Former lieutenant governor Bob Jubelirer has joined Penn State University supporters calling for the return of the Joe Paterno statue that once stood outside Beaver Stadium. The university should consider putting the statue in the All Sports Museum inside the stadium, he said.
Jubelirer, 77, of Altoona, is running for one of three alumni seats on the university’s Board of Trustees in an online election that begins today and continues through May 8. A former state senator, he was endorsed last weekend by the powerful alumni group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.
In the past two trustee elections, candidates with the group’s endorsement have won four of six available seats. For this election the group has also given support to Alice Pope, a child psychology professor at St. John’s University, and former Sallie Mae Chief Executive Officer Al Lord.
Thirty-two candidates are running for the three open alumni seats on the Board of Trustees, and the fate of the Paterno statue plays prominently in the election.
“I think it should be a goal to have it permanently back in place at the stadium, but at least temporarily perhaps inside or adjacent to the All Sports Museum might be more secure,” said Jubelirer, noting past vandalism of the Nittany Lion statue on campus.
The university removed the 7-foot-tall bronze Paterno statue from the grounds of Beaver Stadium in July 2012, a week after it released an audit by former FBI Director Louis Freeh describing how Paterno and other Penn State leaders concealed information about former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children. Penn State’s board had fired Paterno eight months earlier, when the allegations became public.
Sandusky would later be convicted of abusing 10 victims over a 15-year period. Paterno died in January 2012.
Loyalty to Paterno, who coached the Nittany Lions for 45 years, remains strong among Penn State supporters despite the scandal. Earlier this year, Joel Myers, the only incumbent trustee running for re-election this cycle, proposed that Penn State erect a new statue of Paterno in front of the library. About half of the alumni candidates in the election have expressed support for some kind of effort to honor his contributions to the university.
“No one in the 159 years since Penn State was designated as a land grant college has been more a part of, or so associated with, the university as Joe Paterno,” said Jubelirer, who served as president pro tem of the state Senate for 21 years. During that time, he also served a stint as lieutenant governor after Gov. Tom Ridge became U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and then-Lieutenant Gov. Mark Schweiker took over as governor.
“The university should appropriately honor that legacy,” Jubelirer said. “It is just a matter of when and how.”
Another candidate who supports a memorial to Paterno is Vincent “VJ” Tedesco Jr. His father, also named Vincent, camped out in front of the former location of the Paterno statue with a cardboard cutout of Paterno to protest the university’s removal of the artwork.
“If elected, I will work with like-minded members of the board and the community to (honor Paterno’s contributions),” Tedesco said. “This will require an open dialogue and some measure of consensus, but it is work that should and must be done. Barring any new revelations, I will advocate for restoring his statue to a place of honor outside Beaver Stadium.”
The alumni seats are only a fraction of the board’s 30 voting members. Others are appointed by the governor, designated by other trustees or elected by farm organizations.
John Finnerty reports from the CNHI Harrisburg Bureau for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.