UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State University trustees chairman Keith Masser expressed optimism during Friday's board meeting that the presidential search now more than a year old will conclude in time for president Rodney Erickson's planned June 30 departure.
"We are on pace to name the next president of Penn State in the months ahead," he told the board, later adding: "We are looking forward to a successful conclusion to meet the schedule for Rod's well-deserved retirement in June."
The chairman gave no other information about the search's status during a meeting that ended an hour early and was noteworthy in part for its relative lack of acrimony.
The presidential search initially was to conclude in November, but the timetable was pushed back after an individual widely believed to be the school's top choice withdrew. The delay became one more flashpoint for alumni and others who have dogged the trustees for months with criticisms, both for the board's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal generally and for their firing of late football coach Joe Paterno.
They say the late coach became a university scapegoat.
During Friday's meeting, trustee Joel Myers delivered a speech urging unity and renewed pride, and as part of it, suggested a statue for the legendary coach be placed outside a campus building that was a focus of Paterno's philanthropy.
"Now is the time to consider creating a statue of [early Penn State professor] Fred Pattee and Joe Paterno for the front steps of the library to emphasize the importance of libraries and learning at Penn State," he said.
"Now is the time to heal the fractures in the Penn State nation," Mr. Myers said. "Instead of criticism, division and conflict, now is the time to encourage healthy debate, discussion and dialogue."
Unlike recent sessions, only one individual took the microphone for the public comment portion of the meeting. That speaker, Wendy Silverwood, offered a scathing denunciation of the Freeh report commissioned after the arrest of Sandusky, a former assistant Penn State football coach, later convicted of sexual assaults on boys.
She said its conclusions represented a distortion of campus culture and values and that the board has failed to set the record straight.
"Enough is enough. For over two years Penn Staters had made one simple demand, find the whole truth in the Sandusky scandal," she said. "The Freeh report had a chance to do so, but it failed -- it failed miserably."
In other business Friday, Mr. Erickson told trustees that undergraduate applications may be headed for record totals and to date are 7,600 ahead of last year. They are up by 19 percent for the main campus and up by 7 percent across the state campuses.
Overall, he said, applications at all locations from Pennsylvanians are up by 8 percent.
"After last year's dip in the overall number of applications, from all indications this admissions cycle could produce another new high," Mr. Erickson said.
Newly hired football coach James Franklin also addressed the board's session, making a promise.
"There is nobody who is going to work harder to make you guys proud," said the new coach, recruited away from Vanderbilt University last week. "I'm a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart."
Bill Schackner: email@example.com, 412-263-1977 or on Twitter @BschacknerPG. Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-439-3791 or on Twitter @mdent05. First Published January 17, 2014 3:41 PM