Early Sunday morning at Penn State University, a crew of workers in hard-hats dismantled a statue of Joe Paterno outside the football stadium and put it into storage. They removed all traces of the monument, even a parking sign for visitors to the statue.
Penn State is in the process of stripping its campus of reminders of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was found guilty of 45 child sex abuse charges in June, and university leaders who are accused of covering up Sandusky’s actions. (Earlier this month Nike removed Paterno’s name from the child care center at its Oregon headquarters.)
But reminders of Paterno remain. You can still order “Peachy Paterno” ice cream at the dairy store on campus, and Paterno memorabilia still fills the shops near campus. And then there’s the Paterno Library, named for Joe and Sue Paterno, who led fundraising for the construction of the nearly $14 million facility and donated millions to the project. The library was dedicated in April 1997.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson wrote in a statement that he feels “strongly” that the library’s name should remain, as “Paterno Library symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University.”
The library was a special spot for the Joe and Sue Paterno, who met at a Penn State library when she was a freshman and he was a young football coach. When Paterno was honored by university trustees in 1983 for leading the Nittany Lions to their first championship, he urged them to keep academics a top priority, saying: “You can't have a great university without a great library.”
When Paterno died in January, Sue Paterno was thanked by players and others for being “much more than a coach’s wife” and taking an active role in the football program, especially when it came to academics.
Sue Paterno, who is still alive, and her children have been critical of the university’s handling of the accusations against Paterno. When Paterno was fired by a trustee via a phone call, Sue Paterno called that trustee back and reportedly said: “After 61 years he deserved better.”
One of their children, Jay Paterno, relinquished his coaching job at Penn State.
Earlier this month, independent investigators hired by university trustees released a report stating that Paterno and three other powerful leaders “concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse.” The Paterno family announced that it would launch its own investigation into that report. Their statement read, in part: “We are dismayed by, and vehemently disagree with, some of the conclusions and assertions and the process by which they were developed.”
And when Paterno’s statue was removed Sunday morning, the family released a statement that criticized the action: “It is not the University's responsibility to defend or protect Joe Paterno. But they at least should have acknowledged that important legal cases are still pending and that the record on Joe Paterno, the Board [of Trustees] and other key players is far from complete.”
What do you think? Which monuments to Joe Paterno should be allowed to stay and which should go?