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Penn State Board of Trustees Candidates Make Their Case

by on April 02, 2014 6:00 AM

As the election approaches for three seats on the Penn State Board of Trustees, StateCollege.com is highlighting each candidate over the course of five days.

There are 31 candidates seeking three vacant seats on the board. Voting begins April 10. Winners will be announced May 9.

StateCollege.com contacted each candidate requesting a response to two open-ended questions with a 250 word limit to each question. Candidates are featured in alphabetical order.

This is the third installment. View candidates featured on Day 1, HERE. View candidates featured on Day 2, HERE.

Robert C. Jubelirer, '59, '62 JD, Lib, LAW, partner and chair of government relations practice, Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell and Hippel LLP, Boalsburg, Pa.

List your top three priorities if elected, or re-elected, to the board and explain why they would be your priorities.

Board Reform: The Board needs to change its makeup and size. I support passage of Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1240 to reduce the size and makeup of the Board. I also support opening up the method by which Business and Industry and Agriculture trustees are chosen. It should be done in a transparent fashion. I support placing Trustees under the State Ethics Act like our elected officials. Penn State and all state-related universities should fall under the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Act so citizens have the right of access to what should be public records.

More Affordable Education: Penn State's primary function is to be an institution of higher learning. We must assure our applicants and students that they will be able to attend the school of their dreams, as we did, and afford their time at Penn State. One small, yet easy step would be for the Board to stop wasting money on hiring outside consultants; instead this money could be used to reduce tuition for students. New initiatives and open scrutiny of budgets can help find dollars to assist in accomplishing this goal.

Improved Relationships with Important Constituencies: Penn State through the leadership of the Board needs to cultivate better relationships in Harrisburg with the state legislature and gubernatorial administration. We need to better convey to the public the remarkable attributes that make our university a renowned leader, and remind people what powerful economic engines all our campuses are.

There are 31 candidates vying for three seats on the board, explain what makes you the most qualified candidate?

Over the last two years I've worked diligently on behalf of making Penn State a better university and on reforming the Board of Trustees. This has included:

Recruiting 15 more co-sponsors for Senate Bill 1240; Co-authoring op-eds advocating for the passage of Senate Bill 1240 that were published by several newspapers in Pennsylvania; Testifying at State Representative Scott Conklin's hearing on board reform in McKeesport; Taking candidates and Trustee Anthony Lubrano to meet with senators and representatives in Harrisburg to advocate for Penn State on Capital Days; Attending most of the Board of Trustees meetings across the state including addressing the Board during public comment and challenging the "Old Guard" about their lack of commitment to meaningful reform

Two valuable attributes my candidacy brings are well-directed advocacy, and insight into effectively engaging Pennsylvania state officials and legislators. Twenty-six years in top legislative leadership taught me how to bring people with differing interests together for results, as well as regrouping and forging ahead after suffering setbacks. My experience included writing the modern "Sunshine Law," opening up state and local government meetings to the public; the Tuition Account Program (TAP), giving families a tax-friendly way to save for the higher education of their children and grandchildren; and "Ashley's Law," providing essential child protection measures. I was also a driving force in securing state funding for key projects at Penn State highlighted by the Millennium Science Center, Penn State Hershey Medical Center and the Information Science and Technology (IST) program.

Learn more about the candidate HERE.

Edward J. Kabala, '64, Bus, attorney at law, Fox Rothschild, LLP, Philadelphia, Pa.

List your top three priorities if elected, or re-elected, to the board and explain why they would be your priorities.

As a new trustee, my first priority would be to understand President Barron's vision for the future, his assessment of strengths and weaknesses, his initial approach to each and how to best function within the board to facilitate implementation of that vision.

Penn State must refocus on its students, its research capabilities and its faculty, and the board must show unity and pride in that endeavor. Even if there are internal disagreements in other areas, all board members must project confidence in, and commitment to, the core mission. Therefore my initial goal would be to seek concordance in that area.

Secondly, administrative cost control and board responsiveness must be improved. Short term, that includes elimination of waste and duplication in board initiatives. Board reorganization expenditures, without prior commitment to implementation are wasteful. Board communication initiatives, without concurrence that the messages disseminated represent an open and frank analysis of all sides, should also be curtailed.

