Board of Trustees

Keith Bierly: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

Biographical information

Centre Hall

Age: 65

Education: M.A., constitutional law, 1977; senior management program, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2001; B.A., political science, Lock Haven University, 1972; Lock Haven University distinguished alumnus, 1992.

Work: businessman

Experiences and activities: 12 years as Centre County district judge, 16 years as county commissioner, seven years as secretary of the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board; served on more than 40 boards of directors in both the public and private sectors; lifetime member, Penn State Alumni Association; served on local business committee for the Campaign for Penn State

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

If one looks at current members of the board of trustees, and the current slate of candidates, you have to be impressed with their success in the business world. My independent candidacy provides alumni with an opportunity to select someone from the government sector who has extensive experience working with Penn State. I believe I would add value to the Penn State board of trustees.

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

I have identified five priorities for Penn State. First, and foremost, is the restoration of Penn State’s national reputation. Second, I would consistently advocate for a reasonable tuition for all Pennsylvania residents. Third, I would advocate for an increase in the state appropriation of $100 million. Fourth, I would advocate for a significant increase in federal research grant support. Fifth, and finally, I would insist on a safe and secure campus environment.

My 35 years as a Pennsylvania public official would enable me to effectively advocate for all five of these priorities. My executive and judicial experiences makes me uniquely qualified to advocate for these priorities both locally in Centre County, as well as in the state capital where I worked for seven years.

I have a demonstrated capacity to work with people.

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

Every public official advocates for transparency, but it is necessary to actually accomplish it. During my 35-year governmental career, I’ve dealt with just about every conceivable personnel matter, financial matter, as well as other crisis situations. During this entire career, I’ve dealt with the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law as an elected official or as a statewide regulatory agency administrator.

I say all of this because as a trustee I would know what should become public knowledge, and what needs to remain within the board. I believe there is room for improvement on the board of trustees becoming more transparent.

I agree with the recent decision to remove the governor and the president of the university as voting members. I do not see a need at this time to reduce the size of the board. My focus has always been on greater representation rather than less.

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

In 2001, following Coach Paterno’s 324th victory, passing Bear Bryant’s record at the time, I was asked by a television reporter from Channel 6 in Johnstown my reaction to the coach’s career.

I indicated, that although Coach Paterno was clearly a national figure, as a Centre County commissioner I preferred to look at his impact on Centre County. At that time I said that I believed Coach Paterno was the single most important individual in Centre County during the half century of 1950 to 2000.

I further indicated that I believed this because of his significant impact on the university’s stature, his impact on his players, and his impact on the financial condition of Centre County. Penn State football has historically united Centre Countians as much as any institution or event. Centre County would not be what it is today without Joe Paterno’s contributions.

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

During the past three years, Penn State alumni have witnessed the most incredible flurry of lawsuits in the university’s storied history. I want to tell you about one that had a happy ending.

When I was first elected as a Centre County commissioner in 1987, I inherited a lawsuit filed by the county against Penn State and its real estate tax-exempt status. In the years that followed the case found its way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. After years of negotiations, we signed an agreement with Penn State where they provided close to $1 million annually in actual dollars and equivalent services to local municipalities. To date, that agreement has meant tens of millions of dollars to Centre County governmental agencies.

This process was highlighted by local and county officials telling Penn State how the university affected our governmental operations, and in turn how Penn State telling us how they were, among other things the economic engine of Central Pennsylvania. It was an incredible learning process at both ends.

I am an independent candidate for election at a Penn State trustee. The current board has very successful individuals, and the current slate of candidates has a wealth of talent. None of them, however, have the unique experience I have of serving 28 years in public office in Centre County. I know Penn State in ways no other candidate does simply because of my close proximity to the university, and my knowledge of its operations as I worked in the county seat and in the state capital. I can make a difference.

More info:,,