Posts tagged ‘Ryan McCombie’

Three Questions for the Trustee Candidates

Back in 2012, when a record 86 alumni were running for a seat on the Penn State Board of Trustees in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, we introduced a project designed to help voters sort through all those candidates. We patterned it after the voters’ guides that the League of Women Voters pioneered, and we called it “Three Questions for the Candidates.”

We’ve continued the project every year since then, even as the number of candidates has declined: 39 alumni running for a seat in 2013 and 31 last year. This year saw an even more dramatic drop, and in fact the race is essentially uncontested: Only three candidates are running for the three available alumni-elected seats.

We talked about it in-house, and decided that even with three unopposed candidates, the project is still worth doing. Alumni still need to know where their trustees, or potential trustees, stand on the issues. So we invited Anthony Lubrano, Ryan McCombie, and Robert Tribeck to answer this year’s three questions.

Tribeck sent us his answers, and you’ll see them on our site. McCombie responded that he wouldn’t be in a position to participate: “I am on travel until Easter Sunday with only my IPad to compose on and little thoughtful time,” he replied. “I don’t believe I will be able to frame these questions worthy of your publication and editor’s eye satisfactorily in time. I’m afraid you are going to do this without me this year. Sorry.” Lubrano didn’t respond at all.

Still, we’ve assembled the site, including not only Tribeck’s responses but also links to all three candidates’ bios and official position statements on the trustees’ website. Information on election dates and eligibility is on the site as well. We hope that you’ll check it out—and that you’ll vote.

Tina Hay, editor

April 3, 2015 at 11:31 am Leave a comment

Board of Trustees Wrap-Up: A New Wrinkle to Public Comment

Robert Jubelirer speaks during Friday's public comment session.

Robert Jubelirer speaks during Friday’s public comment session.

For the past year, since the Board of Trustees added a public comment session to its agenda, the drill has been the same. Speakers spoke. Trustees listened. When the speakers criticized the board for its handling of the Sandusky scandal, some portion of the audience clapped or cheered.

Friday’s public comment session, however, was different.

After the second speaker—a tandem of two faculty members, Maria Truglio and Brian Curran, who said that although Penn State had suspended the $100/month surcharge for employees who didn’t get a biometric screening and fill out an online health survey, they were still concerned about what happens next—board chair Keith Masser ’73 said that David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business, would respond to the comments.

This caused a stir. Not once since the board added a public comment agenda item—up to 10 speakers, each allotted three minutes—had trustees done anything but sit and listen. Twice, however, during Friday’s meeting, Masser directed someone to respond to the comments—Gray to the professors, and governance chair Keith Eckel to former state Sen. Robert Jubelirer ’59, ’62g, who was practically shouting by the end of his three minutes, during which he accused the board of not being transparent.

Masser had indicated he was considering doing this during Thursday’s meeting of the Outreach, Development, and Community Relations Committee. (more…)

September 20, 2013 at 9:42 pm 2 comments

Emeritus Trustees Become Point of Contention

It’s certainly not news that Penn State’s Board of Trustees has some divisions:

—In the past two alumni trustee elections, candidates upset with the board’s handling of the Sandusky scandal—and particularly its treatment of Joe Paterno—won election by large margins.

—Friday’s election for vice chair won’t be a formality, because there are two candidates, Ryan McCombie ’70 and Paul Silvis ’06g. Although it’s not unprecedented to have an actual vote, it is rare. (And there were three candidates until Linda Brodsky Strumpf ’69 withdrew Thursday morning.)

—Five of the trustees have joined the Paterno family, former Penn State football coaches and players, and Penn State faculty in a lawsuit against the NCAA.

But for a vivid example of the division—and the emotion involved—look no further than the governance and long-range planning committee’s discussion Thursday afternoon at Penn State Fayette about whether to recommend two former trustees for emeritus status.

The background: Emeritus status is granted to former trustees who have “served as a board member for 12 years or more with distinction,” according to the board’s standing orders (click here for a PDF; scroll down to page 11 for the specific criteria considered). Making clear the role of emeritus trustees and deciding upon more specific criteria has come up in discussions about governance reform, but the issue hasn’t really been discussed deeply.

