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Penn State Alumni 30 Percent Less Likely to Donate Post-Scandal, Survey Shows

by on June 07, 2012 1:48 PM

Penn State alumni are 30 percent less likely to donate to their alma mater.

Through the group Strategy One, Penn State conducted a sample survey of Penn State alumni on their thought toward the university. The random selection of 10,000 names from the Alumni Association returned 1,282 results.

The surveys were conducted May 8-20 via telephone and email and results were released Thursday.

Penn State conducts a similar survey every three years, but this year's results were of a particular interest following the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

While alumni overwhelmingly remain positive toward and maintain an emotional connection to their university, a number that stood out for the worse was the 30 percent of alumni who said they were either less likely to or did not plan to donate to the university in the next year.

Depsite their overall support for Penn State – 97 percent of responders said they are still satisfied with Penn State, though the same cannot be said about their feelings toward former Penn State President Graham Spanier.

Of the alumni polled, 40 percent said they were on the fence regarding Spanier's termination in November. They said some actions were right and some were wrong, per phrasing of the question.

Those who said all or most of the actions were right taken regarding Spanier totaled 39 percent and only 20 percent said all or most of the actions were wrong.

Not surprisingly, the majority of alumni still support the late Joe Paterno and are upset over his firing and believe he should be publicly recognized for his contributions to the university, a question that pulled 87 percent support.

The Penn State Board of Trustees said they can only make a decision about Paterno after they receive the Freeh report, which is supposed to be turned over by the beginning of the next academic year.

The Freeh report, an investigation into any potential wrongdoing by Penn State that may have led to a child predator roaming free on-campus, led by former FBI director Louis Freeh, will be made public the same time it is delivered to the board.

Other numbers that dipped were the percentage of alumni who said they were "very satisfied" with Penn State, which dropped from 73 percent to 47 percent between 2009 and 2012.

Trust in the Board of Trustees was low – 49 percent of respondents gave it a rating between 0 and four on a 10-point scale. No previous numbers regarding the board were available.

Penn State Senior Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Rodney Kirsch said while some of the numbers don't look good, that wasn't unexpected given the recent atmosphere surrounding the university.

"My real gut reaction when I saw the results was that there are not a lot of surprises here," he said. "What I found surprising was how supportive people still feel toward the university."

"Right now, with three weeks left in the fiscal year, there are more donors than last year from the Alumni Association. Our overall donations are going to be down but it's going to be hard to repeat a Terry and Kim Pegula [donation] year-to-year."

In 2010, Terry Pegula and his wife, Kim announced their unprecedented donation of $88 million, which rose to $102 million to meet all costs associated with constructing a new ice rink on-campus.

Moving forward, Kirsch said he can't project which way alumni feelings will swing, given the outcome of the Sandusky trial is unknown and the Freeh report has not been revealed.

"We're going to continue to share the good news of what's going on around here," he said. "We can continue to say, 'Let's be open in communication. Let's continue to have this dialogue with our alumni.'"

Complete results of the survey are available at

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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