STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — The latest alumni election for three seats on Penn State’s Board of Trustees has drawn more than three dozen candidates, less than half the record 86-person slate on last year’s ballot.
The 39-candidate pool for this spring’s election was finalized Thursday, when numbers were drawn for ballot positions. The number of hopefuls this year still far exceeds what had been a typical pool of six to nine candidates just a few yeasr ago.
That was the norm before some alumni began scrutinizing how trustees handled the firing off football coach Joe Paterno in November 2011 and other actions in the aftermath of retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s arrest on child sex abuse charges.
The smaller candidate pool isn’t indicative of the level of interest among a school alumni base which numbers about 560,000 across the country, several hopefuls said.
“The board would have liked to believe that this is a passing interest,” said first-time candidate Jeffrey Goldsmith, of Harrisburg, a 1982 graduate. “The alumni is still engaged and angry, as they should be.”
The trustees’ race once generated little interest in the general public, let alone among alumni. Fewer than 12,000 voted in the spring of 2011.
The race drew more than 37,000 votes last year, shattering the previous high of 10,000 votes in 1990.
Reforming the board and governance was the top priority for several candidates in attendance Thursday. The vocal alumni watchdog group Penn Staters of Responsible Stewardship said in a statement that 31 candidates this year have sought one of the group’s three endorsements.
The group describes itself as having been focused on “removing or replacing every trustee” on the board in November 2011. Two of the seats up for election belong to incumbents on the board at the time — Paul Suhey and current vice chair Stephanie Deviney. Both are seeking re-election.
“Naturally, the two incumbents know better than to ask for our endorsement, unless it comes with a full apology and complete plan to redress their actions and inactions of the past 16 months,” group spokeswoman Maribeth Roman Schmidt said.
The third seat is vacant after Steve Garban resigned last summer. Garban had been chair in November 2011.
Vincent Tedesco, Jr., a retired U.S. Army colonel and 1964 graduate, opposed how university leadership handled the landmark NCAA sanctions on the school for the Sandusky scandal. He also said the university should not have removed the Paterno statue from outside Beaver Stadium.
The board “needs to stop doing what is politically correct and start doing what is morally right and upholds the honor of the university,” said Tedesco, who also ran last year.
Pratima Gatehouse, who had undergraduate and graduate degrees from Penn State, is also running again. Her platform includes evaluating the board’s roles and responsibilities, and honoring Paterno’s focus on philanthropy and promoting academics.
But Gatehouse, of Short Hills, N.J., said her top issue is promoting fiscal responsibility to keep tuition down, and hoped more attention would be paid to candidates who have may have primary priorities besides those related to the aftermath of the scandal.
Also Thursday, Gov. Tom Corbett announced he was again nominating lawyer and former U.S. Securities and Exchange commissioner Kathleen Casey to the board. Casey must be confirmed by the state Senate.
Corbett initially nominated Casey last fall, but the Senate didn’t act before the end of the legislative session. Corbett is also a trustee, and the board includes six gubernatorial appointees.
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