have a team that went through some obviously unprecedented situations…. These guys that stuck with us are true Penn Staters. They’re what Penn State is all about.

“Nothing at all against the guys that left, but these guys that committed to this university, to this coaching staff, and to this football team mean a lot to me. More than anything they mean a lot to this whole university, this whole community.

“It’s led by a fantastic senior class. You’ve heard a lot about Michael Mauti and Jordan Hill and Matt McGloin, but there’s about 25 of those guys. Guys like J.R. Refice that you’ve never heard of, probably, who are fantastic kids who are gonna graduate with Penn State degrees and go on to be huge successes in life. And, really, at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.

“And that’s why it’s been so fun to be around this team, because they have great chemistry, they practice hard, they go to class, they’re on time for meetings. I believe it’s a team that Coach Paterno would be very proud of.”

Tina Hay, editor

October 26, 2012 at 8:17 am Leave a comment

Peetz, Erickson Answer Questions from Alumni Council

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…)

April 20, 2012 at 9:12 pm 11 comments


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