U.S. Steel's Surma to step down from Penn State board of trustees

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John Surma, chairman and chief executive officer of United States Steel Corp., is stepping down from Penn State University's board of trustees in June, the university announced on its web site today.

Penn State said Mr. Surma, former board vice chair, first notified its leadership in December and reconfirmed his plans as the board made a recent call for nominations and applications for business and industry trustees, of whom Mr. Surma is one.

Mr. Surma cited "several new and continuing business commitments" as the reasons he intends to leave the board when his current term expires, according to Penn State's website.

Mr. Surma's leadership role on the board -- including his televised announcement of the firing of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in November 2011 -- made him a target of scorn among those who felt the late coach had been made a scapegoat and that Penn State had mishandled its response to the arrest of Jerry Sandusky on sexual assault charges.

That was evident today in the statement released by one alumni group, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, in response to Mr. Surma's decision.

"Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship is pleased that John Surma, who was acting as Chairman of the Penn State Board of Trustees in November 2011, will not be running for re-election as a trustee," the statement read. "We only wish he would have resigned sooner.

"We hope that the trustees will adopt a public and transparent process to select a new trustee to represent business and industry interests on the Penn State Board of Trustees, and we look forward to welcoming a trustee who is proud of the Penn State culture of success with honor."

Mr. Surma was elected to the board representing business and industry for a three-year term effective July 1, 2007, according to his university biography.

He was reelcted for another term and served as vice chair in 2010 and 2011, the university said.

Courtney Boone, a U.S. Steel spokeswoman, referred a call to Mr. Surma for comment to Penn State.

Sandusky, a retired assistant football coach, is serving a 30 to 60-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting 10 boys over a decade, including some on Penn State's campus.

Penn State Trustees Chairman Keith Masser issued a statement through the university praising Mr. Surma's tenure.

"Our community owes a significant debt of gratitude to John Surma and his family. His years of service to this University and our students is a source of inspiration and pride," Mr. Masser wrote. "We thank him for his sacrifice and celebrate his unwavering commitment to Penn State. I am proud to have served with him on the Board of Trustees."

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