Board of Trustees

Ricardo Azziz: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

Biographical information

Augusta, Ga.

Age: 56

Education: M.D. medicine, 1981; B.S. biology/pre-med, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, 1979; M.P.H. Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), 1995; M.B.A. Business Administration, UAB, 2000

Work: president, Georgia Regents University; professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Medicine, and Medical Humanities, GRU; CEO, Georgia Regents Health System

Experiences and activities: Georgia Chamber of Commerce, board of directors; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC), board of trustees; president, Penn State College of Medicine Alumni Society; member, Penn State College of Medicine Alumni Society board of trustees; recipient of the Cheston M. Berlin Award for outstanding service; life member, Penn State Alumni Association; member of the university’s Atherton Society and President’s Club. Past: president, Georgia Health Sciences University (formerly Medical College of Georgia); assistant dean for clinical and translational sciences; professor, University of California Los Angeles; professor, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Please describe your motivations for running for the Board of Trustees.

Great universities are one of the nation’s greatest assets, forging the education and culture of future generations, setting the stage for our national and global competence, and serving as enormous engines of opportunity, discovery and innovation, and economic growth. And there is none greater than Penn State. Penn State gave my father, my brother and I the opportunity to succeed And I simply want to give back to Penn State for all it has done for my family, and for all it has done and is doing for the countless families. I believe my experience in the world of higher education, research and innovation, and academic administration may be of value as Penn State continues to create a better and greater future for its students, the state, the nation, and the world. It’s simply the right thing.

What are the most important challenges ahead for Penn State, and if elected, how would you address them?

Firstly, ensure that the great education and career value that Penn State offers remains affordable and is clearly and broadly recognized. The increasingly competitive higher education landscape, including competition for decreasing state dollars and the rise of online and for profit institutions, represent a clear threat to the universities stability and competitiveness. We need to focus on providing an affordable and highly valued education and degree to students.

Secondly, we need to work hard and together to restore our sense of tradition and history, while ensuring that we maintain appropriate respect and concern for all those individuals affected by the Sandusky tragedy. This should include reinstating the statue of Joe Paterno at Beaver stadium, while continuing our intensive efforts to serve as a leader in the prevention of child and sexual abuse. This is a critical step for healing to occur at Penn State and in our broader university community.

Thirdly, ensure the university’s continued fiscal stability. Penn State, as do other global research universities, faces major fiscal challenges including the need to develop its innovation engine further in the face of declining federal support for research; the need to increase student access and affordability in the face of continuing decline in already small state support, the added cost of further developing the necessary technologic infrastructure to meet current and future student needs, and a limitation on continued tuition increases; and the need to continue to develop a strong philanthropic base in a competitive and now strained environment.

If elected, what position would you support on the topic of Penn State board of trustees reform?

There have been many calls for Penn State board of trustees reform. We should be careful not to automatically tie the need for board of Trustee reform to the Sandusky scandal, because careful review and updating of governance processes at Penn State (and all other universities for that matter) is not only good practice, it’s the right thing. But a practice whose need is further highlighted by the tragedy we have faced. There have been many cogent recommendations for reform including those that strengthen processes to minimize conflict of interest and ethical conflict; create as needed ex-officio non-voting positions, rather than ex-officio voting, for those individuals in university administration; streamline the selection and size of the board; and imbed processes to increase the degree of transparency around decision-making. These, and many other suggestions for change, should be considered and implemented and done so in a timely fashion. And we should undertake these fully while simultaneously ensuring we do not inadvertently impede the important work of the board nor we hamper the competitiveness of the University. The final question that we need to answer is not what or when, but how? It would be best for the University and the Penn State community that the board itself move to undertake needed reforms, and do so expeditiously, rather than wait until further legislative or legal action, which may not always have the best interests of Penn State at heart. It’s the right thing.

If elected, what position would you support about Joe Paterno?

Joe has a legacy at Penn State, and in the nation’s athletics, that cannot and should not be denied nor ignored. And I strongly believe that this legacy — Penn State’s legacy — should be recognized and celebrated, clearly and unequivocally. But celebrating his strengths, vision, and legacy does not mean that we need or should ignore his failings. All great leaders also make mistakes. They all have blind sides. They all are human. And in this case his inevitable humanity led to a failing that horribly affected many children. Would he have chosen this outcome? No. Would he do it differently if he could? Yes. Perhaps his greatest legacy may be that we begin once again to recognize that even the greatest of leaders have their human failings but that the failings of a great leader is not a reason to ignore his or her many positive contributions, or erase the past. We should not try and rewrite history, no matter how convenient it may seem. Let us heartedly recognize Joe and his teams, and give his and our past its due while never forgetting that we now stand as leaders in the protection of children.

Is there anything else you want voters to know about you and your candidacy?

I am a strong believer that every crisis has a silver lining with the seeds for a better future and we as Penn Staters, and the board of trustees, should embrace this opportunity for transformation and rebirth. As a current leader of a university in transformation I understand the need to embrace and face the future, while honoring our legacy and our past. I would appreciate the opportunity of putting these skills to the service of Penn State as alumni trustee.

More info: RAzzizPSUBOT@gmail.com, https://www.facebook.com/AzzizPSUAlumniTrustee, Twitter: @ricardoazziz, www.gru.edu/president and www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-ricardo-azziz

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