Board of Trustees

Reform trustee Bill Oldsey added to Penn State presidential search panel

Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano raised a fuss about a fraction of the board choosing the university’s next president, and now it’s apparent the board listened.

In an unexpected move, first-year trustee Bill Oldsey, one of the board members from Lubrano’s pro-reform bloc, was added on Friday to the search council that is tasked with choosing the successor to President Rodney Erickson. The decision is a milestone victory for the contingent that has been seeking a role in the presidential search process.

“We decided that because there were several new trustees who had not been in the process from the beginning, that it was a good idea to get at least one of them onto the committee,” trustee Karen Peetz, the chairwoman of the search council, said after the meeting.

Peetz pointed to Oldsey’s background and experience in academic publishing that made him a good fit for the council.

When board Chairman Keith Masser announced that Oldsey had been added to the search council, the crowd at the meeting reacted with applause and cheers.

In a brief comment after the meeting, Oldsey said he was pleased with the appointment, but he deferred comments to Masser.

Oldsey is one of the three reformist trustees who unseated the incumbents in the alumni-trustee election this past spring. The other two newcomers are Barbara Doran and Ted Brown.

Masser called Oldsey an “excellent addition,” referring to his experience and connections in academic publishing. Oldsey is also a partner with Atlas Advisors, an investment banking firm.

“We believe that he will help us continue this important process as well as bring his wealth of experience to the table,” Masser said. “Bill has valuable knowledge of academic leadership, and he understands the academic enterprise in ways that will assist us.”

Oldsey will be the 13th trustee on the committee. The chairman of Penn State’s $2 billion fundraising campaign, Peter Tombros, also is on the council, giving it 14 members.

The search council will select its top candidate and refer the choice to the full board for approval.

The search council had been carrying out the process and appeared on the verge of recommending a candidate to be Penn State’s next president during a special meeting of the board on campus. But the meeting was canceled abruptly, and the university went from saying officials hoped to have a new president by November to by the time Erickson’s contract ends June 30.

A New York newspaper reported that the president of a medical school in Syracuse was the pick to lead Penn State, but the candidate, David Smith, was found to have been allegedly padding his pay. Smith was put on leave and then resigned after the accusations.

Lubrano recently has been criticizing the search process and advocating for more board involvement. On Thursday, during a board committee meeting, he said he wanted the full board of 30 trustees to interview three finalists for the job.

Lubrano subsequently got into a debate with other trustees who defended the confidential process, saying it protects candidates from the risk of their employers learn of their job searching. The trustees also told Lubrano that he and others must trust the council’s members to make the choice.

Peetz said Oldsey will have some catching up to do, because of how the search had advanced. But Masser said the search council has not yet convened for its second attempt to find the next president.