Penn State Board of Trustees Election Winners: Adam Taliaferro, Profile No. 2
This is the second in a three-part series about the newly elected Penn State Board of Trustees members, who begin their terms on July 1. Profile No. 2 is Adam Taliaferro, who won a seat with 15,629 votes.
Five games into his true freshman year, doctors told Adam Taliaferro he'd never walk again.
One year later, he ran onto the field with his teammates, the roar of the crowd welcoming him back to Beaver Stadium.
And now, 12 years after that, the same students who cheered him on were among the more than 15,000 alumni who elected Taliaferro to the Penn State Board of Trustees.
"It's kind of hard to put into words – it really brought me back to when I got involved with Penn State as a freshman, and the students, how they rallied around me," Taliaferro said of his landslide victory. "It's really humbling, I'm just so thankful.
"So many people put their faith in me, their support. I'm truly honored to be chosen."
When Taliaferro absorbed that career-ending hit from an Ohio State defender, he didn't let himself become defined by the word paralyzed. He attributes most of his success to his doctors in Ohio and in Philadelphia, his trainers at Penn State and the syringe that delivered horomones to stop the swelling in his spinal cord.
But it was Taliaferro himself who had to do all of the hard work. Pushing through the exercises, willing his toes, his feet and his legs to move again, under his own power.
His coach was there, too. Former coach Joe Paterno visited him in the hospital, telling Taliaferro he could do it, he could and would walk again. Paterno would remain a strong influence in Taliaferro's life even after he graduated from Penn State.
"When I came back to Penn State, the highlight of my career was coming out one more time, running out of the tunnel. The support I received from Penn State was unbelieveable," Taliaferro said. "I never scored a touchdown, or did anything spectacular on the field, but I'll forever be thankful for Penn State and its alumni."
Taliaferro said he's going to take that appreciation for his fellow alumni and turn it into making the changes they've demanded of the Board of Trustees. As a practicing lawyer from the Class of 2005 and an associate with the firm Duane Morris in Cherry Hill, N.J., Taliaferro realizes the importance of listening to both sides of an argument.
"You've really got to understand how people are going to respond, and be an excellent advocate. As with many of the decisions that we'll make on the Board of Trustees, we have to bring a reasoned approach and be an advocate for our alumni, who have so many good ideas," he said.
"The thing that excited me is what I've been saying all along – I want to be someone that our alumni can connect to," he said.
Taliaferro said he enjoyed being active on Twitter and Facebook during his campaign, and plans to stay a presence on social media because it provides his followers, some of whom are new constituents, with constant access, instant updates and promotes the transparency and openness the board says it is working on moving toward.
"I look at how many Penn Staters I communicated with via Facebook and Twitter and I realize – some of these people check their Twitter even before they watch the news. It's a great way to get the message out," Taliaferro said.
Whether it's infusing more of an alumni voice into the board meetings through taking their comments, suggestions and questions before the board, or working with like- and open-minded candidates from the pool of 86, Taliaferro only has eyes for being a positive force in his new position.
"My goal over the next these next three years is to fully engage our alumni, keep them up-to-date as to what's going on and be a voice for them," he said.