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Penn State Criticized for Honoring Former Second Mile Board Vice Chair

When Penn State welcomes Army this Saturday for Military Appreciation Day, a former prominent board member and donor of The Second Mile who admitted to witnessing Jerry Sandusky shower with children will be honored in a special ceremony prior to kickoff.

Bruce Heim, a 74-year old Vietnam veteran, Bronze Star recipient, and U.S. Military Academy and Penn State graduate will be one of a select group of alumni participating in a coin toss before kickoff. Heim was once a major donor and vice chair of Sandusky’s former charity The Second Mile, and, as the Harrisburg Patriot News reported in 2012, dissuaded the then-Executive Director of The Second Mile from relaying the news of Sandusky’s then-alleged behavior to the entire board.

Audrey Snyder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette caught up with Heim to get his side of the story. In an interview with the Post-Gazette, Heim denied any wrongdoing.

“I was investigated by five different investigative agencies because of my association with the Second Mile,” he said. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I was investigated for two years, spoke to the grand jury for over two hours. … The Second Mile didn’t do anything wrong. We didn’t think Jerry was a pedophile.”

Heim said he chose to persuade Jack Raykovitz, the then-Executive Director of the charity, to not inform the entire board with the troubling news because he says he believed Penn State had cleared Sandusky of wrongdoing.

“Jerry in my presence, in the presence of coaches, in the presence of the football team on several occasions had gone in and showered with kids,” Heim said. “I said every day at the YMCA men shower with kids.”

Regardless of his laudable military service, Heim has already created a distraction from the intended Military Appreciation Day pageantry. According to the Post-Gazette, Penn State Trustee Ryan McCombie, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL captain, nominated Heim for the honor and Penn State president Eric Barron called Heim last month to see if he was still planning to attend.

Writes the Post-Gazette:

Mr. Heim, once recruited to play football by Joe Paterno, played football at the U.S. Military Academy and earned his MBA in insurance and real estate from Penn State. With Penn State playing Army on Saturday, Mr. Heim’s ties to both schools — he allows Army athletics to use his jet every year for recruiting and regularly donates to Penn State — were reasons he was selected for the coin toss.

The newspaper also reported that Penn State has received more than 100 complaints in the less than a day after it became public the Heim would be honored, a fact that Heim was unaware of.

“By not going out, I would be admitting that the Second Mile did something wrong and the Second Mile didn’t do anything wrong,” he told the Post-Gazette. “The shame of this whole thing is thousands of kids are embarrassed because they were involved with the Second Mile.”

A Penn State spokesman told the Post-Gazette that a 25-person committee determined Heim a worthy nominee more than a month ago. The committee was comprised of those inside and outside of the university.

In addition to the calls Penn State received, a number of disturbed individuals voiced their displeasure on social media.

Heim, meanwhile, suggested to the Post-Gazette that those angry at his inclusion are misinformed.

“Nobody in the Second Mile had any inkling that he had done anything wrong,” he said. “If you don’t believe it, then why hasn’t there been one charge brought against the Second Mile? They have been investigated just as deeply and as vigorously as Penn State was.”

UPDATE 4:59 p.m. — Penn State rescinded its offer for Heim to participate in Saturday’s game and President Eric Barron released the following statement:

Bruce Heim is a former football player and graduate of West Point and recipient of the Bronze Star who has served our nation with distinction. Unfortunately, his participation in Saturday’s coin toss ceremony has re-opened deep wounds in our community that do not involve his service to country, but have distracted the public from the purpose of the day. We therefore regret that we must rescind the invitation to Mr. Heim to participate in the coin toss. We hope the sole focus of the day remains honoring all the dedicated men and women who serve our nation.

Heim also released a statement of his own (via StateCollege.com):

I find it regrettable that an uninformed few who attacked my personal and professional integrity because of my role as Vice Chair of the Board of the Second Mile have successfully dishonored what I was asked by Penn State to represent; military veterans. This runs counter to the basic tenets of our freedom which military personnel fight to defend. We did not know and were not complicit. As someone who has served the military and university with pride, I strongly disagree with Penn State’s decision. I was proud to join others represented at the coin toss and to pay tribute to fellow West Point graduates and Vietnam veterans who have served their country. I am disappointed by this decision but more so by the process. However, the University and I agree on one important thing: tomorrow’s activities are all about the men and women who honor our nation with their service.

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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