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Penn State Board of Trustees Candidates Promise to Seek Plan to Honor Paterno

by on March 27, 2014 12:47 PM

Three candidates for the Penn State Board of Trustees say, if elected, they will push for a plan that allows the university to formally honor the late Joe Paterno.

Upward State, a group of Penn Staters interested in reforming the board, endorsed candidates Dan Cocco, Julie Harris McHugh and Matt Schuyler. The candidates said in a statement Thursday they will help the university honor former Penn State head football coach Paterno.

The three are among the 31 candidates vying for three seats on the board. The winners will be announced in May.

If elected, the candidates say they will work with fellow board members to develop and submit a proposal to incoming Penn State President Eric Barron to establish and appoint a Presidential Commission to Honor Coach Paterno.

The candidates say the commission would make recommendations regarding how and when the university could appropriately honor Paterno. Membership would include alumni and others "with a diversity of perspectives, as well as faculty, staff and students." Barron would determine the timetable for the appointment and work of the commission.

"We have confidence in Dr. Barron's judgment to know when to appoint the commission and act on its recommendations to honor Joe," McHugh says. "Meanwhile, the best way for all of us to honor Coach Paterno's legacy is to continue making our university the academic powerhouse that he envisioned and helped build, and to ensure that Penn State students receive the world-class education they deserve."

Upward State candidate Matt Schuyler noted that while many Penn State alumni disagree with the board's November 2011 decision to terminate Paterno, the reality is that growing numbers of alumni are not focused on past events but are looking forward to Penn State's future.

"The recent alumni opinion survey of December 2013 clearly shows that the highest priorities of alumni today are focusing on academics and the rebuilding of Penn State's reputation," says Schuyler.

At the same time, Cocco says the focus on academics can happen while recognizing Paterno's legacy with the university.

"That same alumni poll revealed what we've all known for some time – that alumni overwhelmingly favor public recognition of Coach Joe Paterno's years of service to Penn State," he says.

The candidates announced their intentions one day after StateCollege.com reported that Penn State planned to release a warm statement following Paterno's death, but ultimately decided against it.

The university fired Paterno and then Penn State President Graham Spanier over how they handled the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Spanier and two other former administrators face criminal charges for allegedly covering up child sexual abuse at the hands of Sandsuky, a former Penn State football coach.

Paterno had released a statement saying in part, "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

Later, former state investigator Frank Fina said in an interview with 60 Minutes that the evidence shows Paterno was not part of the alleged criminal cover up. At the same time, Fina agreed, Paterno should have done more to report the abuse.

"I don't see any need to judge him beyond his own words," Fina says. "He said it best, 'I didn't do enough. I should've done more.'"

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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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