By Susan Snyder
Inquirer Staff Writer
For the second year in a row, candidates endorsed by an alumni group dissatisfied with Pennsylvania State University’s handling of the child sexual abuse scandal swept the elections for three open seats on the board of trustees.
Their selection almost certainly means that the voice calling for late football coach Joe Paterno to be honored and the university to be exonerated will grow louder in the coming months, especially with the heft of a major financial figure, a former senator and a professor.
With Friday’s results, all nine of the alumni trustees who served on the board when former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was indicted in November 2011 have been replaced, though a number of them had sought re-election.
“The alumni want change,” said Alice W. Pope, an associate professor of psychology at St. John’s University in Brooklyn, who came in first with more than 10,000 votes. “I’m going to work as hard as I can to bridge the divide between the old and the new trustees so we can work together to fix the mistakes of the past and move Penn State into a glorious future.”
Pope was hugged and high-fived as she stood in the audience at the board of trustees meeting on Friday where the results were announcement. More than 29,000 alumni voted over the last couple months.
Al Lord, former chairman and CEO of student lender Sallie Mae, finished second with more than 9,500 votes. Former Sen. Robert Jubelirer, who also attended the meeting, won the third seat with over 8,000 votes.
“There’s so much to accomplish. We have a very divided Penn State community that needs a lot of healing,” Jubelirer said. “There’s never going to be a healing until we get to the truth…the whole issue of transparency, what took place, the lack of due process.”
Jubelirer said he has been in a dozen elections during his life, but never experienced one as “nasty” as this one.
“My whole personal life was laid out on Facebook,” he said.
All three were endorsed by Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a group that formed in the wake of the scandal. The same group got three trustees elected last year and two in 2012.
The announcement of new trustees came at the same meeting where the board said farewell to President Rodney Erickson. The board voted unanimously to Erickson’s his bonus by $50,000 to $150,000, created a discovery grant program in his name to assist students with research and named the food sciences building – home to the famous Berkey Creamery – after him. The board also awarded him the coveted Penn State medal, which only two other former presidents, Bryce Jordan and Joab Thomas, have received.
“He’s a saint,” board chair Keith Masser said. “We asked him to take over this job at the most challenging time and he stepped into the fray. This university owes him a debt of gratitude.”
Erickson became president in November 2011 when former president Graham B. Spanier was forced out in the wake of revelations that Sandusky sexually abused boys on and off campus. He has led the university through its recovery and signed off on sanctions handed down by the NCAA – one of his most controversial acts.
“Thank you again for the privilege of serving the university for 37 years,” said Erickson, a geography and business academic, who rose through the ranks of professor and administrator.
Board member Anthony P. Lubrano, who has opposed the decision to succumb to the sanctions and other decisions Erickson made, voted yes on every measure to honor him.
“You can’t make any of this personal,” Lubrano said. “In the scheme of all of this when we consider contributions that people have made to this institution, we have to look at the entire picture.”
The board also welcomed four other new members: Cliff Benson, chief development officer of the Buffalo Sabres and a PSU grad, and Todd Rucci, governmental and community relations officer with PAP Technologies, both gubernatorial appointments; and Daniel S. Mead, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, and Walter C. Rakowich, retired CEO of Prologis, both business and industry appointees.