Former Penn State President Graham Spanier to promote his book on Sandusky scandal in campus appearance

In the prologue to his memoir, Graham Spanier summarized his life as president of Penn State University until his world collapsed around him in November 2011.

“I was all in,” he said. “And it shouldn’t be a secret that I miss my job. ”

Not that he has become a stranger to the place. In fact, Wednesday will be Spanier’s fourth appearance at University Park since September to promote his book, “In the Lion’s Den: The Penn State scandal and a Rush to Judgment.” It’s his side of the infamous Jerry Sandusky story.

But the appearance of this domain will be different.

Unlike earlier book signings at alumni tailgates outside Beaver Stadium, his bookstore event in the HUB-Robeson Center will put the 74-year-old State College resident before an audience in the heart of the campus, a short walk from Old Main and the presidential complex. a role he held for 16 years.

Many alumni and others who suffered as a result of the Sandusky scandal still have strong feelings.

But increasingly, Penn State is surrounded by undergrads who were high schoolers when Sandusky, a former Nittany Lions assistant football coach, was indicted on Nov. 5, 2011, and later convicted of sexually abusing several boys – rocking the campus, the sports world and the country.

The book is not about Sandusky’s guilt or innocence, someone Spanish says he barely knew. Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in prison.

Instead, Spanier contends that he and others, including the late football coach Joe Paterno, were unfairly harmed by a “criminal justice system run seriously, political revenge and revenge, moral panic and the influence of twisted media reporting.

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In an emailed response to questions Friday, Spanier said he is helping to tell the truth about what he says were lies spun by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who investigated the issue, and politicians and others.

Spanier says he has held about 30 memorial-related events in Pennsylvania and elsewhere — many in bookstores — and has been well-received in places from Des Moines, Iowa, to Silver City , NM.

“I have no desire to expand on the trauma of so many Penn Staters 11 years ago, but in the … emails I receive daily, it is clear that the book has been important in setting the record straight for the thousands of Penn Staters who never accepted the false narrative published by Louis Freeh, prosecutors and others,” said Spanier.

Convicted of misdemeanor child endangerment over the school’s handling of an incident in 2001, Spanier served 58 days of a two-month jail sentence plus house arrest. He insists that he was not aware that Sandusky had molested children and said that the statement about Sandusky showering with a boy was marked to him as “horseplay”.

Spanier said that many stood up to him when the furor erupted, but not many did, despite his quarter-century career there as a faculty member and administrator.

“The corporate side of my own university, which I had served faithfully and ably for over 25 years, and to my dismay even a few of my close colleagues, was at a distance from me,” he said.

Penn State had no immediate comment on Spanier’s scheduled appearance in the HUB from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, which it said is being hosted by the University Park Barnes & Noble bookstore.

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Sydney Gibbard, a Penn State senior and president of the University Park Undergraduate Association, said her peers have mixed feelings.

“I think a lot of students are tired of signing the book and uncomfortable with what this event is bringing to Penn State and Graham Spanier himself, especially since our school really has tried to move on from the Sandusky case over the past few days. years,” Gibbard said.

“That being said, there’s definitely a large population of students who don’t know as much about Penn State’s history and probably don’t have as much of an impact on how this is happening on campus,” said i.

“I really support Dr. Spanier’s efforts to share his story. I think it’s an important story,” he said. “I welcome his appearance.”

Spanier’s memoir was published in early September. Spanier said the first run of 5,500 books has sold out and a second printing is being considered.

Spanier also plans to appear from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Penn State Altoona Barnes & Noble bookstore. Future appearances are in South Carolina and Florida through mid-February.

Spanier is a consultant in national and international security, intelligence and risk management. He retains the title of president emeritus and professor emeritus and says he remains active in university causes and plays football on campus.

A sociologist and family therapist, he was once one of the nation’s most prominent higher education figures, serving as director of a public land-grant university with 100,000 students and 45,000-plus employees on two dozen campuses .

He headed national associations, advised US presidents and was a respected voice on issues of the day, from higher education funding to illegal music downloading and college drinking.

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He straddled the line between the world of academia, where he wrote 10 books and was a scholar of family affairs, and his life on campus as an eccentric president who advised Penn State’s acting wizards, he did one-armed pushups in the Nittany Lion mascot. uniform and – as his 53rd birthday approached – he ran with the bulls in Pamplona, ​​Spain, in July 2001.

Sandusky was charged with 48 counts of child sexual abuse and convicted of 45. Two other senior administrators were charged in connection with their handling of the case.

Officials including Spanier intended to report the 2001 incident reported in a team shower to authorities, but instead took other actions including banning the former coach from bringing children to campus.

An email from Spanier then noted that “the only thing wrong with us is if the message is not heard and not accepted, and then we are vulnerable because we haven’t reported it.”

Spanier notes that Sandusky was found not guilty of the incident in 2001. Spanier wrote in the prologue of his book that the situation was allegedly “falsely reported to Joe Paterno and … (finally) for me.”

Spanier said: “Mostly caught up in the media storm surrounding the news was Joe Paterno, a legendary head football coach. It wouldn’t be long before I was swept into a nightmare even though I only had one conversation with Sandusky in my life.”

Bill Schackner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .


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