On Thursday afternoon, for the first time since the scandal, the governance committee considered recommending former trustees for emeritus status. Keith Eckel, the new chair of the committee, put forth the names of the two alumni trustees who left the board in June 2012: David Jones ’54, who decided to not run for reelection, and Anne Riley ’64, ’75g, who was defeated. Both had been on the board since 1997.

Immediately, alumni trustee Anthony Lubrano ’82 spoke up.

“These two may well be qualified to receive that status from this board,” he said. “But I think we would be sending the wrong message to our community if we granted them the status today when we haven’t yet decided what status we give to Joe Paterno, who gave 61 years of exemplary service.”

Barbara Doran ’75, who just joined the board after becoming the top vote-getter in the most recent alumni trustee election, immediately backed him up. “I think it’s a legitimate issue because of where the alumni are,” she said. “One issue is how Joe Paterno has been treated. I know the board has said at some point in time it’s going to honor Joe Paterno, but that time is not here yet. So I think this timing on this … the time now is not ideal in terms of alumni feeling about this.”

The first voice for the opposing view was another alumni trustee, Marianne Ellis Alexander ’62, who has been on the board since 2005: “I think it would be unfair to hold these two people hostage. … We’re talking about status for people who have served on the Board of Trustees; this is a very narrow subject that we’re talking about. In the case of these individuals, they’ve done exactly what I think would qualify them to be an emeritus trustee. Quite frankly, I think we need their help out there … for example, as ambassadors for the good of the university. I think they should be recognized. This is a separate issue from the former issue.”

The discussion continued in the same vein for about 15 minutes and included a heated exchange between Lubrano and board chair Keith Masser ’73 over the procedure used in May to vote on the governance reforms. Lubrano accused Masser of going back on his pledge to vote on each individual reform separately; Masser said he had provided an opportunity to do so via a procedural move to save time and added, angrily, “I fulfilled my word!”

Another new trustee, business and industry appointee Richard Dandrea ’77, said he agreed with Alexander. “There’s no reason to obstruct the recognition of these individuals because, Anthony, of your desire to see the recognition move at a different pace than apparently the board has decided to go.”

Also weighing in was Bill Oldsey ’76, another newly elected alumni trustee, who is not a member of the committee but was sitting at the end of the meeting table. It’s not unusual for trustees from other committees to sit in on discussions, but they generally sit in the area provided for the public to observe, as McCombie was doing during this discussion.

Oldsey said he doesn’t know Jones, but that he knows Riley well. “Anne will never stop being an ambassador for Penn State, whether she’s granted emeritus status or not,” he said. “She’s one of the truest Penn Staters. I may not agree with every decision she’s made, but she’s an extraordinary Penn Stater. I don’t think you can take that out of Anne Riley. It’s just part of her DNA.

“Many times in business, you have to hold off on one decision to leverage what is perhaps a more important decision. This is the way things happen sometimes. The phrase holding hostage, I’m not sure is completely apropos here. I do think some of us have an extraordinarily good radar right now for how the alumni base will react to certain things. You may believe it or choose not to believe it. That’s up to you. But the alumni base may not respond particularly well. We have to decide as a board whether we care or not.”

After a little more back-and-forth about the qualifications for and duties of  an emeritus trustee, Oldsey’s statement prompted Jim Broadhurst ’65, the former committee chair, to weigh in on behalf of Riley:

“I hate to do this,” he began. “But you can’t know her that well in that you don’t know how important this distinction is to her. I have never, in my many years on the board, ever seen anyone up for this status that was so anticipating that occurring in her life.” Broadhurst turned to address Oldsey directly. “You ought to go talk to her about it, see how important it is to her. It’s extremely important.”

Broadhurst talked a bit about how the role of an emeritus trustee has changed; they are less involved than they were in the past, and the board is still considering exactly what the emeritus trustees’ role will be in the future. He talked about what Riley has done for Penn State, how she teaches classes and has been helping oversee the restoration of the Land Grant Frescos in Old Main. He pointed out that in the past, trustees qualified for emeritus status received it within months—at the meeting after their final board meeting—but that the current contenders had been on hold for a year.

“I think to hold this up would be a travesty,” he concluded. “As much respect as I have for Joe and everyone else … I feel sorry for the alumni that would be disappointed in this action, I really do.”

The committee then voted on whether to recommend Riley to be named emerita trustee. Lubrano voted no loudly and said he would like his vote “absolutely recorded.” Doran voted no as well, but she did so silently, by raising her hand, and Tom Poole ’84g, the board’s secretary, made sure to clarify what the final vote was. It was 5-2.

