At least four Penn State alumni plan to run this year for three alumni-controlled seats on the university Board of Trustees, StateCollege.com has learned.
Board seats now held by Marianne E. Alexander, H. Jesse Arnelle and Joel N. Myers will be in play this spring, as the incumbents' respective three-year terms come to an end. Both Alexander, a six-year incumbent, and Myers, a 30-year incumbent, said that they will run again.
Efforts to reach Arnelle, a Penn State board member since 1969, were not immediately successful.
Separately, two other university alumni said they plan to run as challengers for the three seats. They are George T. Henning, a former two-term trustee and retired business executive, and Mark S. Singel, a former Pennsylvania lieutenant governor who owns a Harrisburg consulting firm. Singel represented the late Gov. Robert P. Casey on the Penn State board during the Casey administration, from the 1980s into the '90s.
A fifth alumnus, Charles R. Gable -- a university staff member and State College planning commissioner -- has been exploring a run for the university board, gauging interest and accepting support among fellow alumni, he said.
Others may be planning to run for the alumni-controlled board seats, as well. Nomination materials were due at Old Main on Friday, and Penn State is expected to make a formal announcement of all the confirmed board candidates -- and their ballot positions -- at the trustees' March 18 meeting in New York.
Each contender must have received at least 50 alumni nominations if he or she is to appear as a confirmed candidate on the ballot, which will be finalized and distributed to alumni in April. Alumni will likely have until sometime in May to return the ballots. Results are expected to be announced at the May board meeting.
StateCollege.com plans to post more thorough profiles of all the candidates in the weeks to come. Below is a preview of what Myers, Gable, Henning and Single said in early conversations. (Alexander was not immediately available for an interview, but will be profiled later on the website.)
The founder and president of AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Myers said he brings varied and unique experiences to the board, including as a former Penn State faculty member and as a technology-oriented entrepreneur. He has encouraged the growth of the university's World Campus and the incorporation of interactive media into the classroom, he said. In the coming years, Myers said, all college universities will need to transform themselves as advanced technologies reshape the education sector. Penn State will need to grow its endowment; slow its tuition increases; continue its adoption of technology; and strengthen its efficiency, he said.
A staff member at Penn State, Gable recently completed his master's degree in public administration at the university. He serves as a volunteer, appointed member of the State College Planning Commission. He is interested in running for the university board, he said, because he thinks he can help bridge the gap between town and gown. Gable said Penn State needs to continue being realistic in facing "an era where those (state-funding) dollars are becoming hard to come by." He thinks each Penn State department can continue to look for potential cuts, he said. He also wants to help build what he called "a culture of accountability and a sense of connectedness in the university."
Retired after working as vice president of LTV Corp., Henning lives in the State College area, too. He recently returned to work as interim CEO and CFO of Aventine Renewable Energy Inc., in Pekin, Ill., but remains a central-Pennsylvania resident. He's running for the Penn State board again because "I still feel that I have a lot of contributions to make," especially in the area of financial management, Henning said. He said he also maintains ties with current Penn State students and has enjoyed bringing their thoughts and ideas to the board. As Penn State anticipates tough financial times ahead, Henning said, he can bring to bear his experience facing similar pressures in large-company settings.
The president and CEO of the Harrisburg-based Winter Group, a government-relations and consulting firm, Singel believes Penn State is still "one of the best bargains in education in the nation," he said. But the university must "be very sensitive to further (tuition) increases that might put it out of reach of the average Pennsylvanian," Singel added. He said he's running for a board seat at the encouragement of some fellow Penn Staters. He would like to serve the university as it needs "strong voices to advocate for it in what looks to me like an era of constricted government funding," he said.
The Penn State board -- the university's top governing body -- counts just more than 30 trustees, nine of them elected by the alumni. The state governor appoints six; delegates from agricultural societies elect six; and six others are named to represent business and industry. Four trustees, including the university president and the state governor, serve as ex-officio board members.
Nine Penn State trustees overall will see their current terms expire in 2011. Nearly all Penn State trustees serve on a part-time, unpaid basis.