Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Many wrestling with Paterno's legacy in wake of Freeh findings

Glenn Johnstonbaugh felt conflicted on Friday.

A day after former FBI director Louis Freeh’s investigation report stunned the Penn State community, Johnstonbaugh didn’t know what to think.

He worked for the university for 40 years, spending the past 18 as the supervisor of trades. He has met both Joe Paterno, who he called “a heck of a nice guy,” and Jerry Sandusky.

But the report’s conclusion that Penn State’s top leaders, including Paterno, engaged in a cover-up of Sandusky’s sexual abuse of boys left the Port Matilda resident at odds. He said he will not jump to immediately vilify Paterno, who died from cancer in January, but neither will he absolve the late coach of any wrongdoing either.

“I feel very disappointed and sad,” Johnstonbaugh said. “The university was very good to me.”

He and others Friday around town pondered one of the report’s deepest cuts for many — that Paterno, a beloved figure for decades for his football success and philanthropy, may have enabled child abuse.

Steph Rosenfeld, a 1973 Penn State graduate visiting the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, said he also will not jump to conclusions. But he said it’s clear Paterno’s legacy will be forever tarnished.

He described the events that happened at Penn State as “devastating” and “horrific,” saying the people who let them happen should be held accountable.

“They all should have and could have done better jobs and they did not do it,” he said. “They failed miserably.”

Freshman Allen Vayner said he had been hoping the scandal would blow over, but it’s clear that’s no longer going to happen. He said the university is being dug deeper and deeper into a hole, and that many people will never see Paterno in the same way again.

Vayner, a big Paterno fan since childhood, said he still looks up to the legendary football coach for all the good he has done. But he views him in a different light now.

“It says something about his character,” he said. “He could have done more, and I do look at him differently.”

As part of the healing process, Vayner said Penn State needs to remove the Paterno statue that stands outside Beaver Stadium.

“If it was anyone else that statue would be long gone already,” Vayner said. “Paterno being Paterno should make no difference.”

Karen Peetz, the chairwoman of the Penn State board of trustees, thinks otherwise.

Asked Friday at the trustees meeting about removing the statue in light of the Freeh report findings, Peetz said the issue “is a sensitive one. It’s going to take a lot of dialogue with the community.”

She said there isn’t a timeline for deciding whether the statue should be taken down or Paterno’s name removed from campus. He and Sue Paterno were major donors to the library, which bears their name.

“It’s something that’s going to take a lot of deliberation, a lot of discussion with the broader Penn State community,” Peetz said. “So there is no timeline or deadline.”

One commenter on the “I Support JoePa” Face-book page — with 32,732 likes Friday — argued for no discussion at all, saying the statue should stay.

“One big mistake does not erase all the good that JoePa has done for our university, and the people around him,” read the comment, which had drawn almost 5,400 likes and nearly 850 comments.

Paterno’s image and sayings remain popular on clothing and keepsakes sold in local stores, though sales may eventually dwindle for reasons unrelated to the Freeh report. Student Book Store manager John Lindo said licensing issues have stopped production of new merchandise.

Lindo said customers Thursday talked about the Paterno revelations, but sales of Paterno-related items that day and Friday neither rose nor dropped.

“There was a large spike after he passed away, but since then, it has been business as usual,” Lindo said.

Outside the Elegant Affairs women’s clothing store was a sidewalk sign advertising blue pillows bearing a Paterno quotation: “Believe deep down in your heart that you are destined to do great things.”

Store co-owner Renata Glon said she and others around town sell the pillows Anne Marshall, of Boalsburg, made to thank Sue Paterno after her husband died. The proceeds go to Marshall’s business, “Thatshouldbeonapillow!”, and the Special Olympics, Glon said.

She said the controversy about Paterno’s past actions won’t affect the sign.

“We always have the sign out,” she said. “People have their opinions. We can’t just take the sign out because some people have different opinions.”

Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan