The vice chairman of Penn State's board of trustees appears likely to take over as leader of the university's governing body while the school presses forward with its search for a new president and making recommended changes after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Keith Masser said Wednesday he is planning on running for chair in next month's election of board officers. He is the only person to express an interest in the position since Chairwoman Karen Peetz announced Tuesday she would not seek re-election to another one-year term because of work demands. Ms. Peetz becomes president of the Bank of New York Mellon on Jan. 1.
If elected, Mr. Masser said, he would continue the initiatives shepherded by Ms. Peetz, which include changes recommended by former FBI director Louis Freeh intended to restructure governance, improve security and increase transparency. Mr. Freeh led Penn State's internal investigation into the scandal.
Mr. Masser, who owns a Schuylkill County potato farming company, has served on the board since 2008. Both Ms. Peetz and Mr. Masser assumed their current leadership roles in January.
During a conference call, Mr. Masser received the endorsements of Ms. Peetz and Trustee James Broadhurst, who heads a committee on governance. New officers will be elected Jan. 18.
Sandusky, a former assistant coach, is serving a 30-to-60 year prison term. He was convicted this summer of 45 criminal counts involving boys on and off campus.
Three former school administrators also face trial on charges of perjury, obstruction and other offenses. They deny the allegations. The scandal also led to the dismissal of former head coach Joe Paterno and elicited landmark NCAA sanctions against the football program.
As part of the fallout from the scandal, trustees will have to deal with factions of alumni, faculty and local residents wary of their intentions or still angry over the board's handling of Paterno's departure and other matters.
"I want to do all I can to help bring the university together," Mr. Masser told reporters in the conference call. "We have challenges with [state] funding, making sure education is affordable for our students and continuing the initiatives of the next presidential search."
Ms. Peetz, who remains a trustee and leads the board's presidential search committee, said she would have run again if not for her bank promotion.
President Rodney Erickson intends to step down when his current contract expires in June 2014. The school announced Wednesday that trustees last month approved a 16 percent raise for Mr. Erickson to $600,000 after a review of his performance in the year since he took office.
The school said the $85,000 raise effective Nov. 1 was in line with Mr. Erickson's employment agreement.