Finally, while rectifying injustices which followed the 2011 grand jury indictments remains critical, that must not be allowed to stifle progress. Alumni dissent will not abate until past injustices are resolved, but constant public displays of factionalism and intransigence by board members affects funding, donations, athletic attendance and ultimately the mission. The recalcitrance to revisit the Paterno issue must be ended, hopefully by compromise but, if that fails, by confrontation. I would explore bases for revisiting and resolving that matter within a defined time frame.

There are 31 candidates vying for three seats on the board, explain what makes you the most qualified candidate?

My involvement with Penn State is not new. I am a founding member of the Rugby Club and played on the first teams (Outstanding Alumni Award, 1998), a lifetime member of the Alumni Association and one of the highest point holders in the Nittany Lion Club. Additionally, in 2008, my wife, Gail, and I funded The Kabala Family Rugby Hall and, post 2011, committed to fund scholarships in business ethics.

Professionally, I have extensive experience with boards, including functional and dysfunctional non-profit boards, at all levels from inception to reorganization. My forty year legal career has included starting, operating and merging a law firm and serving on the board of an AmLaw 200 firm.

Personally, I understand child abuse issues. I have committed time, money and expertise to KidsVoice, where I am President and board member for over ten years, I see dedicated staff fight for abused, neglected and at risk children every day.

Community activities included being counsel to and a board member of Pittsburgh's Cancer Support Network (Crystal Award, 1993) and a fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy (Millennium Diamond Award, 2001). In addition to the Allegheny County Bar Foundation Pro Bono Award (2005), I have been continuously recognized by SuperLawyers since 1991 and Best Lawyers for over twenty years (2013 Pittsburgh Health Care Lawyer of the Year).

Although my resume is extensive, my approach to controversy makes me unique among candidates. While not shy about confrontation, I believe in compromise and patience whenever possible.

Learn more about the candidate HERE.

Gavin Keirans, '10, Bus, strategy consultant manager, Philadelphia, Pa.

List your top three priorities if elected, or re-elected, to the board and explain why they would be your priorities.

Affordable Education: First and foremost, we need to stop the trend of an ever increasing Operating Budget, with reduced/flat state appropriations, so that lower & middle class families can attend Penn State without drowning in student loan debt. We must also address the ongoing issue of our debt capacity and continual borrowing to finance new projects. This is a major reason why we have introduced new fee structures, such as the Facilities Fee, so that we can continue to finance the costs of new projects for student space.

Uniting Penn State: Sitting in a board room for two days every other month cannot suffice anymore for the role of Trustee. We need people who will engage with our student, faculty and alumni to bring them into the conversation, as well as champion their causes. Our Alumni Association recently published survey results on alumni satisfaction. We must address the red flags raised by the low satisfaction in board and administration performance, as well as the continued desire from over 80 percent of alumni to honor Joe & Sue Paterno.

Accountable Trusteeship: There is not truly a two-way conversation occurring, because Trustees do not regularly engage with the greater University community. This has led to our present situation, where constructive dialogue occurs too rarely and I know we have to address head on, before the divide grows further. As a trustee, I plan to hold myself accountable through frequent public updates and have already launched an initiative called AccountableTrustee.com

There are 31 candidates vying for three seats on the board, explain what makes you the most qualified candidate?

Our Board needs a diversity of thought, age and background which it is currently lacking. My experience makes me uniquely qualified to help fill this void and the vitality to shape our university for years to come. As a two-term Student Body President and recent Executive Board Member of the Alumni Association, I spent thousands of hours shaping the strategic direction of our university.

I have built many deep and lasting relationships, which has put me in a position to be a coalition builder, helping to heal the divide that currently exists in our community. This will include tackling tough issues and building consensus, where others have failed. I've also spent the time in the last couple months to have in person meetings with key administrative, student, faculty and alumni leaders so that I'll be ready to get to work on day one.

