One is president of a university with more than 9,000 students; another is a 25-year-old who graduated from Penn State in 2010.
Seven are practicing attorneys. Others are medical doctors, executives and professors. One is a stay-at-home parent; another a retired squadron commander with the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. Six live in Centre County, 14 reside in other states.
They make up the diverse group of 31 candidates seeking three alumni-elected seats on the Penn State board of trustees.
Alumni will begin voting Thursday to fill the three seats currently held by trustees Marianne Alexander, Jesse Arnelle and Joel Myers. Of the incumbents, only Myers is seeking re-election. The three-year terms begin July 1.
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Voting will close at 9 a.m. May 8.
Ballots will automatically be sent out Thursday to alumni who have a valid email address on file in the university’s records or who have requested a ballot during either of the last two trustees elections.
Those who are not on the lists but still want a ballot can complete an Election Ballot Request Form or request one by calling at 866-307-0041.
Board reform figures to be a pressing issue in the election once again.
The powerful Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship alumni group has endorsed three candidates for the election. The blessing of the group was critical last year, as its three candidates won in a landslide and kicked out two incumbents.
The PS4RS slate for the 2014 race is former lieutenant governor and Republican state Sen. Robert Jubelirer, former Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord and psychology professor Alice Pope. The group’s platforms include replacing current board members, reforming the board and honoring late football coach Joe Paterno.
Myers has framed his own re-election bid as a “referendum” between the PS4RS supporters and those alumni he said who want to move past the scandal.
He has been critical of the PS4RS group for focusing on Paterno and the controversies surrounding the board’s decisions in the heat of the Sandusky scandal.
Upward State, a fledgling group that has dubbed itself “the positive vote for Penn State’s future,” has also endorsed three candidates: Julie Harris McHugh, of Ambler, Dan Cocco, of New York, and Matt Schuyler, of McLean, Va.
Some candidates, such as Jubelirer and former Centre County commissioner and magistrate Keith Bierly, have dotted the landscape with campaign signs. Others have taken out advertisements, and many have turned to social media.
University of Kentucky law professor Jennifer Bird-Pollan, a first-time candidate, has relied on outlets such as the Penn State Alumni Association. She said she did not seek the PS4RS endorsement, as the group requires its endorsed candidates to match proceeds from a fundraiser.
“I hope that interested voters will read the candidate statements, and vote based on the qualifications and message of the candidate, rather than based on the money spent by that candidate in the election,” she said.
Some candidates could have a leg up as their names may be familiar to potential voters, such as Jubelirer, the longtime state lawmaker, Philadelphia Distrist Attorney Seth Williams and Gavin Keirans, a recent graduate and former student body president whose Facebook page has more than 11,000 members.
Others have embraced a grassroots approach.
Brian Rutter, of Boalsburg, has been meeting with alumni in the State College, and he said the experience has been “eye-opening” as he’s seen the passion they have for Penn State.
Ned Rauch-Mannino, of Washington, D.C., said he’s come across that passion, too, as he has traveled throughout Pennsylvania to get the word out about his candidacy.
“Despite the volumes of attention the Sandusky issue receives from a cluster of passionate community members and the media, I’ve discovered so many more alumni are concerned with immediate, sweeping interests,” he said, ticking off a list that includes tuition and financial aid for students.
Candidate Allen Soyster said his decision to run led him to read the board of trustees bylaws, and he said it’s time for a review of the bylaws. He was critical of the way the business and industry trustees are selected in private by that same group of trustees.
“Will our new board support continuing this obvious inbreeding?” he said. “Not me.”