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The major issues of an era are sometimes not recognized when they are occurring, but become clear through the lens of history.
I believe when historians look back at this period in Penn State’s history, the story will be one of terrific grit, solid determination, amazing spirit, and extraordinary resiliency. The stories of Penn State have not only been written in the past, but they are being written right now, and most of us in the Penn State Community are part of them.
Faced with the shock and horror of the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal and unexpected, unmitigated setbacks, and in a number of ways, unfair attacks on this University, we have not faltered, but rose to a level of greater glory than nearly anyone could have expected.
Many institutions faced with a similar set of negative circumstances would have suffered to such an extent that they might not have ever recovered, or at least it would have taken a decade or more to recover. But Penn State is not a typical institution. The Penn State community is in no way ordinary.
Fundraising. The fundraising campaign is coming to an end. We had an ambitious goal of $2 billion, set before the economy was dealt a cruel blow by a severe recession and then came the scandal.
Some in higher education across the country questioned the wisdom of us continuing to plow ahead with such an ambitious goal. But plow ahead Penn State did and we exceeded the $2 billion, by an amount that is now approaching 10%, fueled by a greater number of gifts than has ever been received by any University in any campaign. Further, we became only the 12th public university to ever reach or exceed $2 billion. What a terrific testimonial to the Penn State Community!
Enrollment. One of the greatest measures of a university’s success is the demand by future students. Applications for enrollment at Penn State are 18% ahead of last year and the aptitude and SAT scores of the incoming class is higher than it has been in the past.
Research Ranking. Penn State is ranked in the top 15 for competitively-earned research dollars ($808 million last year), putting us in the company of other prestigious schools like MIT, Johns Hopkins and Stanford. Our research grants are increasing, while many of our peer institutions are barely holding their own.
Best Professors. Penn State is ranked #3 for the best professors in 2013 by ratemyprofessors.com.
Veterans. Penn State was recently ranked as the #1 university in the nation for veterans.
Basic Sciences. The National Research Council ranks Penn State among the top 10 elite universities in the basic sciences in the US, according to a recent comprehensive study.
Philanthropy. THON is by far the largest student run philanthropy in the world. This year, it raised $13.3 million to fight pediatric cancer, another new record.
Academic Departments. Some of Penn State’s departments rank #1 in the world. Many of our others rank in the top 10 of elite universities nationwide. Penn State is #1 in faculty Fulbright scholars, with 14 in fiscal year 2012. This beats every other university in the US.
Job Starting Salaries. Penn State is #7 in median starting salaries for our students, ranking us above many Ivy League schools.
Library Resources. The Penn State library Pattee/Paterno library was recently ranked 8th among all research libraries in North America.
U.S. News Ranking. U.S. News and World Report recently ranked Penn State #8 among public universities and #37 of all universities in the United States – up nine places in just one year – a very significant jump.
Job Recruiting. The Wall Street Journal recently ranked Penn State as the #1 place for corporations to hire their best employees.
Career Center. Princeton Review recently rated Penn State’s Career Center as the best in the country.
Governance Leadership. Nearly 80% of the leading universities in the nation are following Penn State’s lead and model in implementing significant improvements in governance and oversight, according to a recent USA Today article.
Moody’s Rating Upgrade. Moody’s, the prestigious credit rating institution, recently upgraded our financial rating to positive, strongly suggesting an upgrade in Penn State’s underlying credit rating soon, which will positively influence our ability to borrow money and reduce our interest costs. Moody’s took this action, citing that the governance improvements we have made, and expressing its confidence in Penn State’s Board of Trustees leadership.
Governance Model. We are establishing a model for the best level of University governance, athletic integrity, ethics, moral standards, and processes. In answer to a question I asked at a recent Board meeting, Senator Mitchell suggested that few other institutions have achieved our high level of morality and ethics in intercollegiate athletics.
Football Program. Some of us heard when the sanctions were announced, some athletic directors thought it would take 8-10 years for Penn State football to recover. Remember, the NCAA allowed our players to transfer without penalty. But also remember most of them did not and lined up behind our new coach. Under Bill O’Brien we had two winning seasons, to the surprise of many, ending last season with a shocking upset of Wisconsin, who had come into the game a 24 point favorite. After O’Brien turned pro, we hired a coach who appears to be the ideal man to lead us into the future. In a matter of months, James Franklin has assembled what has already been ranked the #1 recruiting class for next year, apparently surpassing the rank of Alabama, a perennial powerhouse. Is this a dream?
Combined with the reduced sanctions, I expect Penn State to be playing for the Big 10 title in a few years, and to be fighting for a National Championship within five years. Who would have thought that possible? Penn Staters would.
Other Sports. We all know the wrestling team won its 4th national championship, the women’s volleyball team won its 7th national championship, which makes Penn State the winningest women’s volleyball program in the country. At present, Penn State is ranked #2 for the Learfield Trophy.
A New President and Administration. Dr. Eric Barron has already arrived on campus to take over as the new President. He comes with great credentials and should be the ideal leader to help Penn State meet the many challenges that will be facing higher education and Penn State in the years ahead.
All of these things have been possible by a super-dedicated faculty, staff, and administration that rolled up their sleeves and recommitted to Penn State.
And for those who fault the Board for difficult decisions made in the dark days of 2011, I suggest they look at the record of the tone of leadership or direct action the Board has taken to directly facilitate and achieve an environment in which these results could be achieved in a very tough environment. This is a story of extraordinary people, extraordinary commitment, and extraordinary results throughout the Penn State community. This is the story that will resonate across the land as a way to deal with adversity and rise to a new height. This is the Penn State story. I am proud to be a part of it.
Dr. Joel Myers, ’61 BS, ’63 MS, ’71 PhD, Founder and President of AccuWeather, headquartered in State College.