Board of Trustees meets; President Spanier's remarks

March 18, 2011

Thank you Steve for comments on Bill Schreyer and Stan Schaffer. Before I get into other news, I want to mention another individual who had a fleeting, yet profound impact on the Penn State community.

That is Christina-Taylor Green, the little girl who was a victim of the shooting during Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ political event in Tucson, Ariz. Christina-Taylor dreamed of coming to Penn State and was deeply connected to our state through her grandfather, Dallas Green, a former pitcher and manager for the Philadelphia Phillies. We wanted to honor Christina-Taylor’s wish, so in her name we dedicated a brick on the Alumni Walk at the Hintz Family Alumni Center. We also issued the Green family a diploma-like certificate that reads: The Pennsylvania State University recognizes Christina-Taylor Green for her embodiment of Penn State ideals: academic excellence, athletic success with honor and compassionate civic leadership. I’d like to read the note we received from her family.

Dear Graham Spanier,

We cried when we heard you were honoring our daughter, Christina-Taylor Green, at Penn State University with a recognition certificate and a brick bearing her name on campus. She talked often about attending Penn State. I’m still not sure how a nine-year-old gets these ideas but growing up in Pennsylvania, it stuck with her. We are proud our little girl struck a chord with many people around the country, we hope this is her way of making a difference.

Thank you and Penn State University for honoring her; I will visit one day as I scout your team!

Sincerely, The Greens -- John, Roxanne and Dallas


Now, I’ll move on to the potential appropriation cut that has been recommended for Penn State. I appeared before the Senate Appropriation Committee on Wednesday, and the House Appropriation hearing is a week from Monday. We’re hopeful that there will be a better understanding of the implications of the current budget proposal. Although I know that you are familiar with the numbers, I do want to recap a few of the key points.

Gov. Corbett’s budget proposal calls for a 52.4 percent reduction in Penn State’s appropriation. It represents a decrease of $182 million.

If approved, this budget could fundamentally change Penn State and our sister institutions in the state and have major negative impacts for the citizens of Pennsylvania and their families.

Penn State’s appropriation is mostly used to offset the cost of education for Pennsylvania residents, and the direct impact of these cuts would be to undermine the support of in-state tuition for Pennsylvania resident-students.

The College of Agricultural Sciences would experience a decrease of $29 million of support that enables the network of county extension services in all Pennsylvania counties. This would be particularly unfortunate given Penn State’s role in helping Pennsylvanians. In addition, these proposed cuts will be a significant blow to the support of agricultural research, which serves Pennsylvania’s largest industry. I want to emphasize that this would be in addition to the college’s share of cuts in the academic operating budget.

The Penn State Hershey Medical Center will lose $13.1 million through the elimination of state medical assistance funding and the related loss of Federal matching funds.

Penn College of Technology in Williamsport will see a reduction of $1.4 million.

This budget proposal will force the university to "put everything on the table."

We are working very hard on all fronts to help the Legislature understand the catastrophic nature of this appropriation cut, and we are considering the hard choices we hope we won’t have to make. Penn State touches one in two households in Pennsylvania – this cut will have repercussions in every county.

We know that the state is faced with budgetary problems, and we’re willing to do our fair share. However, for every dollar invested by the Commonwealth to support operations of Penn State, the University returns $25 in total economic impact to Pennsylvania. I can’t think of any other investment that has a comparable return. We will continue to push for a fair appropriation and will keep you informed of any developments.

All of this comes at a time when Penn State is more popular than ever among prospective students. We are seeing another record year in the number of admissions applications received by the University. Total applications for all campuses are ahead by 6 percent compared to last year, graduate applications are up 8 percent, and we have received more undergraduate applications to date than in any prior year. This week we passed 105,000 applications and expect to see a record 120,000 applications.

First-choice freshman baccalaureate applications for summer/fall at the Commonwealth Campuses are up 16 percent over last year for out-of-state students, about even for Pennsylvania students, and up 66 percent for international students. Overall, applications are up 6 percent for the Commonwealth Campuses, and direct offers to the Commonwealth Campuses are up at 10 of the 19 campuses.

Summer and fall paid acceptances at University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses are about even with last year, and we are closely monitoring the numbers given the current budget situation. Students and families are concerned about the impact of the proposed appropriation.

In February, President Obama visited University Park. He toured our facilities and spoke to an attentive crowd of students, faculty, staff and invited guests.
President Obama unveiled the Better Buildings Initiative, a plan to improve energy efficiency of commercial building space in the U.S. This visit underscored Penn State’s efforts in energy and the environment.

President Obama said, "Right here at Penn State, a university whose motto is 'Making Life Better,' you've answered the call. You’re preparing to lead the way on a hub that will make America home to the most energy-efficient buildings in the world."

We look forward to realizing that promise through work on our campuses and in the Energy Innovation Hub at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Penn State is contributing to the economy in others ways as well through partnerships with corporations. Last year Penn State engaged in research partnerships with 750 companies and generated $99 million in industry-financed R&D. Lockheed Martin is one of our long standing partners, and just last month that partnership yielded a breakthrough discovery for space exploration.

The Lockheed Martin-Penn State collaboration discovered a new metamaterial that can be used to improve the performance of spacecraft antennas. This is the first commercially viable product of its kind, and it has the potential to radically improve space-based performance. As research continues we can expect to see more developments from the promising field of metamaterials.

