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Bill Oldsey Pushes For Continued Communication & Affordability In Trustee Campaign

Bill Oldsey first joined Penn State’s Board of Trustees in 2013 and has since secured re-election twice. Still, he remains passionate about improving the university he loves so much in a number of ways.

Oldsey, who graduated from Penn State in 1976, was driven to become a trustee largely because of his own experience in Happy Valley. His parents both graduated from Penn State and began raising a family of their own when he was born in Bellefonte in 1953. As Oldsey grew up in Happy Valley, his father worked as a professor of English and American Literature at the university.

“I’m born and raised into this place,” Oldsey said. “My Dad left Penn State and went to West Chester University when I was a junior in high school — did not make me happy — I could’ve gone to a lot of schools. My parents didn’t necessarily want me to go to Penn State, but there was no way I was going anywhere else.”

After earning his undergraduate degree in Happy Valley, Oldsey spent approximately 30 years in the publishing business. He served as Group President for Pearson Education International, and eventually became President at McGraw Hill-Education — that’s a wealth of experience that Oldsey feels gives him a valuable and unique perspective on higher education.

“I’m in the business of education — 33 years in the business of education,” Oldsey said. “I think it’s a good thing for a board of our size to have a couple of people that understand the back-business of higher education. I think I bring that to the table.”

Oldsey was honored alongside the rest of his family at the 2021 Michigan game for several Penn State philanthropy efforts. (Image: Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics)

Along with his love for Penn State, Oldsey was also driven to run for a trustee position following the university’s handling of the Sandusky scandal. The former publishing executive notes, however, that while he’s passionate about carrying on the legacy and ideals of Joe Paterno, his success as a trustee over the past nine years makes him a candidate who’s much more than just that one topic.

“If that was the impetus for my running, I still feel good about that. But sometimes, people have a tendency to write us off. They even have a name for it, they call us ‘JoeBots,'” Oldsey said. “If you look at my body of work over the last nine years, you can say that, but it’s highly unfair if you do. I’m very proud of the work I’ve done as a trustee.”

Oldsey went on to note that he’s one of just two people on the current board who served on the committees that helped to hire both Eric Barron and Neeli Bendapudi as Penn State’s presidents, respectively.

After serving as Chair of the Committee on Academic Affairs, Research & Student Life for multiple years, Oldsey also wants to continue to make Penn State one of the top educations in the country. To do that, Oldsey feels national rankings are a key point to address.

“One of the initiatives that I got started last July was a very hard focus on rankings,” Oldsey said. “Some of our rankings have dropped in U.S. News and World Report, and so we are now laser-focused on why that is and what the things are that we can begin doing to drive improvement.”

Oldsey is mainly focused on improving rankings in order to recruit faculty and students, as well as growing the overall research enterprise at Penn State. He understands that many other universities may manipulate those rankings, but he is proud that he and the rest of the committee have “taken the high road” in sticking to how Penn State can develop as an academic leader on a national scale.

“This initiative that we’ve got underway now — we will definitely drive improvement in rankings,” Oldsey added.

In order for any of that to happen, however, Penn State needs to continue to attract top-notch students. Oldsey understands this and is proud of the work he’s already done to keep the Board of Trustees open and connected to Penn State’s student body.

“A couple of years ago, I started doing what I would call my ‘HUB stop-ins,'” Oldsey said. “I would just go in the HUB, I’d look for a group of students and introduce myself, and I’d say, ‘I’m a trustee, I want to know what the burning issues are from your perspective.’ I got huge amounts of information that way.”

Over the past few years, Oldsey also says made a point to meet every few weeks with UPUA’s president and vice president.

“What I find is that I need to ask good questions of students and then shut up and listen,” Oldsey said. “I don’t think we have as much of that on the board as we probably should.”

Through those extended conversations, Oldsey has learned of a number of issues most pressing to students that he wants to address, most notably affordability and financial insecurity.

In order to address those long-standing problems, Oldsey has plans for a much closer look at the university’s expenses. His goal is to further scrutinize Penn State’s organizational structures and overall administrative costs to create savings that can help the affordability of an education here.

“We should stop blaming Penn State’s high cost on governments. It’s a waste of our time,” Oldsey said. “I think of three buckets. There’s a bucket of money that any major university spends on teaching, learning, and research outcomes. You don’t mess with that bucket…There’s a second bucket — all the money and resources that we spend towards the student experience.”

“The third bucket is what I would call administrative costs,” he added. “It’s all the other money that the university is spending that aren’t directly tied to teaching, learning, and research outcomes and the student experiences.”

Oldsey made clear that there should be a much larger focus on that third bucket, and there should be more questions as to why money is being spent there.

“If you’re spending a lot of money on people, process, or infrastructure that’s not driving things in those first two areas, then the question has to be, ‘Why are we doing that?'” Oldsey added.

Oldsey noted that there should be more scrutinization of Penn State’s efforts in constructing new buildings or buying more real estate. He particularly noted that new administrative buildings should be questioned more often, while the university should continue to support the creation of new research labs or athletic facilities.

With nearly nine years of service to Penn State under his belt, Oldsey clearly has a far-reaching list of goals and priorities he wants to continue to address. As he now runs for his third re-election alongside Ted Brown and Barb Doran, Oldsey is excited to hit the ground running with his initiatives surrounding affordability and access, as well as a continued effort to truly listen and connect with students and faculty.

With his clear goals in mind, Oldsey is particularly motivated by the opportunity to work with Penn State President-elect Neeli Bendapudi, the former Louisville president he helped bring to Happy Valley.

“I was very involved in the recruitment of Neeli. I want to make sure the transition is a good one for her, and that Penn State people get to meet her quickly and understand the essence of Dr. Bendapudi,” Oldsey said. “To meet her is to almost immediately gravitate to her. She connects really well with students and knows how to speak the students’ language.”

Voting for this year’s trustee election will close at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 5. Eligible alumni can request ballots through this online form.

Editor’s note: Oldsey’s interview is the latest in a multi-part series that aims to feature alumni running for open seats on the Board of Trustees. Onward State does not, and will not, endorse any candidate(s) in this election. Check out our site to read more about the eight candidates vying for spots on the board this election cycle.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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