Since graduating, I've experienced success both professionally as a Strategy Consulting Manager and personally by leading two Philadelphia non-profits. In my work, I specialize in providing financial benefit to clients, either through cost savings efforts or margin/revenue growth. This will prove valuable in executing my fiduciary responsibility on the board, as I have provided actual financials benefits for many Fortune 500 companies.

Penn State changed my life and helped shape me into the person I am today. I will work tirelessly to ensure that generations of Penn Staters get this same experience.

Learn more about the candidate HERE.

Jason P. Kutulakis, '91, '94 JD, Lib, LAW, senior partner, Abom & Kutulakis, L.L.P., Carlisle, Pa.

List your top three priorities if elected, or re-elected, to the board and explain why they would be your priorities.

My top three priorities as a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees are: 1. True compliance with the original Charter of 1855 with a duty and responsibilities to the welfare of the University, its students, faculty, staff and alumni; 2. Develop a plan to regain the reputation that the University deserved without the blemish left by the Sandusky debacle; and work with the administration to assure the fiscal solvency of the University for generations.

I believe that the authority of the Board of Trustees has been compromised over the past 20 years and the 1996 policies must be revised to enlarge the role of the Board to ensure full transparency for the public and the Alumni.

In order to fully heal, all of the litigation surrounding the Sandusky debacle must be ended, including the matters involving both the NCAA, Commonwealth and the Paterno family. I believe my experience and relationships can forge a solution that will be acceptable to all.

I will be a leader who will develop a full assessment of the immediate, as well as the long term, needs of the University's physical plant and economic structure. Once completed, a cost containment matrix must be developed along with the President's budget to ensure the continued educational quality of our students will be met for the students of today as well as tomorrow.

I believe it is also imperative to build systems to interface with private industry and corporations to partner with the world renowned research capabilities of Penn State to develop products, medicines, and treatment processes that will generate revenue for the University.

There are 31 candidates vying for three seats on the board, explain what makes you the most qualified candidate?

I am the only Trustee candidate who is recognized as an authority in child abuse and children's rights. My unique credentials will aid the Trustees in implementing and publicizing positive reforms to help us move forward and focus on the future rather than a small aspect of our past. Only a respected child advocate can make a credible and persuasive case that Penn State has taken appropriate action to put the Sandusky matter behind us.

Since obtaining my undergraduate and law degrees from the University and the Dickinson School of Law, I spent nearly 20 years as a litigator in Central Pennsylvania representing businesses and individuals in a broad range of legal matters. I am active in numerous community activities and have served in a variety of leadership posts in local organizations. Having served on the Board of Governors of the Dickinson School of Law and other organizations, I have the proven corporate governance experience to best represent the entire Alumni body.

More importantly, I believe that the quickest path to rehabilitation of our reputation here and across the nation is for the alumni to take a more active role in school governance, and the first step is electing Alumni Trustees who will listen to the alumni, ensure that they are kept informed between elections and are willing to ensure that the opinions of the alumni have an effective advocate. I want to be that advocate. Penn State deserves more from its alumni representatives and its representatives deserve a real seat at the table and not the token title which they have been reduced to in recent years.

Learn more about the candidate HERE.

Albert L. Lord, '67, Bus, investor, advisor; former chairman and CEO, Sallie Mae, Washington, D.C.

List your top three priorities if elected, or re-elected, to the board and explain why they would be your priorities.

Like all universities, Penn State has numerous matters with which it must deal seriously. Costs, tuitions, curricula, growth, government relations and more are managed daily by our highly competent management. Each of these matters could be among my three priorities in normal times. Obviously Penn State has special issues that dwarf the day-to-day responsibilities trustees must address.

As a candidate for a trustee position I believe, left unaddressed, those larger issues will drain the lifeblood from the Penn State that we, its alumni, know. The proverbial "elephant in the room" is the Freeh Report which, two years and $8 million later, remains officially unchallenged in its conclusion that the Penn State culture is poisonous. In too many ways our Trustees, officially silent about the report, have pathetically acquiesced in its findings. Alumni do not agree with the trustees' conclusions.

