UNIVERSITY PARK — With a few weeks until voting starts, the Penn State alumni trustee election season heated up Monday as two groups announced who they will endorsement and a third group’s candidates stumped with students on campus.
The powerful Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship alumni group selected three candidates from the field of 32 to endorse in the election. The blessing of the group was critical last year, as its three candidates won in a landslide and kicked out two incumbents.
The PS4RS slate for the 2014 race is former Republican state Sen. Robert Jubelirer, former Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord and psychology professor Alice Pope. The group’s platforms include replacing current board members, reforming the board and honoring late coach Joe Paterno.
Jubelirer, of Boalsburg, is perhaps the best known name in the race, as he was a state senator for 31 years and a lieutenant governor before he lost re-election in the primary of 2006 because his support for the late-night legislative pay raise enacted in 2005.
Pope, of Brooklyn, N.Y., has three degrees from Penn State and has been an reform advocate from the sidelines during the past two years.
“I am honored to receive PS4RS’s endorsement and look forward to working with them and their slate to continue the reform of our board made necessary by the events of 2011,” Pope said in a statement.
Lord, of Washington, denounced the Freeh report as “sinister fiction” and has experience wresting control of the Sallie Mae board, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
PS4RS, which says its membership numbers around 20,000, formed after the Jerry Sandusky scandal in response to decisions by the board of trustees, such as firing longtime coach Joe Paterno.
The group has long blasted the board and has promoted reformist platforms, but months ago, it took aim at trustee Joel Myers with newspaper ads singling him out. Myers is one of the incumbents running for election.
Since then, PS4RS and Myers have been like mortal enemies, trading barbs over each other’s ideologies and Penn State philosophies.
A self-described more moderate group than PS4RS, Penn Staters Reforming the Board of Trustees joined in on the endorsement fair on Monday with three candidates of its own, although one is a duplicate of PS4RS.
Jubelirer was given the nod along with software developer and open-records chaser Ryan Bagwell and Vermont case worker Robert Hooper. All three ran unsuccessfully last year.
Bagwell, of Madison, Wis., is pursuing open-records cases with various state agencies to get access to records related to the Freeh report and the Sandusky scandal. He also started a fundraising campaign called the Penn State Sunshine Fund to support his legal battles.
Hooper, of Burlington, Vt., was a child protective case worker and probation officer. He also served as the president of the state’s largest union.
The group’s founder, Scott Kimler, said the candidates have shown a commitment to work toward changing the culture of the board of trustees.
Also Monday, trustee candidates endorsed by the fledgling group Upward State visited students and discussed issues with them.
Julie Harris McHugh, of Ambler, reiterated her group’s student-first focus as she and Dan Cocco met with student leaders. The third candidate, Matt Schuyler, was snowed in and couldn’t make the trip, but he did participate via a conference call.
The trustee has to be a conduit for conversation between university leaders and constituents, McHugh said. She said it’s important to have open conversations, too, so that all constituency groups are heard.
“I want to make sure I’m a catalyst for that two-way conversation,” said McHugh, a past chief operating officer of Endo Health Solutions and CEO of Nora Therapeutics.
The students told the candidates that the cost of a Penn State education was among their main concerns, and they also want to see permanent student representation on the board, which is under consideration.
While the students do not have a vote in the alumni trustee election, the candidates said they felt more informed about student issues after the chat Monday. The candidates also asked the students to spread their message.
Voting starts April 10 and will continue through May 8.
The university will send ballots to all alumni with an email address on file.