PSU’s Graham Spanier Makes his Case to the Board of Trustees


In an effort to show fairness on both sides of the Penn State debate the following article contains a letter Graham Spanier wrote to the Penn State Board of Trustees as we at have come to find it. Parts or pieces of the letter may have been altered, or not, but again as we know it this is the letter in its original form. 

For those that may not be familiar with Graham Spanier he was the president of Penn State University from Sept. 1995 through Nov. 2011. He was forced to resign from his position due to reaction from the media and Penn State alumni regarding the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Spanier’s fallout was centered upon how he handled information regarding Sandusky’s crimes at the time he was made aware of each situation. 

Adding to the disappointment in Spanier’s lack of action is his background as a family sociologist. Spanier is noted as a family sociologist as well as a marriage and family therapist. He is credited as the founding editor of the Journal of Family Issues.

At the end of Spanier’s letter we pose questions to points made within his plea to the Board of Trustees.

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.


Graham Spanier reaction to Spanier’s letter:

As a family therapist and president of Penn State University would any mention of a grown man “horsing around” with a minor in a shower be tolerated much less not be followed up on by Spanier?

Spanier claims he was not made aware of what happened in 2001 but previously said he had heard it was horsing around in the shower, seems to be a contribution in statements. Either he knew about it or did not.

Our understanding is Penn State football players were suspended from games in the early 2000’s for crank calling Sandusky regarding his incident(s) with minors. How could Spanier be unaware of why players were being suspended in the schools biggest media draw and athletic cash cow?

In 1998 Spanier was copied on two emails regarding an incident on his campus but did not follow up on something as serious as a minor being sexual assaulted within the confines of the Penn State football facilities? He along with other Penn State administrators passed the buck to others forcing other people to make decisions regarding Sandusky’s crimes without ever reporting anything to the local police? Which people with out the financial means to properly represent themselves in court will take the fall for those that can afford a high-end attorney as the proceedings continue to unfold? 

If Spanier did not react to the Sandusky situation how did he respond to any rape cases that were reported on the PSU campus during his tenure, be it in a dorm or otherwise? Did Spanier respond to some situations but not others or has he shown a disregard for cases of rape on the Penn State campus throughout his time as president? As school president what tone did he set in criminal activity of any kind during his administration?

Throughout each process/incident involving Sandusky how could everyone at Penn State make the collective decision to not involve the police on any matter? As a family therapist one would assume that Spanier spent time studying sexual assault cases dealing with minors from within a family construct or from outside. Of all involved, the seriousness of the matter should have been made known best by Spanier not only because of his educational and professional background but also because he is the president of the university, a thought position of leadership and integrity. 

When someone is subpoenaed typically the subpoena is hand delivered to the individual. As president of Penn State University we are lead to believe that he was naive enough to not know the fullest extent of an investigation that was ongoing under his watch or he cared too little to find out the list of people on the subpoena, himself included?

Spanier’s argument centering on his abusive background as a child and professional practice serves against him. For those reasons alone he should have made each and every incident involving minors “horse playing” in the shower with a naked grown man his personal mission to resolve and correct. 

Receiving national top security clearance in a Federal investigation bears no meaning on this situation. What the security clearance is for is never mentioned which could have bearing on the final Federal decision and the public’s opinion on the relevancy of the findings. Spanier may have played the situation by the books granting him clearance on a Federal level but that does not clear him of not taking a personal vested interest in the ongoings of the Penn State football facilities involving minors. 

Spanier’s interaction and meetings with several versions of board member committees does not give him a pass. He eludes that he left time for question and answer sessions thus pushing the onus back onto the trustees to ask if a child had been raped in the showers instead of him being forthright with the information.

A board as big as Penn State’s should have records of each meeting assuming they follow the “Robert’s Rules of Order”. Within those records will be minutes and agendas of business to be covered along with “old business” and “new business.” If Spanier was forthright with information to the BOT that information would be found in the minutes of said meetings. 

Assuming Spanier never mentioned the incidents involving Sandusky to the Board of Trustees and the fact that he did not follow up on each crime/incident associated with Sandusky why would the BOT ever give him a poor review or fight a contract renewal? They were being mislead on purpose or otherwise.

Once the BOT found out the truth or the truth was made know on a national level he was forced to resign… with no contract renewal; that’s kind of how these things work Mr. Spanier. 

If granted an audience with the BOT what does Spanier hope to accomplish? How can he save faith? He can point to his background in family therapy as an out and point to the growth of Penn State as his time as school president but his dereliction of the Sandusky acts should prove to be too much.  

PSU will not hire him back no matter how many new buildings he oversaw the completion of on campus or how much money was raised during his 16 years as school president.

What is he going to tell the BOT? Will he tell them that he cannot recall anything thus he is not at fault? Will he not say the District Attorney did not purse the case based off a lie from a sexual predator, thus it is still not his fault? What new information could he possibly posses that was not honestly given during his previous interviews that would be found in the Freeh Report?

To further this point no major Division-I program would be in their right mind to offer him a job based on the Sandusky scandal, or any college  at any level that receives any national media attention regardless of his record of progress as president of PSU. As he stated, his reputation is severely tarnished with little chance of redemption. 

Ignorance of the law is not tolerated in the U.S. Ignorance of a sexual predator luring kids to the Penn State campus should not be tolerated by anyone that was involved be it Spanier or Joe Paterno. 

Joe Paterno was not mentioned once in Spanier’s letter. We are lead to believe that Paterno never contacted Spanier about any situations centered around Sandusky which contradicts a statement by Paterno that he passed the information up the chain of command. Who would Paterno immediately report to if not Spanier on such a grievous crime? Are we now to assume that the athletic director did not report this information correctly to Spanier? Again, someone else’s fault but not Spanier’s. 

Spanier evidently cannot reveal the errors found within the Freeh Report. Penn State signed off on the Freeh Report agreeing to the contents within. Why would Mr. Freeh and the current PSU admin sign off on a document full of inaccurate information? Why would there be contradictory information if Spanier was not in compliance throughout the interviews conducted? Would the interviewers not ask questions allowing him the opportunity to explain himself along with follow up questions on the same subject?

For all of Spanier’s attempts to refute the information found after hours of interviews and millions of emails scanned what if he had put this much time and effort into the initial Sandusky scandal? Chances are Penn State would not be under NCAA sanctions, Joe Paterno may still be the all-time winningest coach in Division-I college football histoy, and the athletic program would not be on the edge of a true “death penalty.”

Paterno stated, “he wished he would have done more at the time.” What all that entails we will never know. What we do know is others knew. How high up the cover up went is yet to be determined. 

The fact the police were never involved on two separate known occasions and Sandusky was given access to the Penn State football facilities without supervisor until Nov. of 2011 is appalling. Allowing minors to be sexually assaulted should not be forgiven due to feigned ignorance when one’s job title is president of an organization.  

Refute all you want Mr. Spanier you are still at fault one way or another. Prolonging your position of innocence due to lack of knowledge only further proves your ineptness as the former president of Penn State University and as a family therapist. 

America what is your opinion on the Penn State scandal?