Our View | Penn State trustee Oldsey must be independent, discreet in presidential search

Bill Oldsey joined the Penn State presidential search process in a moment of controversy. But he is charged with helping move the process forward smoothly toward a decision whose importance to the university and our community can’t be overstated.

Picking the next president is the central responsibility of the board of trustees.

With Penn State moving beyond the shadow of the Sandusky scandal, finding the best person for that office is more important than at any time since the journey began under Evan Pugh in 1859.

Oldsey must embrace his duties with an open mind and closed lips, recognizing the need for confidentiality — even though he landed on the search council amid cries for greater transparency in the presidential search process.

Oldsey must recognize that he serves the best interests of the university, and is not beholden to any other members of the board or any external forces that might maneuver to seize the moment and influence the search.

His addition to the Penn State presidential committee was done to appease critics, such as outspoken trustee Anthony Lubrano, but Oldsey must work independent of their interests.

We wish him well in this challenging and critical task.

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

The search council has been working for more than a year. Still, the timing is right for such a change, given the recent news that a top candidate — an individual poised for presentation to the full board for approval — did not pan out.

Masser has said of the presidential search that “all options are open,” and a process once slated for conclusion in November will now likely stretch well into 2014.

Oldsey had little to say publicly after the board voted him into the search group. That will be the right approach throughout the search. Practicing discretion, both publicly and privately, is the appropriate tactic.

This search will fail if top candidates don’t feel comfortable with Penn State’s ability to keep their applications secret until the proper moment.

Oldsey’s personal and professional experiences suggest he is a good fit for this group.

He will be the 13th trustee and 14th individual overall on the search council.

Oldsey, a 1976 Penn State graduate, has served as a top executive with the McGraw-Hill and Macmillan, Pearson publishing companies.

On his Web page, he says: “I have spent my professional career in the business of education. As Group President of Pearson Education and Executive Vice President of McGraw-Hill, I worked with colleges, universities and school districts across the country developing products and platforms to improve the teaching and learning experience.”

Oldsey is the son of a Penn State graduate and university professor, and the father of two alumni.

He and his wife, Julie, set up three endowments at the university. He has lectured there and has served as a liaison from industry with the English department and other campus groups.

Oldsey grew up in State College and resides in Boalsburg.

He is a good guy who loves Penn State and who now has an enormous responsibility to his alma mater.

Oldsey was endorsed by Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship when he ran for a trustee seat this past spring. But his presence on the search council does not grant PS4RS a seat at that table.

We trust that Oldsey, a first-year member of the board, sees beyond the moment of debate and embraces the importance and parameters of his new role.