New group presses for changes at Penn State

Posted: March 06, 2014

A new coalition of Pennsylvania State University alumni, touting a focus on the future rather than the tumultuous recent past, is backing a slate for three seats on the board of trustees.

Calling itself "Upward State," the group includes three past presidents of the university's alumni association. It aims to make the university more affordable and accessible, and emphasize academic excellence. The group also wants a student to get a permanent seat on the board upon election by the student body.

"We believe what's needed for Penn State, especially now, is highly qualified alumni elected to the board of trustees who are focused on the future and what's best for students," said Jim Carnes, a retired business executive who led the alumni association from 1999 to 2001.

Upward State is the second alumni group to form in the aftermath of the child sex-abuse scandal and become active in elections for alumni seats, three of which turn over every year. Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, which has been highly critical of the board's actions post-scandal, has successfully backed candidates in each of the last two elections. Last May, its candidates swept all three seats on the 32-member board.

Upward State's platform isn't devoid of the past. The dozen or so members say they want to acknowledge legendary football coach Joe Paterno's contributions to academics and athletics. Paterno was fired as head coach after child sex abuse charges against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky were made public in November 2011. An investigator hired by the university subsequently faulted Paterno and other Penn State leaders for failing to act on allegations that Sandusky had abused young boys. The university removed Paterno's statue from campus, though promising to consider honoring his contributions at some point.

Upward State announced its platform Tuesday at press conferences in Harrisburg and State College.

"Most students have moved on and would like to focus on their career and their education, and not the immediate past and the scandal," said student coalition member Maggie Harding, 21, a senior food-science major from State College.

For the third consecutive year, the election is highly contested, with 32 alumni vying for three seats. Results are due in May.

Upward State is backing:

Dan Cocco, '08, a management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers from New York. As a senior, Cocco headed THON - the student dance marathon that raises millions each year for pediatric cancer.

Julie Harris McHugh, '86, of Ambler, recently retired company group chairman of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J. She serves on the board of visitors for Penn State's Smeal College of Business.

Matt Schuyler, '87, chief human resources officer for Hilton Worldwide, from McLean, Va. He also volunteers on the Smeal board.

Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship will announce its endorsements March 17.



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