Another partnership between industry and Penn State received $1 million in support from the National Science Foundation. This award will be used to create the new Center for Health Organization Transformation, and it will be housed in Penn State's Center for Integrated Healthcare Delivery Systems. Founded with industry partners Siemens Medical Solutions, Lockheed Martin and Verizon, the center's research agenda will address quality, management and clinical information technology in health care.

Harriet Black Nembhard, associate professor of industrial engineering, will serve as the principal investigator and site director.

The National Science Foundation awarded a $3.7 million grant to John Carlson, a plant geneticist in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. Carlson received the grant to develop genomics resources to address forest health issues affecting hardwood trees. The research will be applied to forest health, tree improvement and breeding, forest management and science education.

At lunch, you will hear from a panel that will describe some of the reasons The Wall Street Journal named Penn State the No. 1 overall institution in the nation for producing the best prepared, most well-rounded graduates who are able to succeed once hired. One of the ways we're helping Penn State students get hired is through Career Days, which are held twice a year at the Bryce Jordan Center.

This spring more than 300 companies and organizations and 2,000 students attended the event; we are looking forward to even greater attendance in the fall.

On Friday, Feb. 25, students from Penn State's School of Music performed in the fifth annual Penn State President's Concert at the Strathmore Music Center near Washington, D.C. About 150 students from the Concert Choir, Jazz Band, and Wind Ensemble performed for an enthusiastic audience.

It was a phenomenal experience made possible as the result of a collaboration among the School of Music, the Alumni Association and the President's Office.

We have some great news from athletics.

The wrestling team brought home Penn State's first Big Ten Wrestling Championship. Penn State went 5-0 in the finals to win the championship in a one-point victory over defending champion Iowa. Coach Cael Sanderson also came home a winner, being named the 2011 Big Ten Coach of theYear. David Taylor was named both Freshman of the Year and Wrestler of the Year, and Quentin Wright was named Wrestler of the Championship. Penn State's Wrestling Team will be competing through Saturday at the 2011 NCAA Championships in Philadelphia.

Last weekend Penn State’s men's Track and Field team competed in the 2011 Big Ten Indoor Track and Field NCAA Championships. The men had their strongest showing since 1975, and the second-highest indoor effort in the men’s record books.

Our track and field program has a winning future ahead with runners like freshman Brady Gehret from Altoona, whose finish in the 400 meters puts him in the Penn State record books and earned him a bronze medal.

Penn State also enjoyed an All-America effort on the women's side. After taking home three Big Ten individual titles, the team raced to a top finish in the women's 4-by-400 relay.

This was also a great season for our basketball teams. Shown here are the men when they learned they were selected for the NCAA tournament.

It was an especially good year for senior Talor Battle who broke Jesse Arnelle's longstanding Penn State career scoring record. However, I must note that it took 57 years, longer seasons, the automatic two shots at 10 fouls rule and three-point shooting to break Jesse's record. Jesse is still my hero.

The Lady Lions were also in the spotlight, earning a No. 6 seed in the 2011 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. They will face No. 11 seed Dayton this Saturday in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Guard Maggie Lucas was selected as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

All in all, it has been a fantastic winter season for Nittany Lion and Lady Lion fans.

Each year, I am overwhelmed by the collective efforts of the entire Penn State family during THON weekend. More than 15,000 students participate directly, while tens of thousands supported the dancers through their contributions and spirit, which filled the Bryce Jordan Center.

Once again our students went beyond all expectations to raise a record total of more than $9.5 million. This brings the total THON has raised to fight pediatric cancer to about $78 million. This total has funded research and covered the expenses for about 2,000 families with children being treated at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Thank you to everyone who has generously supported this extraordinary philanthropic event.

The Penn State Ice Campaign took another step forward recently as Paul and Nancy Silvis pledged $1 million to the project. The contribution was the first major gift on the heels of the contribution from Terry and Kim Pegula. The main lobby of the Pegula Ice Arena will be named after the Silvis family. The couple also will co-chair the Penn State Ice Campaign Committee, which will help to raise additional gifts for ice hockey program endowments. Thank you Paul and Nancy for this very significant gift.

In recognition of strong innovative leadership in the College of the Liberal Arts and the Rock Ethics Institute, Doug and Julie Rock of The Woodlands, Texas, have made two gifts totaling $10 million in honor of Dean Susan Welch and the current and founding Rock Ethics Institute director, Nancy Tuana. The first $5 million gift will create an endowed dean's chair in the college and a second $5 million gift supports an endowed directorship in the Institute, which was created by the Rocks with an earlier $5 million gift a decade ago.

Doug is a 1968 psychology graduate of Penn State. For more than 20 years, he served as president, chief executive officer and chairman of Smith International, a global provider of oil and natural gas exploration and development products and services, which is now part of Schlumberger Limited. Julie is a former human resources and management training manager at Smith International.

Finally, the Nittany Lion football team will culminate spring practice with one of the highlights of the Penn State sports calendar, Blue-White Weekend, which is set for April 15-17.

This year's Blue-White Weekend will launch the celebration of 125 years of Penn State Football. I hope you’ll be able to join us.

That concludes my report, and now I would be happy to take your questions.

  • Graham Spanier

    IMAGE: Penn State Public Information

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 21, 2011