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Penn State Board of Trustees Conclude Weekend Retreat, Talk Presidential Search, PR

by on August 25, 2012 6:00 AM

Updated at 12:37 p.m. Sunday

The search for the next Penn State president could be under way as soon as January 2013, the Penn State Board of Trustees announced on Sunday as it concluded two days of public meetings. 

A much smaller crowd of public spectators and a lighter mood characterized the second and final day of the board's retreat at the Penn Stater Conference Center and Hotel, 215 Innovation Park Blvd.

The board had scheduled the meeting to last as long as five hours, but what started around 9 a.m. wrapped just before noon. 

Penn State President Rodney Erickson's contract with Penn State runs through 2014, at which time he plans to retire. The board said the search for the next president will take at least a year and require the input of many different voices, including students and faculty. 

Some trustees said they would like to see candidates considered for the position outside the normal realm of a standard presidential search – meaning individuals with a corporate background as well as from academia. 

Erickson said he believes there will be many qualified candidates who apply for the position but said the core values, like being totally tuned in to the needs students, faculty and staff should be the No. 1 priority.

"Cast a wide net," Erickson said.

Richard Edelman, the public relations guru hired by Penn State in the spring, presented Penn State's brand new approach public relations – the university is going to go from playing constant defense to going on the offensive. 

The university is going to take an 'inside-out' approach, Edelman said.

The students, faculty, alumni and staff – the true faces of the university, are going to tell Penn State's story this year. 

Edelman did not mince words.

"The anniversary stories are going to come out in November," he said. "We must begin the process of reputation rebuild."

"The key point about engaging is that we have a new mantra: transparency, and we need to go out there and show how we're going to do what we're going to do," Edelman said. 

In an attempt to combat the negative press, Edelman discussed strategies, like Erickson and Board Chairwoman Karen Peetz going to New York and Washington, DC to talk to media who might already have story ideas forming.

Edelman said Penn State is going to prove that it is a national leader among other universities, that it is vital to the community and that the university as a whole is committed to governance reform. 

As the meeting wrapped up, trustee Keith Eckel led the board members in a "We Are Penn State" exchange. 

"There been discussion about a divided trustees board," Eckel said. "That's not what I've seen today."

The next board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 14 at the Nittany Lion Inn.

Updated at 6:38 p.m. Saturday

The Penn State Board of Trustees discussed implementing the Freeh report's recommendations and talked NCAA compliance on the first day of a two-day weekend retreat. 

Board Chairwoman Karen Peetz said the meeting was informational only and that no motions or action would be entertained during the meeting on Saturday. In her opening remarks, she urged the board to move forward and accept accountability in its quest to make Penn State a model of NCAA compliance.

"We Are Penn State," Peetz said in her opening statements. "We will communicate more directly, frequently and openly. We have expanded our online presence with a website called "Progress" dedicated to the progress we are making as well as a site that provides information about the Board of Trustees and its actions, including meeting agendas, minutes and other material.

"... Understand clearly, these months ahead may be less shocking, but they may well be more difficult as the legal ramifications of this tragedy continue to play out. We must be prepared to address these issues head on," Peetz said. Her entire statement can be found on Penn State Live.

Public comment was not entertained at the meeting but nearly three rows of seats cordoned off for those members of the community who came to the meeting. They expressed their opinion through rounds of applause after certain board members spoke. 

Trustee Joel Myers addressed the board and spoke about the NCAA sanctions. At an Aug. 12 special meeting, the board held via conference call, there was nearly unanimous support expressed for Penn State President Rodney Erickson and his decision to sign the binding consent decree that accepted the sanctions dealt to Penn State. 

Myers called the NCAA "a petulant child gone wild," and said he believes the vacated wins – 111 in total between 1998 and 2011 – are unfair. 

Trustee Anthony Lubrano voiced his support for Myers. 

Trustee Keith Eckel, supported by trustee Mark Dambly, said dwelling on the NCAA sanctions won't help Penn State move forward. 

"It's time for this board and this university to stop looking and start looking ahead. I i nknow way defend the decisions of the NCAA but I embrace our mission and our responsibility to serve our 95,000 studetns, our research our extension and our faculty. 

"I believe that many times we live with unfairness ... It is extremely unfortunate that we find ourselves in these circumstances, but at the same time we are Penn State and as our chair said, we are going to move forward, we're going to meet our mission. 

"We are absolutely going to be the university the nation looks up to again," Eckel said. 

The board convenes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday for another public session at the Penn Stater Conference Center and Hotel, 215 Innovation Park Blvd. The meeting will be streamed live via WPSU


Earlier at 6 a.m.

The Penn State's Board of Trustees has announced a series of special meetings on Saturday and Sunday at the Penn Stater Conference Center and Hotel, where most activity will be public.

Public sessions of the meeting will be streamed live online. Various committee seminars also will be public. There are no items for action by the board at these meetings and a list of discussion items will be posted by 8 a.m. on Saturday for public viewing.

The first public session starts at 3 p.m. and runs until 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Room 207 in the conference center, 215 Innovation Park Blvd.

At 3:30 to 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, public committee seminars are scheduled and limited seating is available for the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • The Committee on Academic Affairs and Student Life will meet in Room 215.
  • The Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning will meet in Room 214.
  • The Committee on Governance and Long-Range Planning will meet in room 213.
  • The Committee on Outreach, Development and Community Relations will meet in Room 217.
  • A joint session of the Committee on Audit and Risk, and the Committee on Legal and Compliance, will be held in Room 216.

On Sunday a public session will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Room 207 in the conference center. This session also will be streamed online.

In the last 'special meeting' on Aug. 12, the board had no items for action and took no vote. The NCAA sanctions were discussed and each given the chance to speak, the board overwhelmingly threw its support behind Penn State President Rodney Erickson's decision to sign the binding consent agreement that dealt the sanctions to Penn State. 

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