The newly elected chairman of Penn State’s board of trustees is promising to make tuition affordable, ensure safety on all campuses and even to adhere to oft-shared advice in his Pennsylvania Dutch community in Schuylkill County.
“You have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen more than you talk,” said Keith Masser during his acceptance speech Friday after he won the chairman’s seat in an unopposed election. Masser even read it off in Pennsylvania Dutch.
Masser, the former vice chairman, succeeds Karen Peetz, who said her promotion to president of Bank of New York Mellon meant she had to reduce her time commitment to the university and precluded her from seeking re-election.
Philadelphia-area lawyer Stephanie Deviney won election to the vice chairwoman’s post; she, too, ran unopposed.
The two take over the leadership of a board of trustees that has endured criticism from an angry alumni base over the past 14 months for its handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Masser came under fire this past summer, when he accused university officials of covering up the allegations of child sex abuse against Sandusky. Masser apologized, but one of the most vocal Penn State alumni groups — Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship — called for him to step down.
In his speech Friday, Masser said the board’s actions in the next few months will define Penn State for years. He promised his “full and dedicated efforts” to improving Penn State, whose administration is in the middle of implementing 119 recommendations made by former FBI director Louis Freeh. Masser has said he has arranged for his family to take over his farm’s operations, which will allow him more time to devote to Penn State.
Masser said he has heard people speak of pride and optimism for Penn State’s future, as he has worked to take his own advice by listening to the good and bad.
Masser spoke reverently of Penn State. His voice boomed and slowed down as he told the trustees Friday that “Penn State transforms lives.”
He said he was the first in his family to go to college, and he proposed to his wife, Helen, at Penn State. And later in his life, educators from Penn State’s Extension office helped expand his farm, Sterman Masser, into what he said was one of North America’s top produce growing, processing, shipping and marketing organizations.
“I know first hand the value of a Penn State education and have seen the positive resulting economic impact on families and communities,” he said.
Masser seemed to have a clear path to the chairman’s seat. Several trustees endorsed him as Peetz’s successor in the past few weeks, and no one ran against him. Even former Sen. George Mitchell, who was appointed by the NCAA to watch over Penn State’s progress in implementing its post-Sandusky reforms, quipped about Masser’s chances during a brief update in the trustees’ morning session Friday.
“May I say I’ve never had the privilege of running unopposed,” Mitchell said.
Masser was elected to the board by delegates from the state’s agricultural societies in 2008. He was elected vice chairman last year.
Deviney is a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP in Exton. She graduated from the Dickinson School of Law in 1997 and specializes in commercial law. She was first elected by alumni in 2010 and plans to run for a second term this year.
Peetz said Friday that her service to the university will continue even though she will not have a leadership position on the board.
Peetz’s term as a trustee from business and industry interests will expire this year.
Business and industry trustees will be selected by a group of trustees on May 3 after open nominations.
Delegates from the agricultural societies will elect trustees on May 2.