Penn State alumni speak out at meetings

Gregory Warner Jan 13, 2012

Steve Chiotakis: Tonight, Penn State’s new president will host yet another town hall meeting with alumni about the sexual abuse scandal that’s engulfed the university. It is the third in a series of confrontational question and answer sessions — or something akin to what you’d see from angry stockholders at some big company.

Marketplace’s Gregory Warner attended a forum last night and he filed this report.

Gregory Warner: More and more, public colleges in this country feel like corporate America. Take a look around this Radisson hotel conference hall last night in Philadelphia. Six hundred fifty Penn State alumni packed the place like unhappy shareholders.

In the front row, Larry Grossman, class of 73.

Larry Grossman: Well, a couple of people I felt who were in control should have taken the bull by the horns, now the whole university’s kinda tainted and that really ticks me off.

Warner: So why being here, how will that help to untaint it?

Grossman: Well, I don’t know that it will untaint it but it gives me a chance maybe to vent my anger, OK?

To vent, and to vet the new CEO —  I mean, new university president — Rodney Erickson, who replaced president Graham Spanier dismissed in November. Grossman’s family is still struggling over how much to donate to the alma mater; and so is Anne Marie Merrill, flanked by her sorority sisters.

Anne Marie Merrill: That’s what I’m here tonight to make a decision on, quite frankly. I am — that’s part of what I’m here for, to find out, what do we do about these Penn State football tickets, what are we going to do about the donations?

President Erickson gives the kind of speech about openness and compassion and living up to Penn State values that takes just seven minutes. Then he sits in a plush chair on the long stage to take questions for an hour fifteen.

Anthony Lubrano, a financial advisor and multi-million dollar donor, drills into the president saying he’d just come from Joe Paterno’s house.

Anthony Lubrano: And coach wanted me to share this with all of you. And he was very clear. He said, and I’ll try to do my best Joe impression: ‘Kid, remember! This is not about me, this is about our school.’ So in spite of how we’ve treated him, he’s still thinking about us first.

When it was all over, I asked the sorority alum Anne Marie Merrill what she’d decided about her donation.

Merrill: I don’t know. It just was more of the same, and the audience contributed to asking the same questions over and over again. So, I think football money is due February 1st, so I’ve got a couple weeks.

Another alum told me she’s going to give even more this year, but earmarked — and first she’s going to go on the university website, and actually read the budget.

In Philadelphia, I’m Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

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