Three to vie for vice chair position on Penn State's board of trustees


By Susan Snyder and Jeff Gammage

Inquirer staff writers

One of two key leadership positions on Pennsylvania State University’s board of trustees is open, and three members - including one who has been highly critical of the board’s handling of the sex abuse scandal - have indicated they plan to vie for it, according to several sources.

Trustee Ryan J. McCombie, who has joined a suit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association over sanctions it imposed on the school, will run for vice chairman, a seat left vacant when Stephanie Nolan Deviney lost her bid for re-election.

McCombie is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL captain from State College who was elected to the board by alumni a year ago. He was supported by Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a group that formed in the aftermath of the scandal involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, now in prison for abusing young boys. The group, which has been supportive of the late Joe Paterno, also was successful in getting all three of the candidates it supported elected to alumni seats on the board in May.

Maribeth Schmidt, a spokesperson for the group, said electing McCombie as vice chair would be a way for the 32-member board to demonstrate good faith toward the alumni.

“We would view it as they have finally heard us, and are giving some respect toward the alumni view,” she said.

McCombie is one of five trustees who joined the suit against the NCAA filed by the Paterno family and others in Centre County Court.

McCombie will compete against Paul Silvus, founder of Restek Corporation, a chromatography company, and Linda Strumpf, retired chief investment officer of Helmsley Charitable Trust in New York, according to several sources. The election will take place on July 12 when the board meets at the university’s Fayette campus in western Pennsylvania.

Neither McCombie or Strumpf, who was appointed to the board in 2003, returned calls for comment.

Silvis, who lives in State College and has been on the board since 2010, said he was encouraged by some other board members to run.

“I’ve been in State College. I’ve been involved for a good while,” he said. “I’m entrepreneurial. I’m good at solving problems and bringing people together.”