STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State alumni elected three new members to the university board of trustees, including a well-known former football player who recovered from a spinal cord injury and a businessman who has criticized the board's actions after Jerry Sandusky's arrest in a child sex-abuse scandal.
Alumni elected lawyer Adam Taliaferro, who played for the late coach Joe Paterno; prominent donor and outspoken board critic Anthony Lubrano; and retired U.S. Navy captain Ryan McCombie.
Election results were announced Friday following more than three weeks of online voting that drew a record turnout of at least 37,000. The new trustees begin their three-year terms July 1.
Of the three incumbents whose terms are expiring, only retired schoolteacher Anne Riley ran again, losing her re-election bid. A State College resident, Riley is one of the board's more well-known members and a frequent visitor to campus
Former newspaper editor David Jones has said he decided two years ago to limit his tenure on the board. The third, David Joyner, left the board because he is now the school's acting athletic director.
All three were part of a board in November that unanimously voted to oust Hall of Famer Joe Paterno as head coach in the aftermath of the charges against Sandusky, a retired assistant coach. Paterno died in January at age 85, less than three months after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
The head coach testified before a state grand jury about a 2002 allegation against Sandusky that was passed on to him by a graduate assistant. Paterno fulfilled a legal obligation by relaying the accusations to his superiors, one of whom oversaw campus police.
Trustees have said Paterno had a moral obligation to do more, and have also cited a "failure of leadership" in severing ties with the coach.
Some alumni and former players have still questioned the motivations behind the move. Others have taken aim what they perceive as a lack of transparency on a 32-member board that they say is too large, and two alumni watchdog groups in particular have been vocal about using the election as a way to start enacting change on the board.
The campaign at times resembled a political race. Candidates went online to advertise and posted yard signs in the State College area. The school, for the first time, held a meet-and-greet event for all candidates the morning before the annual Blue-White spring football game two weeks ago.
The new alumni-elected trustees are:
— Adam Taliaferro, attorney, of Swedesboro, N.J. Former defensive back for Paterno who became well known for his courageous recovery from a career-ending spinal-cord injury suffered his freshman year in 2000 during a game at Ohio State. Now an attorney in Cherry Hill, N.J., the 2005 graduate also won election last year as a freeholder in Gloucester County, N.J.
Taliaferro has said that fellow alumni have told him the biggest issue is transparency. He pledged to make information and access to trustees more easily available. Taliaferro has offered more measured responses when asked about the trustees' actions in November.
— Anthony Lubrano, financial services executive, of Exton. Among the 86 candidates, the 1982 graduate has been the most vocal critic of the board and its ouster of Paterno. Lubrano has said the election is about "governance," and that the board was ill-prepared to handle the scandal. Lubrano distributed a petition calling for "due process" for Paterno. He has the endorsement of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, an alumni watchdog group.
— Ryan McCombie, retired U.S. Navy captain, of State College. The 1970 graduate cites his experience in contingency planning and crisis management from his days in the military as strengths in helping the university get through the scandal. McCombie said in his position statement that the trustees must lead "with integrity and by example," but he did not specifically criticize the board's actions in November. His supporters dotted the State College area with campaign yard signs.
The trustees race once generated little interest in the general public, let alone the more than 557,000 Penn State alumni across the country. Fewer than 12,000 voted last year; this year's race drew more than 37,000 votes to shatter the previous record set in 1990 by about 10,000 votes.