Penn State’s Trustees Recount Painful Decision to Fire Paterno


It was growing late on the night of Nov. 9, 2011. John P. Surma, the chief executive of U.S. Steel and the vice chairman of Penn State University’s board of trustees, sat at a rectangular table at the Penn Stater Hotel. Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania was on the speaker phone. Other trustees were present, many emotionally spent.

The board, scrambling to address the child sexual abuse scandal involving the university and its football program, had already decided to remove Graham B. Spanier as president. Then, many of those present recalled this week, the tension in the room mounted. Joe Paterno’s future was next up. Surma announced that an agreement appeared to have been reached to fire Paterno, too — the trustees having determined that he had failed to take adequate action when he was told that one of his longtime assistants had been seen molesting a 10-year-old boy in Paterno’s football facility.

Surma, those present recalled, surveyed the other trustees — there are 32 — for their opinions and emotions before asking one last question: “Does anyone have any objections? If you have an objection, we’re open to it.”

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EDITOR: Thirty-two big shot trustees and not one of them had the courage or common sense to suggest that someone call over to Joe Paterno, tell him what the board was contemplating, and asking if he would move his retirement date up from the end of the season to right away?

Did the presence and advocacy of Gov. Tom Corbett intimidate them?

Thirty-two trustees and not one objection!  What does that say about them?