So long as the trustees are the subject of almost universal alumni disrespect the university and its new president will struggle to have credibility. So my top priority will be to focus on engaging the Board in officially replying to the report. I am not so naïve to think this can be done singlehandedly but it can be done.

Together with Graham Spanier I will also challenge the Freeh Report in the courts. Louis Freeh has smeared our reputation for considerable revenue. I believe it is time Freeh understand his disdain for the "We Are" men and women will not be Free.

There are 31 candidates vying for three seats on the board, explain what makes you the most qualified candidate?

Without too much knowledge of others' qualifications I do know my experience, both length and content, is highly relevant and probably at least the equal of the 31 others. As CEO and chairman of a Forbes 50 financial institution I have managed significant revenue, costs, market value, employees and some 30 million customers in the higher education field. Government relations were a major, aspect of my professional CEO role and I have many political relationships—some may be useful as trustee.

Pertinent to Penn State's current Board struggles, for 2 years I served in a frustrated minority member of a divided Board until I convinced shareholders to overturn the majority and make me CEO of the company and later Chairman of that Board. I have served as Chair also of not for profit entities. I know I will start in the minority on the Board, I hope through mine and other efforts to be in majority before too long.

Perhaps my most motivating attribute as a candidate is my love for Penn State. At 18 years old gaining admission to Penn State was my greatest achievement; graduating in 4 years replaced that achievement. Like most readers I have taken Freeh's insults highly personally. I am wounded when I hear apologies for behavior unrelated to my school, to Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier or anyone else. Penn State apologists assume a status they do not have. They do not have my proxy to express my feelings. I will apologize when appropriate, I still have not seen a reason to do so.

Julie Harris McHugh, '86, Bus, retired biopharmaceutical executive, active director on public and private company boards, Ambler, Pa.

List your top three priorities if elected, or re-elected, to the board and explain why they would be your priorities.

My first key priority as a trustee will be to work with Dr. Barron and his team to define a strategic roadmap that ensures that Penn State remains on the leading edge of providing a world-class, affordable education in an increasingly challenging environment. This will require exploring new models of higher education, allocating scare resources in a more purposeful manner, and collaborating more effectively across colleges and campuses.

My second key priority will be to work with my fellow trustees to immediately improve Board of Trustee communication and transparency with all University constituents. I believe an experienced communications professional should be hired to communicate board decisions, deliberations, processes and procedures. I also believe that the board should develop and publish a statement of communication policies and procedures and follow them. I believe the board should explore the use of regular face-to-face forums to communicate with students, alumni, faculty and staff and to hear their input and benefit from their feedback.

My third key priority will be to work with my fellow trustees and the administration to define a specific plan to reverse the trend in state funding of the University. For the past several years, state appropriations have been declining. We must do more as a University community to quantify and communicate the positive return on investment to Pennsylvania's economy for every dollar invested in Penn State. We need to dedicate resources to effectively lobby for Penn State in Harrisburg and we need to hold ourselves accountable for results.

There are 31 candidates vying for three seats on the board, explain what makes you the most qualified candidate?

For the last ten years of my career, I held executive level positions in companies ranging from small start-ups to large, complex multinational organizations. My leadership roles have included multi-billion dollar businesses with several thousand employees. My background includes experience in general management, strategic planning, research and development, mergers and acquisitions, and organizational design. As an operational leader, I have implemented numerous initiatives to improve effectiveness and efficiency. These experiences have prepared me to work with Dr. Barron and his team to define a compelling future-focused vision for Penn State, formulate a strategic plan and ensure operational rigor in managing the day to day affairs of the University.

I currently serve on the board of directors for both private and public companies and have participated on several trade association and non-profit boards. I also attend continuing education courses to stay current with the changing and growing expectations of directors and to gain insight from others on how best to confront complex business challenges. My various experiences as a director have prepared me to work with other trustees in making Penn State's board of trustees a national model.

I have a proven track record as a leader and team player. I believe that the most successful organizations are those united around a common mission that engages the hearts and minds of all stakeholders and that serves as a beacon when facing any challenge. I will bring this spirit of focus and common purpose to my work as a Penn State trustee.

Learn more about the candidate HERE.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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