New Penn State alumni group hopes to elect slate of trustees

mdawson@centredaily.comMarch 4, 2014 

The Penn State University Board of Trustees held a special meeting on Monday, February 17 to vote and announce their selection of Eric Barron as the next president of the university.

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A nascent group of Penn State alumni who don’t want the university to dwell on the past will endorse three candidates running for alumni seats in the board of trustees election this spring.

Upward State, as the group is called, is backing first-time trustee candidates Matt Schuyler, of McLean, Va.; Julie McHugh, of Ambler; and Dan Cocco, of New York, from the field of 32 trustee candidates. The group has a students-come-first philosophy they say focuses on the positive and the optimistic at a time Penn State needs it the most.

The No. 1 issue on Upward State candidates’ platforms is making the university more affordable.

“We think this is a seminal moment for all Penn Staters to put the negativity behind us,” said one of the group leaders, Jim Carnes, a former Penn State Alumni Association president. Let’s focus on the future and what’s best for students and return us to the upper trajectory that we’re used to being on.”

The group will hold news conferences Tuesday on campus and at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. Their website is www.upwardstate.org.

Voting runs April 10 through May 8. The full list of candidates is online at http://bit.ly/1fDr56e.

The group, which Carnes said is registered as a nonprofit in Pennsylvania, has leadership that includes two more former alumni association presidents, Tom Hollander and David Han. The group has no official university or alumni association connection, Carnes said.

Members hope to use their social and professional networks to increase voter turnout, which has been at record levels the past three years but still a small percentage of eligible alumni voters.

Upward State is at least the third alumni group to form after the Jerry Sandusky scandal set off a chain of events that brought the board of trustees under the microscope for some in the Penn State community.

The group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship has backed reformist candidates who have won four of the past six seats up for grabs. Their slate of candidates won last year in a landslide.

“While I think that we share the same passion and the same goals as PS4RS ... we recognize there’s a different way to address the past,” said Cocco, an alumnus from the Class of 2008 who was also a leader of the student-run dance marathon.

The third group is Penn Staters Reforming the Board of Trustees.

They also want to continue to advance Penn State’s academic excellence in the hope of recruiting and retaining top-notch faculty, and they want to make the board of trustees governance structure a national model.

And they also want to honor Joe Paterno, whom the board fired in November 2011 amid the Sandusky scandal.

Schuyler said it’s important to recognize the contributions to Penn State from Paterno and his family.

“Success with honor was something woven into the fabric of the university,” he said, and it “is really important to maintain.”

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