Penn State alumni spoke with their ballots in the university’s heated board of trustees race, as three reform candidates endorsed by a grass-roots alumni group and the family of late coach Joe Paterno unseated the two incumbents in a landslide.
Challengers Barbara Doran, William “Bill” Oldsey and Edward “Ted” Brown easily defeated the rest of the field of 39 candidates that included incumbents Paul Suhey and Stephanie Deviney, who were targeted by the group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship for their hand in the ousting of Paterno a year and a half ago. The third open seat belonged to Steve Garban, who resigned from the board last summer.
Doran received 15,085 votes; Oldsey got 13,940; and Brown got 11,403.
Suhey was the next closest, but it was a distant fourth at 4,521 votes. Deviney finished even further back, in 11th with 2,026 votes.
“I think that having three new reformist candidates come in sends a message very loud and clear to the board,” said Doran, a wealth manager from New York. “When you’ve got three strong voices coming in, it begins to change the tenor.”
The results were kept quiet until the very end of Friday’s board meeting on campus. When they were announced, a couple dozen supporters with the group PS4RS cheered.
“I will never forget I am an alumni-elected trustee,” said Oldsey, an educational publishing consultant from Basking Ridge, N.J. “Without our alumni base, we cease to be as good a university as we are, and we’re a world-class university.”
Brown, who is the CEO of a crisis management firm, said he is eager to work with Doran and Oldsey.
Brown said he recognizes that PS4RS helped out his campaign — he was wearing one of their pins on his suit jacket — but he also pointed to the endorsements from other people, such as fellow candidates Ben Novak, who is a former trustee, and letterman Rudy Glocker. Novak and Glocker withdrew from the race, although after the voting started.
Novak still collected a hefty total — 1,863 votes, while Glocker had 771.
The election results point to the power and reach of the PS4RS group, whose members have made it their mission to unseat all the trustees who were on the board when the Jerry Sandusky scandal erupted in November 2011. For this election, the group paid for newspaper ads and billboards railing against Suhey and Deviney.
“The alumni sent a very clear message,” said trustee Anthony Lubrano, who won election a year ago on a platform critical of the board’s decisions in the fallout of the Sandusky scandal. “It wasn’t just that we replaced the incumbents, but we did it with force.
“I do hope that folks here have taken notice.”
Suhey, who played football for Penn State under Paterno and got into a verbal battle with the late coach’s family last month, was congratulatory in a statement he released after the results were announced.
“It has been an honor to serve on the Penn State University board for 15 years,” Suhey said. “I am proud of my service and I am proud of this board.”
He added: “I want to offer my congratulations to the newly elected alumni trustees. I know they will be as proud as I was to represent the best and largest alumni association in the world.”
Deviney was gracious in defeat and congratulated the winners. She said it was too soon to say whether she would consider running again next year.
“It’s been a pleasure to serve this university for three years,” Deviney said.
Jay Paterno, the son of the late coach, cheered on the victors in a Twitter message Friday. He called the elections a “good day” for Penn State.
Doran, Oldsey and Brown will join a board that has committed itself to improving openness and transparency in the wake of the Sandusky scandal through various reforms, such as opening up committee meetings to the public and allowing a public comment period at each board meeting.
But the issues that likely will continue to be raised are the issues that have dogged the board for months and months: the Freeh report, the way Paterno was ousted from the university and the way the university accepted the NCAA sanctions without question.
Doran said the most important outstanding issue for her is the Freeh report, which blamed senior leaders for not reining in Sandusky more than a decade ago. Doran said she wants former Gov. Dick Thornburgh, who helped author the Paterno family’s counter-report to Freeh, to talk to the trustees about the the former FBI director’s report.
Oldsey said more reforms are necessary beyond the governance changes adopted by the board on Friday.
Voting closed Thursday morning, and the accounting firm KPMG audited the results, which were the last item on the board’s agenda.
But trustee Ed Hintz appeared to have let the cat slip out of the bag earlier in the meeting before the results were released. He spoke out against what he called people singling out trustees in the verbal attacks and said that Deviney and Suhey would not be coming back.
The subtle, unwitting remark got cheers from the PS4RS crowd.
Also Friday, the trustees appointed alumnus Richard Dandrea to the board to represent business and industry endeavors. He will fill the seat held by John Surma.
The trustees-elect will take office effective July 1, and their first meeting will be July 12 at the Penn State Fayette campus near Uniontown.
Board Chairman Keith Masser said he looks forward to working with the winners and welcomes them to bring their initiatives forward.
“We all have one thing in common — we love Penn State and we want to do what’s best for Penn State,” Masser said.