I feel like others have nearly every angle of this story covered, and I’m not interested in moralizing or piling on. Many of my friends and family are PSU alumni. In 2000, I applied and was accepted as a transfer student at the University Park campus. (I eventually went to Pitt.)
But I’d just like to point out two quick things:
1. If Paterno is genuinely remorseful, he should offer the victims more than prayer. Paterno’s salary was $1,022,794 in 2009. Over the years, Paterno and his family have donated about $4 million to the university. From a quick online search, three organizations he could donate to are the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the Child Sexual Exploitation Task Force, and the National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children.
Pennstate President Graham Spanier, who was also fired in the wake of the scandal, had a salary of $813,855 in 2009.
2. I understand why sports coaches come to represent the university. Coaches embody a type of success that’s easy to measure. They’re unofficial mascots, as opposed to administrators, whose jobs include promoting the university. Also, many coaches stay for so long that they become campus institutions. But this comes at a price: with a lot of schools, if you don’t count the football or basketball coach, who’s next in line to be the public face of the university?
When I was a college student, if someone asked me to quickly name a campus representative, I’d say Walt Harris or Ben Howland. And not because I forgot about our Chancellor or other alumni. But Harris and Howland were, well, so much more visible. I’m sure most students nowadays, if asked the same question, would say Graham or Dixon or maybe the Pitt Panther.
But I’d like to nominate two other faces:
This is the late Wangari Maathai, who earned a MS degree in biology from Pitt and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. According to Chancellor Nordenberg, “Her simple declaration—plant a tree—ignited the Green Belt Movement, which spread across Kenya and the rest of Africa, helping to reinvigorate indigenous forests and empower women by paying them to plant trees. Dr. Maathai’s tireless advocacy as a stewardess of the earth and the voice of women, the poor, and the oppressed changed lives, a country, and a continent.”
And this is Jeremy W. Feldbusch, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Pitt in 2001. According to the Pitt Chronicle, “An advocate for wounded servicemen and servicewomen, Feldbusch appeared in the renowned documentary Home Front, which chronicles his recovery and captures the many struggles of wounded veterans. He is the first national spokesperson for the Wounded Warrior Project and has extended his advocacy to the political arena, lobbying Congress to ease the financial and emotional stress of wounded veterans and their families. His efforts, along with those of other Wounded Warrior Project members, led to the passage of a federal law delivering millions of dollars in aid to severely wounded soldiers.”
Maathai photo from the University of Pittsburgh news, Feldbusch photo from whitehouse.gov.