Penn State alumni prepare for another board of trustees election

mdawson@centredaily.comJanuary 14, 2014 

Wednesday begins the third election cycle for three alumni seats to Penn State’s board of trustees since the Jerry Sandusky scandal put the board under the microscope of many in the university community two years ago.

Penn State will circulate nomination ballots starting Wednesday, and candidates will need to secure 50 nominations by Feb. 25 to appear on the election ballot in the spring.

Nomination ballots will be sent automatically on Wednesday to alumni who have recently been active in the university’s Alumni Association, donated to the university or requested a nomination ballot in either of the past two election cycles.

Alumni who don’t fit into those categories can request a nomination ballot by calling 866-307-0041 or filling out a form online at www.psu.edu/trustees/2014election/index.html.

The incumbent trustees up for election are local businessman Joel Myers, former Nittany Lion basketball player Jesse Arnelle and former alumni association president Marianne Alexander.

Signs so far are pointing toward a competitive race, but it won’t be known how many are running until the ballot is announced in late February. The alumni election over the past two years has been dominated by the candidates endorsed by the Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship alumni group, and the group has indicated it will endorse three more candidates this year.

Several alumni have already made public their interests in seeking a seat.

One of them, Ryan Bagwell, has gained notoriety for his lawsuits that seek Penn State records about the Freeh report by using the state’s Right-to-Know Law. Penn State is fighting the case that originated as an open-records request to the state Department of Education. He’s also appeared at speaking events sponsored by former Nittany Lion great Franco Harris that have been critical of the way the board fired longtime football coach Joe Paterno and the conclusions of the Freeh report.

Bagwell, a 2002 alumnus in Middleton, Wis., thinks the field of candidates will be fewer than what the election saw last year, but he believes the issues driving the election will be the same as in years past.

“I believe voters will look for someone who wants to help move Penn State forward, but will continue to fight to hold the 2011 trustees accountable and create a transparent university,” Bagwell said.

Bagwell is predicting that Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship will dominate the election, as the group’s constituency has led to four of six candidates winning a seat in the past two elections.

Last year, the three PS4RS-endorsed candidates, Ted Brown, Barbara Doran and Bill Oldsey, swept to easy wins. In the process, incumbents Paul Suhey and Stephanie Deviney were defeated.

Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship is still fine-tuning its endorsement process, and a spokeswoman said the group looks forward to claiming the three spots in 2014.

“We will be looking for candidates who, if elected, will work with the board to address their past transgressions in rushing to judgment, and who will finally and formally develop a plan to celebrate Joe Paterno for his many accomplishments,” spokeswoman Maribeth Schmidt said. “We will also be looking for candidates who will continue to push for the a complete repudiation of the Freeh report, since it sadly has become the bedrock of so many false criticisms of Penn State and its wonderful and exceptional culture.”

In addition to Bagwell, the alumni who have announced to the Centre Daily Times that they will seek election to the board are former state Sen. Robert Jubelirer, former Nittany Lion football player Ted Sebastianelli and former Centre County commissioner and district judge Keith Bierly.

Class of 2008 graduate Dan Cocco told the Penn State student newspaper that he’ll seek an alumni seat, too.

Voting will start April 10 and close May 8. Results will be announced May 9.

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