There’s a new sheriff in town.
OK, not so much a new sheriff as a new president of Penn State’s board of trustees. But still.
On Friday, the trustees voted unanimously in their meeting at Penn State Wilkes-Barre to hand over the reins to a new leader. That man is Ira Lubert.
The most remarkable aspect of this is less that a new person took over than it is that no one in the room had a bad thing to say.
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The issue was set up to be contentious. Lubert was a member of the board before. In fact, he was a member during the legal subcommittee that negotiated settlements with claimants in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal — the same settlements that have the university in court with its liability insurer over the payments.
In the lead up to the vote, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship — a vehement grassroots group that has acted as watchdog of the board in the wake of the scandal — issued a statement decrying Lubert as a poor choice, claiming a conflict of interest because of past associations with The Second Mile, Sandusky’s charity.
However, Lubert insisted reports he served on the charity’s board were incorrect, though he did admit to making donations.
It was not a surprise when outgoing chair Keith Masser praised Lubert.
“Ira is a tireless advocate for PS students and faculty,” he said when he nominated his successor.
The second came from an unexpected quarter. Robert Capretto was the PS4RS choice for a president instead of Lubert.
And then there was alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano’s comments. He spoke of “real leadership” by Lubert in the morning’s executive session.
But any real division came on the vote for vice president.
Mark Dambly, a business and industry trustee, was noted as the likely candidate. He was nominated by former VP Kathleen Casey, but he was the second name put forward.
The first was gubernatorial appointee Allison Goldstein, a graduate student in higher education. She was nominated by student trustee Luke Metaxas.
His reason was healing a board often sharply divided between old-guard and alumni-elected.
“Ali is the best candidate to unify this board,” Metaxas said, asking his fellow trustees to send a “powerful message that this board is fully committed to shared governance.”
Goldstein has shown more flexibility than some of the other board members when it comes to discussing an issue important to the alumni-elected trustees. She has also been a voice for calm and reflection, proposing a board self-assessment that turned into this January’s board retreat.
The vote was close. Dambly got 20 votes. Goldstein got 14, five more than the number of alumni-elected trustees, showing appeal with a center ground.
The question is now what happens next. The board meets again in September, with all new officers in place, including at-large members of the executive committee Don Cotner and Al Lord.
“Only true leadership leads to real change,” Lubrano said. “We look forward to your leadership.”