HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and his wife donated $100,000 last month to Penn State, money that was split between a library and an undergraduate fellows program that bear the family name.
Sue Paterno on Monday described the contributions to the Paterno Liberal Arts Undergraduate Fellows Program and the Paterno Library as an annual gift.
Joe Paterno, 85, is being treated for lung cancer two months after university trustees fired him in the wake of allegations that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky molested children on school property.
Students in the fellows program receive $1,500 to $5,000 to help fund research, overseas study and internships.
English professor Jack Selzer, who runs it, said the $50,000 gift was the couple’s second contribution to the program.
“It helps students who otherwise would never have a chance to study abroad (to) have a chance,” Selzer said. “It really frees them up for experiences that they could otherwise never afford.”
The Paternos have long been major financial supporters of the university community, including millions to help build the library several years ago and at least $1 million for a campus interfaith spiritual center.
The former coach has not spoken publicly since his firing by the Board of Trustees less than a day after he announced his intention to retire at the end of the season. His retirement statement described the scandal as one of the great sorrows of his life, and said that in hindsight he wished he had done more.
In January 2011 testimony to an investigative grand jury, Joe Paterno described how a graduate assistant told him he saw Sandusky in the football team shower “fondling, whatever you might call it — I’m not sure what the term would be — a young boy.”
Paterno testified that he informed Athletic Director Tim Curley about the report and was confident Curley would handle the matter appropriately.
The Paternos’ son Jay told ESPN this weekend that his father is eager to tell his side of the story.
“He’s very anxious to get out there soon and start to tell his side of the story and start to express — get all the facts out,” Jay Paterno told ESPN. “What that timetable is, I don’t know exactly. But he definitely is champing at the bit.”
He was the school’s head football coach for 46 seasons and holds the Division I coaching record with 409 career victories.
Joe Paterno’s dismissal has been met with opposition by many of his former players and other alumni, and the backlash has galvanized campaigns to replace current trustees. New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien was hired last week as the school’s new football coach.
Three town hall meetings this week for alumni to hear from school President Rodney Erickson have reached full capacity, meaning no additional registrations are being accepted for the events in downtown Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the Philadelphia suburb of King of Prussia on Thursday and in New York on Friday.
Erickson has billed the 90-minute events, sponsored by the Penn State Alumni Association, as a way for him to listen to alumni.
The Penn State Alumni Association has received and responded to thousands of emails and phone calls about the scandal and alumni have expressed “justifiable concerns and questions” about it, said association executive director Roger L. Williams.
During a similar forum with about 450 students and employees on Nov. 30, Erickson said the school would raise the visibility of ethics “to a new level” so that the university community will “learn to do the right thing the first time, every time.”
Erickson, formerly Penn State’s provost and an executive vice president, took the helm in November after Graham Spanier resigned after Sandusky was arrested on charges he molested children and two high-ranking school administrators were accused of lying to a grand jury investigating the matter.
Sandusky faces 52 criminal counts that involve 10 alleged victims over 15 years. Curley and Gary Schultz, a former vice president, are charged with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse. All three men have denied the allegations and await trial. Schultz has since retired, while Curley is on leave.
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