The committee next considered Jones, and while the discussion was shorter and less passionate, it followed the same basic framework. The vote was the same, too: 5-2 in favor of recommending emeritus status for Jones. Among its other business Friday—including approving a tuition increase and electing a vice chair—the full board will vote on the recommendations.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

July 12, 2013 at 7:03 am 17 comments

Honoring Lt. Michael Murphy, Medal of Honor Winner

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.

Murphy, left, is Penn State’s only recipient of the Medal of Honor.

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

September 13, 2012 at 10:43 am 3 comments

Taliaferro, Lubrano, and McCombie Win Trustees Election

Anthony Lubrano speaks with alumni at the Meet the Candidates event held before the Blue White game. Photo by our editor, Tina Hay.

Exactly six months after the grand jury presentment was leaked—it was late afternoon, Nov. 4, when the charges made against Jerry Sandusky ’66, ’71g became known—the most contested Board of Trustees election in Penn State’s history ended. Adam Taliaferro ’05, Anthony Lubrano ’82, and Ryan McCombie ’70 will begin their three-year terms in July.

Everything about the election was unprecedented—the 86 candidates, the 37,579 votes cast, the hiring of KMPG to audit the results, which were announced in Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting. The university assigned PINs, allowing alumni to vote electronically, to 197,517 people, meaning that 19 percent of the eligible voters cast ballots.

Taliaferro, a lawyer and New Jersey selectman who’s best known as the football player who was paralyzed in a game against Ohio State, but beat the odds and learned to walk again, received 15,629 votes. Lubrano, a businessman who donated money for the baseball stadium, Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, received 10,096. McCombie, a businessman and retired Navy SEAL, received 4,806 votes.

Karen Peetz ’77, chair of the board, said she doesn’t anticipate any problems integrating the new alumni trustees, although emotions have run high since the Sandusky scandal, especially over Joe Paterno. She said Penn State is “extremely fortunate” that so many alums cared enough about the university to run.

The agricultural societies that elect six trustees also voted this week, with incumbent Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, and Donald Cotner ’71, president of an egg company, winning with 112 and 100 votes, respectively. Current business and industry trustees Kenneth Frazier ’75 and Edward Hintz ’59, whose terms expired in 2012, were re-elected to the board; business trustees are voted on by the board members. Gov. Tom Corbett has not yet decided on his appointees; the terms of two of his six appointees expire this year, as well.

Ryan McCombie meets alumni at an Alumni Association event in April. This photo, too, by Tina Hay.

During the meeting, Peetz noted that the board is considering changes in its structure, citing the reorganization of its standing committees in March. James Broadhurst ’65, who is chairing the governance and long-range planning committee, said the board is looking into term limits and how to better use the experience of the emeriti trustees, among other suggestions.

At this point, one of the spectators in the room asked if the board were taking questions from the public. Told that was not the case, he then said he just wanted to make a statement—that the trustees consider making it possible for students and faculty to interact directly with them.

But no aspect of the trustees has received more attention recently than the alumni vote; the Associated Press reported that it drew more attention that the Pennsylvania primary election. Eighteen other candidates received more than 1,000 votes:

Barbara L. Doran ’75: 4,040

Mark S. Connolly ’84g: 2,967

Ben Novak ’65, ’99g: 2,957

Vincent J. Tedesco Jr. ’74: 2,385

Anne Riley ’64, ’75g: 1,883

O. Richard Bundy ’93, ’96g: 1,864

John W. Diercks ’63, ’67g, ’75g: 1,761

Jayne E. Miller ’76: 1,653

Jonathan L. Wesner ’65: 1,530

George T. Henning Jr. ’63: 1,503

Joanne C. DiRinaldo ’78: 1,455

Thomas J. Sharbaugh ’73: 1,410

Darlene R. Baker ’80: 1,212

Patty Marrero ’88: 1,172

Matthew J. Lisk ’95:   1,060

Amy L. Williams ’80: 1,048

Marta Pepe Forney ’00: 1,047

William F. Oldsey ’76: 1,007

Three more alumni seats will come open next year. I’m sure I’m not alone in suspecting next year’s election will be hotly contested, too.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

May 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm 2 comments

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