A Penn State trustee who said in an interview that he was “running out of sympathy” for people he described as the “so-called victims” of Jerry Sandusky is ending his bid for reelection to a second term on the board.
Al Lord, the former chief executive of student loan giant Sallie Mae, is one of nine alumni-elected trustees who have been highly critical of how the university handled the school’s child sex-abuse scandal that resulted in the conviction of Sandusky and three administration officials as well as the firing of the late Joe Paterno, the school’s legendary football coach. He announced Wednesday that he would not seek reelection, Penn Live reported.
Lord made his controversial comments in an email to the Chronicle of Higher Education after a jury determined March 24 that former university president Graham Spanier was guilty of endangering the welfare of future victims of Sandusky’s abuse when he and other members of the leadership team did not report a 2001 incident in a locker room shower to police or child-welfare authorities. Spanier became the third former university official to plead or be found guilty last month of child endangerment, following ex-athletic director Tim Curley and ex-Vice president Gary Schultz.
Lord was a staunch supporter of Spanier throughout the scandal. Sandusky was convicted in 2012 on 45 counts of sexually abusing boys and is serving a 60-year sentence in a Pennsylvania prison as his case is on appeal. Although he will no longer serve as a trustee, Lord intends to continue to work as a private citizen to support Spanier and the Paterno family. Paterno still has plenty of support in the Penn State community, with many in the Penn State community believing that he was unfairly maligned as an enabler of his longtime assistant coach’s abuse. Paterno was fired shortly after Sandusky’s arrest in November 2011 and died in January 2012.
In a measure of just how deeply the Sandusky case still resonates in the Penn State community and area, Lord came under heavy criticism for his comments to the Chronicle, with a York Dispatch editorial calling for his resignation.
“Running out of sympathy for 35 yr old, so-called victims with 7 digit net worth,” Lord wrote in an email to the Chronicle. “Do not understand why they were so prominent in trial. As you learned, Graham Spanier never knew Sandusky abused anyone.”
Lord appears to have been referring to the most-publicized incident of abuse in which Mike McQueary, a former graduate assistant and Nittany Lions quarterback, testified at Sandusky’s trial that he had seen Sandusky sexually assault a boy in the showers in 2001. McQueary said he told Paterno, Curley and Schultz what he’d seen. McQueary was awarded more than $12 million for defamation, misrepresentation and violations of whistleblower protections last year in a court decision that the school is appealing.
Penn State has settled more than $90 million in civil claims by at least 33 of Sandusky’s victims, who are now adults, and Lord focused on that in his email to the Chronicle. A 28-year-old man identified as “John Doe” testified during Spanier’s trial about being molested by Sandusky in 2002 and prosecutors contended that he would not have been a victim if administrators had taken action over McQueary’s claim.
“I am tired of victims getting in the way of clearer thinking and a reasoned approach to who knew what and who did what,” Lord told the Chronicle in an interview. He added, “The notion that there can be only one point of view with respect to all this stuff, and trustees at Penn State should toe a line that reflects the politically correct point of view, is symptomatic of what ails us.”
Lord on Monday released a statement to the Penn State student newspaper in which he apologized for “any pain the comment may have caused actual victims.” He added that the quote, which came in what he said was a “contentious exchange with a reporter,” was made in anger and was supposed to be “off the record.” His statement also attempts to distinguish between “real” and “alleged” victims:
This statement seeks to clarify the comment I made during a contentious exchange with a reporter. The remark, made in anger, was not intended ‘for the record.’ Though quoted accurately, it was too flippant and caustic; the comment conflates many deeply held sentiments in a sentence too short to reflect accurately my views about victims in this case. The quote was directed specifically at ‘so-called victims.’ It was certainly not intended to offend real victims. Real victims and alleged victims were among the 30 or so recipients of nearly $100 million distributed by Penn State.
The remark was made in the wake of Graham Spanier’s trial. That trial was held to determine if Graham (and others) knew the risk Gerry [sic] Sandusky’s [sic] posed to children sixteen years ago. Instead the trial focused almost solely on the horrors undergone by those children. Jerry Sandusky has been behind bars for four years. The Commonwealth put zero facts in evidence that anyone told Spanier anything sinister about Jerry Sandusky. Absent facts, the prosecution resorted solely to victim-based emotionalism. Now the jury foreman regrets the guilty verdict.
I apologize for any pain the comment may have caused actual victims.
I will note that from this verdict emerged a ‘new’ Penn State — a Penn State determined to consign four honest and honorable men to its politically correct trash heap. The new Penn State is not the Penn State of loyalty and courage where I received the degree which gave me my start in life 50 years ago.
Last week, the Spanier jury foreman who was the last holdout in deliberations said he had made peace with a verdict that he said was “a mistake.” Richard Black, 78, said that he wished Spanier had taken the stand to tell his side of the story.
“I don’t care how many mistakes you make in a lifetime … you have to reach a point somewhere where you can live with your mistake,” Black said. “In this particular case, I can live with it — even though I feel it was wrong — because it was an honest endeavor … Twelve people sat in that room and hammered back and forth, and honestly did what they were asked to do.”