At the morning session of the meeting, the new university president talked about a need to move forward. The new athletic director talked about the new head football coach. Those gathered in the Alumni Ballroom of the Nittany Lion Inn even referenced the university's commitment to a new Center for the Protection of Children.
But the names Jerry Sandusky, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier were nowhere to be found.
The afternoon, however, took a different turn when Special Investigative Committee Chair Kenneth Frazier took to the lectern. Frazier updated the board on the progress of the internal investigation, headed by Judge Louis Freeh, that is examining the actions Penn State took surrounding the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case.
Frazier reported that the committee had already made five points of recommendation for the board to adopt, since the investigation commenced in November: strengthening university policies for programs involving minors; prompt reporting of incidents of abuse and sexual misconduct; compliance with the Cleary Act’s training and reporting requirements; administrative reforms; and security at athletic facilities.
In-house General Counsel Cynthia Baldwin also gave a legal update to the board. Baldwin cited two cases already initiated with Penn State — “John Doe v. The Second Mile, Gerald Sandusky and Penn State” and “C. Miller v. The Second Mile, Gerald Sandusky and Penn State.”
Baldwin said the university has also received several notices for preservation holds for documents and records, which are already in place.
Then, Steve Garban, who has been chairman of the board since 2010 and a trustee since 1998, announced he wouldn’t run for a third term. Minutes later, Karen Peetz was elected as the new chairwoman of the board. Peetz currently serves as the chief executive officer of the financial markets and treasury services for the Bank of New York Mellon.
After Garban said he wouldn’t return, former vice chair John Surma did the same. Keith Masser was then elected by the board to serve as vice-chairman. Masser currently serves as the president of Sterman Masser Inc.
Several building projects and a property purchase were also approved in the afternoon session, including the construction of the Pegula Ice Arena. Following a presentation by Housing, Food Services and Residence Life, room and board rates will increase $125 in the fall.
Former University of Massachusetts administrator David Gray was also approved as the new Senior Vice President of Finance and Business in an unanimous vote by the trustees. He will assume his position on Feb. 6. Gray was also appointed to positions of Board of Trustees treasurer and member of the Board of Directors of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Election of board members to the Executive Committee was put off until the next trustee meeting in March.
The board also focused largely on the university's academic and institutional status and progress.
Erickson outlined eight objectives for the coming year in his President's Report — among them, recommitting the university in academics, fostering economic development in the state and retaining competitive salaries for the Penn State faculty members. Erickson also emphasized the quality and standing of Penn State’s academic and institutional development.
By learning from the past, Erickson said the university will establish safeguards against the tendency to return to complacency.
While acknowledging the difficulty of the past several months, Erickson emphasized Penn State’s core mission in addition to exceptional teaching, research and leadership.
Erickson assured the audience and the board that Penn State “remains on solid footing," citing a three percent increase in undergraduate applications from last year, a record high of nearly 61,000.
The impacts on private philanthropy as the Sandusky case unfolds has yet to be determined, but to date, the number of donors making gifts to the to the Annual Fund is essentially at the same level as last year, Erickson said.
“All this said, however, I would be a foolish optimist to suggest that the year ahead will be without its challenges, financial and otherwise,” Erickson said.
Meanwhile, members of the Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship stood outside of The Nittany Lion Inn to let Erickson and the board know that they had concerns of their own.
One member, Lori Kuhn, said she wanted the board to know that they will have a presence until there are some changes in the university's system of governance.
“They need to take the wishes of alumni into consideration before they make their decision without due process,” Kuhn said.