Masser's acceptance speech for chairman of Penn State's BOT

January 18, 2013

Thank you Karen, and my sincerest thanks and appreciation to my fellow members of the Board of Trustees. I'm humbled and honored you have entrusted me with this responsibility.

Taking the reins at this time is made easier by the groundwork laid by Karen Peetz over the past year. Despite the unprecedented events confronting this university, Karen stepped in and brought our board together to consider and make difficult decisions, decisions we believed were in the best long-term interests of the entire university. Her biggest achievement however, was not just to successfully deal with the events of the last year. Karen stayed focused on the fundamental strengths of our university, how it could be improved, and how it can best be positioned for the future.

As a result, Penn State has dramatically improved our board's transparency and governance and enhanced the University's infrastructure with new, talented people who are bringing fresh perspectives to key roles.

Karen, thank you.

Also, President Erickson ... you and your team should be recognized for all they have accomplished this past year. Thank you for your commitment to our institution and the students, faculty, staff and alumni we serve.

Finally, I want to recognize the steadfast support and encouragement I get from three particular Penn State alumni -- my wife Helen, and my two children, David and Julie.

In our house, when we say, "We are Penn State," truer words cannot be spoken. 

I also would like to recognize my younger sister, Dr. Cynthia Bambara, the chancellor at the Allegany College of Maryland, for providing me with an insider's perspective to higher education.

Nearly a half a century ago I made two of the most important decisions in my life. First I asked Penn State to admit me as a student. They accepted.

While at Penn State, I made another life-changing decision. I asked Helen to marry me. She also accepted.

Looking back to that time, I took a leap of faith that furthering my education and having a great life partner would be crucial to success. I was a seventh-generation farm boy from rural Pennsylvania, and the first to attend college. I was grateful for the opportunity, and Penn State opened my eyes to other career paths, beyond farming and beyond a grueling physical workday.

So with a degree in agricultural engineering, I launched -- what I thought at the time -- would be a career with Proctor & Gamble. I joined them as a project engineer at one of their paper plants in northern Pennsylvania. My Penn State education, like for so many of my fellow Pennsylvanians, had set me up for that career.

But several years later, when family circumstances presented me with the choice of continuing my corporate career or returning to the land, I chose the latter—with all the unpredictability of Mother Nature, as well as the rewards of working on the family farm.

And once again Penn State was there for me and my family.

We worked closely with the educators from Penn State Extension. Their expertise and knowledge helped us build our farm into one of North America's top produce growing, processing, shipping and marketing organizations. Today, we're an industry leader in food safety, corporate responsibility, and promotion of healthy vegetables. I'm also proud to say that my company, Sterman Masser, has been a major contributor to the economic development of our state.

I know, firsthand, the value of a Penn State education, and have seen the positive resulting economic impact on families and communities. I also know, as I look around this room, that my story is not unique or from a time gone by. Today, there are tens of thousands of students in Pennsylvania and beyond, who need the same chance to better their circumstances through higher education.

Keeping a Penn State education affordable and accessible for all students needs to remain our No. 1 priority.

Students have been the focus of my family's philanthropy for many years, and doing what's best for Penn State students -- present and future -- will be the focus of my chairmanship of this board.

Specifically, that means, as a community, we need to accomplish a few critically important goals.

First and foremost, we need to attract the next great president of Penn State. The good news is that right now everyone -- students, faculty, staff, alumni and this board -- are working together to accomplish this goal. I pledge to do my best to move this process forward for the future of Penn State.

Second, we need to continue to partner with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to achieve our common goals of creating an educated citizenry, promoting workforce development, attracting economic development and continuing our land grant mission. We will need to deal with the fiscal challenges, while maintaining affordable tuition.

Third, we need to continue our work in fulfilling our promises to create a safe environment for everyone on our campuses. We need to do this through the strict standards of compliance, governance and oversight improvements that we have been instituting. The world is watching us, and we have a unique opportunity to lead higher education. 

Finally, I promise to follow the advice often shared in my Pennsylvania Deutch community, "Du hab zwee ohre undt een maul, Du sollscht op heere mehr ass du schwetze."

Or in other words, "You have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen more than you talk."

I've always tried to take that advice to heart, and over the past year as vice chair, I have listened closely to our many constituents. I've heard the passion, disappointment and anger, but also the pride and optimism for the future. I've also seen our students, faculty and staff strive for excellence in all they do.

Penn State is a different university than the one that accepted me so many years ago, and it will continue to evolve. But one thing is certain and immutable -- Penn State transforms lives.

I will be forever grateful for its role in my life, and I look forward to devoting myself to moving this University forward. 

What we do in the coming months will define Penn State for years to come. We must, as a community, come together to strengthen and improve our University. I pledge to you, my full and dedicated efforts to making that so.

Thank you.

  • IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 18, 2013