As I write this it is Thursday morning, November 10, 2011, six days after the Attorney General released the presentment in the Sandusky case and less than a day since President Spanier and Coach Paterno have been removed from their positions. These last days have filled us all with an incredible array of emotions that have been at times overwhelming. As a community we are grieving; we are grieving many things.
First and foremost, we grieve for the victims of abuse and their families. As a father of young children, I felt revulsion and horror as I read the presentment. The possibility that any of us in any way might have contributed to such acts is devastating. I continue to pray for the victims and their families even as we wait for the justice system to take its course. The Board of Trustees has announced that a Special Committee will be formed to not only investigate what has happened in the past but also to ensure that it never happens again.
We also grieve for ourselves. The idea that someone in our community could have perpetrated such acts overwhelms us. People who have successfully led our community for decades are no longer present. It is understandable that we feel loss and disbelief.
We are saddened by the way in which the world now seems to view Penn State. We have been “Penn State Proud” of our institution, our integrity, and our honor. Now, we are forced to ask ourselves if all of that may be lost. Last month a 99-year-old distinguished alumnus of Penn State was addressing a group of Schreyer Scholars and concluded his remarks with the following prescient comment: “You will spend your whole life building your reputation, but it can take only a moment for it to be destroyed.”
So now we come together to grieve, to apologize, to investigate ourselves, to heal, and to build a future that is better for not just the Nittany Nation, but all nations.
Penn State remains what it has always been: an amazing institution with tremendous foundations in honest and integrity. We are more than any single individual or small group. We are thousands of faculty and staff, tens of thousands of students, and hundreds of thousands of alumni.
We need only think of THON, not just to be proud of Penn State, but to see the path forward. The Four Diamonds Fund was started in 1977 through the tragic loss of one couple’s child to cancer. Charles and Irma Millard used their loss to inspire them and others to raise awareness and support of pediatric cancer. In the years since combining with the Penn State Dance Marathon, tens of millions of dollars have been raised. A tragedy has become an agent of healing and Penn Staters have made that possible.
There is a long road ahead for our community and it will be difficult, but I am confident in our future. Already our students are seeking to make this tragic situation one of hope. Blue is not only one of the colors of Penn State, but also the symbol for the campaign to stop child abuse. They are calling for Saturday’s game to be a “Blue Out,” not simply as a sign of support of the university, but more importantly a statement to the innocents who have been harmed.
This is why I have hope, confidence and pride in Penn State.