The two newly elected leaders of Penn State’s board of trustees still think it is not the time to consider honoring former head football coach Joe Paterno.
But some people, such as trustees Anthony Lubrano and Alvin Clemens and Penn State alumni such as Cecelia Masella, disagree.
It’s been almost a year since Paterno died, and many supporters maintain that Paterno’s name continues to be disgraced in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal fallout. Friday’s board of trustees meeting on campus became another forum where Paterno supporters spoke out in defense of the coach.
Anthony Lubrano, the trustee who parlayed his disdain for the board’s treatment of Paterno into winning election last year, read off an address the former coach made to the board in January 1983, fresh off the football team’s first national title.
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In the 1983 report, Paterno said Penn State was in a magical time and never before had been “more united or proud.” Paterno said he wanted to use the momentum to make Penn State a top-notch university by 1990 and thought the way to do that was to devote more money to scholarships, build a better library, attract highly regarded faculty and more.
The state of the university’s academics bothered Paterno, according to a transcript of the address.
“You know, obviously, all of us are disappointed in the newspaper reports that some of our academic departments are not rated very high. That bothers me,” the transcript reads. “It bothers me to see Penn State football be No. 1 and then to pick up a newspaper several weeks later and we find we don’t have many of our disciplines rated up there with the other institutions in the country.”
Dozens in the audience applauded.
Karen Peetz, who at that point in the meeting was still the chairwoman, said she could hear Paterno’s voice in the address.
Clemens got applause, too, earlier in Friday’s meeting, when he read off a list of the academic and athletic achievements of Paterno’s teams as well as the coach’s donations. Clemens told the board he was offended by the NCAA regarding Penn State as a place with a culture problem.
“I think we’re all appreciative of what he’s done for the university,” Clemens said of Paterno.
The praise for Paterno kept up in the public comment period, when seven women all blistered the board for one reason or another, whether for treating Paterno badly, mishandling the Sandusky scandal fallout or not dismissing the Freeh report.
Masella, an alumna from Columbus, N.J., whose husband, Brian, played under Paterno in the 1970s, said Paterno advanced the university and had positive impacts on his players. But, she said, Paterno’s last days were filled with “betrayal and upheaval.”
“He deserved so much better,” she said. “But even through all that transpired, he left us with the same dignity with which he lived his life.
“It is time for this university to properly honor his accomplishments and celebrate his life,” she said.
The audience applauded.
But not so fast, Masser, the newly elected chairman, told reporters after the meeting.
“I think there’s going to be a time and a place to do that, and I don’t think that’s right now yet,” he said.
Newly elected Vice Chairwoman Stephanie Deviney said the legal issues still outstanding — such as the criminal cases against former university leaders ex-President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and retired administrator Gary Schultz — must be resolved first.
In addition, Paterno’s name was also among a list of deceased notable Penn State alumni and friends honored with a moment of silence to start Friday’s meeting.
The one-year anniversary of Paterno’s death is Tuesday and a vigil is planned for 7 p.m. at the mural on Hiester Street in downtown State College.