ESPN Obtains Spanier Letter to Board of Trustees
ESPN Outside the Lines obtained a letter sent by former Penn State President Graham Spanier to the Board of Trustees addressing his role in the failure to report Sandusky’s abuse. In the letter, he blasts the Freeh report, and denies many of the claims contained in the report.
Spanier also cites that as a victim of child abuse himself, he would never turn a blind eye to such abuse.
The letter can be found below, in full.
Dear Members of the Board of Trustees:
I write to you with great regret about the situation that the entire University finds itself in following the conviction of Jerry Sandusky and the release of the Freeh report. Upon release of the Grand Jury presentment last November I was shocked and continue to be deeply troubled to have learned that a child predator victimized children while associated with the University, even after his retirement. I can assure you that I hadn’t the slightest inkling until reading the Grand Jury presentment that Sandusky was being investigated for more than a single incident in a shower in 2001, something that was described to me only as “horsing around.”
Had I known then what we now know about Jerry Sandusky, had I received any information about a sexual act in the shower or elsewhere, or had I had some basis for a higher level of suspicion about Sandusky, I would have strongly and immediately intervened. Never would I stand by for a moment to allow a child predator to hurt children. I am personally outraged that any such abusive acts could have occurred in or around Penn State and have considerable pain that it could perhaps have been ended had we known more sooner.
You need to understand and hear from me some important facts: I was apparently copied on two emails in 1998, the first, from Gary Schultz to Tim Curley on May 6 saying that “the Public Welfare people will interview the individual Thursday.” The second email, from Schultz to Curley on June 9, says “They met with Jerry on Monday and concluded that there was no criminal behavior and the matter was closed as an investigation. He was a little emotional and expressed concern as to how this might have adversely affected the child. I think the matter has been appropriately investigated and I hope it is now behind us.” I have no recollection of any conversations on the topic or any other emails from that era sent to me or by me. It is public knowledge that the District Attorney decided there was no crime to pursue. I don’t understand how one could conclude from such evidence “concealment” of a known child predator.
My knowledge of the 2001 incident is fully explained to the best of my recollection in the materials I provided to Mr. Freeh and that are appended to his report (enclosed again here). I never heard a word about abusive or sexual behavior, nor were there any other details presented that would have led me to think along those lines. McQueary’s name was never mentioned to me, and it is clear that Curley and Schultz had not spoken to him yet when they gave me their initial heads up. I was in fact told that the witness wasn’t sure what he saw, since it was around a corner. Dr. Jonathan Dranov’s Grand Jury and trial testimony appear to corroborate that nothing sexual was reported to him in his meeting with McQueary on the night of the 2001 incident.
The Freeh report is also egregious in its incomplete and inaccurate reporting of my 2011 discussions with certain trustees, advice and reporting from the University’s General Counsel, and the recounting of unfolding events in November, 2011. I want to be clear that the Chair of the Board of Trustees was kept informed by me throughout 2011 to the fullest extent I was able, beginning on the Sunday after my Grand Jury appearance and in other discussions with trustee leaders.
In reporting to the Trustees, I was guided by and followed all instructions from the University’s General Counsel. She told me very little about how she was handling the Grand Jury investigation. She never told me anything about the content of the interviews with athletic department staff or the Curley and Schultz Grand Jury testimony or the interview of Curley and Schultz by the Attorney General when she was present. She did tell me on at least three occasions, however, that this was the third or fourth Grand Jury on this matter, that there appeared to be no issue for the University, and that the Attorney General did not seem to have any evidence to suggest that something happened involving Penn State. She had, she said, spoken several times to Attorney General staff. I was never told by her of any materials being
subpoenaed from the University, or even that I had been subpoenaed to testify. She told me I was going voluntarily, as I had previously agreed to do, and she accompanied me before the judge and in the Grand Jury room and sat through my testimony. I had no preparation or understanding of the context. As I was being sworn in for my Grand Jury appearance, much to my surprise she handed over to the judge a thumb drive containing my entire history of emails back to 2004.
I note that the Freeh report concluded that the General Counsel failed to seek the advice of a law firm with quality criminal experience to advise her of how to deal with the Attorney General and the Grand Jury investigation. I have learned this is a standard procedure when corporations or other large entities are served with Grand Jury subpoenas.
It is unfathomable and illogical to think that a respected family sociologist and family therapist, someone who personally experienced massive and persistent abuse as a child, someone who devoted a significant portion of his career to the welfare of children and youth, including service on the boards of four such organizations, two as chair of the board, would have knowingly turned a blind eye to any report of child abuse or predatory sexual acts directed at children. As I have stated in the clearest possible terms, at no time during my presidency did anyone ever report to me that Jerry Sandusky was observed abusing a child or youth or engaged in a sexual act with a child or youth.
This conclusion should have been abundantly clear to Mr. Freeh and his colleagues who interviewed me for five hours before their report was finished and interrogated scores of employees about me. Yet the report is full of factual errors and jumps to conclusions that are untrue and unwarranted. I have identified many errors in the report that pertain to me, which my attorneys will share confidentially with University legal counsel for your records and consideration. Moreover, I look forward to the opportunity to set the record straight with representatives of the Board of Trustees as you might desire.
As my attorneys have pointed out, another investigation of my conduct, an investigation by federal officials responsible for my national top secret security clearance, was carried out simultaneously with the Freeh investigation. This clearance required a re-review when the Sandusky matter surfaced in November. Federal investigators then conducted a four-month investigation of their own in which they interviewed many of the same individuals the Freeh Group interviewed and other relevant individuals Freeh did not interview. The investigation was significantly focused on any possible role I might have played in the Sandusky matter.
At the conclusion of the investigation, my top secret clearance was reaffirmed. Although I told Mr. Freeh directly about the federal investigation and its result, there is no mention of it anywhere in his report.
Comments from the Freeh report and some trustees about my leadership of Penn State over more than 16 years are confusing to me. I tried to keep the trustees informed of all of the most relevant issues. Following our prior tradition of “Chairpersons Meetings,” I instituted a pre-board dinner with trustee leadership, Trustee Seminars, and a morning report in public session with ample time for questions on any topic. We initiated Board subcommittees, an audit committee, a governance committee, and numerous other reforms to improve governance. I also believe his report is unfairly critical of the Board of Trustees in parts.
I worked with seven board chairs, received stellar annual reviews following surveys of all board members, and four contract renewals. I had an open door policy with trustees, returned all calls and answered all board members’ emails on a same-day basis. I never hesitated to bring to board leadership discussion of any sensitive issue. I believe my record as president of Penn State speaks for itself. Together, we accomplished a great deal of good during my 16-year presidency of Penn State. Yet I find myself excoriated by the Freeh report and individual trustees speaking negatively of me in public. My reputation has been profoundly damaged.
In light of my 26 years of service to Penn State, my contributions as president for more than 16 years, and my continuing service even after I left the presidency, I would ask to have an audience with representatives of the board to answer any questions you might have. I write you with sincere respect, with a heavy heart for the children who were victimized by Sandusky, and with regret for the difficult challenges ahead for this great University.
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About the Author
ESPN’s signature pregame show will return to the iconic Old Main Lawn on Saturday morning.
Gene Rockey — an employee in Copy Services for the past 26 years — will retire this week after more than 30 years of service to Penn State.
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