Race for PSU board seats is hot

Another highly contested race for three open alumni seats on Pennsylvania State University’s board of trustees will come to a close at the end of this week when trustees announce the results of the election.

Thirty-nine candidates - from military leaders to business professionals, retired alumni to recently graduated - are vying for three seats on the 32-member board, with 26,861 alumni casting votes as of April 24. Voting closes at 9 a.m. Thursday. A picture, biography and position statement for each candidate is posted on the board of trustees web site.

Like last year, many of the election platforms are based on the child sex abuse scandal involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, now in prison. Last year, several alumni candidates elected, including Anthony Lubrano, had been sharply critical of the board of trustees for its handling of matters in the wake of the scandal.

More than a dozen of the candidates vying for seats this year mention the late former head football coach Joe Paterno, who was terminated by the board as head coach in 2011. Some pledged to work to restore Paterno’s reputation and honor on campus.

“I want to resurrect the Joe Paterno statue in or around the Paterno Library to reinforce his positive impact on the campus,” wrote Christopher R. Owens, a 2006 graduate who works as a mobile banking manager in Harrisburg.

Many blasted the board for accepting sanctions against the football program by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and failing to challenge the trustee-commissioned report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that accused the university and its leaders of covering up sex abuse allegations against Sandusky.

“Much has happened since that sad week in November 2011,” wrote Mark S. Connolly, ‘84, director of intellectual property for DuPont Central R&D and a resident of West Chester. “But what hasn't happened is the Board taking responsibility for flawed decisions and the acceptance of unprecedented and unwarranted NCAA sanctions that affect all university and State College constituents.”

Connolly called on the university to adhere to all aspects of the state’s Right to Know law and open up as many records as possible.

“With few exceptions, our operations should be public knowledge,” he wrote.

Robert J. Bowsher, ‘86, a writer and accounting manager from San Diego, also called for more transparency and discussed openness in his own life.

“We must usher the board of trustees into a new era of genuine openness and transparency,” he wrote. “As someone who came out of the closet to lead an openly gay life, I know how to face the challenges that a commitment to openness and transparency requires.”

Two of three incumbents are running for re-election: Stephanie Nolan Deviney, a lawyer with Fox Rothschild L.L.P. in Exton, who this year was selected as vice chair of the board, and Paul V. Suhey, an orthopedic surgeon from Boalsburg.

Deviney, who has been on the board since 2010, said she also is committed to improving transparency of the board.

“During this challenging time I have remained fully dedicated to Penn State and to fulfilling my fiduciary duty as a trustee,” she wrote. “I quickly established myself as a leader capable of effecting change through my ability to connect with, motivate, and engage others.”

Three candidates are being supported by Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a group that formed in the wake of the scandal and has been critical of the board. The group endorsed: Edward "Ted" B. Brown III, ‘68, whose career has been in crisis management and communications and who lives in State College; Barbara L. Doran, ‘75, a private wealth portfolio manager; and William F. Oldsey, ‘76, who has had a long career in the business of education and education policy.

“Moving forward means fighting back against false accusations and actions, taking accountability for mistakes made, and searching relentlessly for the truth,” Doran wrote.

There are two other local candidates, Darlene R. Baker, ‘80, vice president of operations, PSKW L.L.C., Warminster; and Amy L. Williams, founder and managing director, SageWorks Rx L.L.C., Wayne.

“I vow not to be a blind follower,” wrote Baker. “As anyone who knows me will attest, I will constructively challenge decisions and actively voice my opinions to ensure that common sense prevails and the right thing is done.”

Williams noted that her family has maintained a condo in State College since 1980.

“I will bring my professional skills in strategy, brand management, marketing communication, PR and risk management as well as the perspective of the everyday alumnus,” she wrote.

Among the other candidates are Ryan Bagwell, ‘02, a former newspaper reporter and now software developer who has been investigating aspects of the scandal on his own and former Pennsylvania Senator Robert C. Jubelirer, who served in the senate from 1975 to 2006 and was President Pro Tempore for 21 years.

Trustees serve three-year terms, beginning July 1. There are nine alumni seats, with three turning over every year. To see a full list of the candidates, go to: http://www.psu.edu/trustees/vote/2013%20Alumni%20Candidates/index.html

In addition to the alumni seats, the board also is expected to announce the appointment of several other seats on the board. Two seats filled by the Agricultural Societies are up for appointment, including that of incumbent Keith Eckel, president of Eckel Farms Inc., and Samuel E. Hayes, who is not seeking reappointment. In addition to Eckel, two other candidates are vying for the seats, M. Abraham Harpster, co-owner of Evergreen Farms, Inc., and Paul W. Semmel, a former state representative who owns Excelsior Dairy Farm.

Two seats to be filled by business and industry representatives also are up, that of Karen B. Peetz, president of the Bank of New York Mellon, and John Surma, who has said he will not seek re-election. Peetz plans to continue and is expected to be re-appointed, sources said. She is chairing the trustee council overseeing the search for a new university president.

The board of trustees appoints the business and industry representatives.