J. Andrew Weidman, Ballot Position No. 16
Reinsel Kuntz Lesher LLP
Read Weidman’s official bio and position statement here (PDF download).
1. What should Penn State be looking for in its next president?
Obviously, we need the next President of Penn State to be a strong and dynamic leader, someone with excellent communication skills, who is committed and competent, and has the courage to do the right thing—always. This person should have a national reputation, but not necessarily an academic background. A primary task this individual must undertake immediately is the restoration of the great name of Pennsylvania State University. We need to make sure that what makes Penn State great—producing graduates ready to make a contribution to society—remains our primary focus. Recruiters believe that Penn State grads are among the most prepared and well-rounded academically—that is something we need to be proud of and continue to emphasize. We gain our greatest academic reputation in the REAL WORLD through the achievements of our alumni, and I want our next President to share that belief. Obviously, a President of a major public university must be extremely skilled at fundraising, and this will be more critical than ever in the future. But revenue is only one piece of the financial puzzle. While the Commonwealth continues to provide a decreasing percentage of our budget, we need a President who is also willing to focus on cost containment—we need to make sure that a great Penn State education remains affordable for high school students across Pennsylvania. The hiring of the president is one of the most important responsibilities of the Board of Trustees—we need to make sure we get it right.
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.
I do not know anyone on the Penn State Board of Trustees. If I did, they would have been hearing from me often over the past two years. While I continue to be disappointed in their actions (and inactions) related to the Sandusky scandal, part of the problem is the structure. I believe the Board is too large. I also believe the Board acted more as an Advisory Board. I have served on numerous boards over the past 25 years, and my experience is that when your board is too large, little that is meaningful takes place at the board meetings. We need to review not only the number of board members, but how they are selected or elected.
To be an effective board member, you need to be passionate about the organization you are serving. Having watched the board more or less stand on the sidelines during the Sandusky scandal has been extremely frustrating. This is our university—and our BOT failed us in our greatest time of need. I would like to see the BOT work more transparently, and have a more robust understanding of what is going on at the university. I believe there should be a requirement that at least 2-3 of the members of the Executive Committee be from the pool of Alumni Trustees. I have been a member of the Executive Committees on the majority of the boards on which I have served, and in my experience, that’s where the heavy lifting gets done.
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?
I would define the role of an alumni trustee as those people most responsible for protecting our image and our brand. The reason: our fellow Penn Staters, as well as future graduates, are relying on us to do so. The Alumni members of the board should be extremely open with alumni, soliciting their input in addition to keeping them informed regarding Board decisions. I believe the current BOT unfortunately is largely a collection of political appointees, and appears to behave more like an Advisory Board than a Governing Board. People need to take this job seriously. I feel the BOT has a greater responsibility to its alumni than it has exhibited over the past couple of years. As mentioned above, I believe it is critical to have Alumni representation on the Executive Committee. Alumni Trustees need to embrace the importance of our university’s sports teams in fostering school spirit. Although it’s difficult for some people to admit, PSU football had a lot to do with building our great University brand. It continues to be the glue that bonds us together, years after our graduation. We take great pride not only in the success of our sports teams, but in the way they represent Penn State—“Success with Honor” is so much more than a slogan—it defines PSU!