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Ben Novak: Don’t Vote a Ticket This Time, Vote for Gavin Keirans

In 1989, I was elected to the Penn State Board of Trustees, the first of four terms and twelve years on the board. Last year, during my second run at returning to the board, I dropped out to support the PS4RS ticket because I felt that backing the Paterno family and unseating the incumbents was more important.

This year, however, I do not recommend voting for a ticket. We need Gavin Keirans on the Board. He is the best candidate I know who will thoughtfully and fearlessly tackle the issues that face our Penn State family. Let me explain.

During my time on the board, I spoke often on the role of students in the university structure, stating my belief that: “Penn State is a living body, and the student body is an important organ of that body. And just like your own body, when one organ is not functioning well—whether it be the heart, lungs or liver or brain—the entire body ceases to function well. I believe that the student body is an organ of Penn State which is as important to the health of the whole, and has as much to contribute, as the faculty, the administration, the Board of Trustees, the staff, and the alumni.”

After I left the board in 2001, I spent seven years teaching in Europe. When I returned to Penn State in the summer of 2008, I found the vital organs of the Student Body on life support. This is when I met Gavin Keirans, as he entered his first of two terms as Student Body President (one of the only persons ever to do that).

Gavin has a way of working with student leaders and administrators in Old Main that I had never seen before. He was a student of history who could repeat verbatim board decisions and Collegian archives from fifty years ago. I saw him reinvigorate student life in the face of impossible odds.

Gavin also believes in leading practices, and would spend his time researching what other universities are doing, so that Penn State would always be at the forefront. Having known hundreds of student leaders over the years, Gavin is far and away one of the best we have ever had.

Recently I sat with Gavin at one of the Mount Nittany Conservancy’s annual events. It soon became clear that I no longer was talking to Gavin the student leader, but rather a man who now cites financial analyses and shares stories of his travels and work from his consulting career at companies across the country. Some things, however, never change: Gavin still has the pulse of all of the issues facing the University and the student body, as well as being able to trade war stories with prominent members of the State College community.

If you believe in “voting the ticket,” then use that for two of your three spots. Just make sure to keep room for Gavin Keirans on your ballot. He won’t let you down.

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