|16th President of the
Pennsylvania State University
1 September 1995 – 9 November 2011
|Preceded by||Joab Thomas|
|Succeeded by||Rodney Erickson|
|Born||Graham Basil Spanier
July 18, 1948
Cape Town, Union of South Africa
|Alma mater||Northwestern University|
Graham Basil Spanier (born July 18, 1948) was 16th president of The Pennsylvania State University, from Sept. 1, 1995, to Nov. 9, 2011, when he was forced to resign in the aftermath of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal.
Spanier is currently president emeritus, university professor, and professor of human development and family studies; sociology, demography, and family; and community medicine. He had a one-year post-presidential sabbatical leave following his resignation as president of Penn State in November 2011. As of October 13, 2014, he is also under indictment in Pennsylvania in connection with the scandal.
Early life and education
Graham Basil Spanier was born to Rosadele Lurie and Fritz Otto Spanier in Cape Town, South Africa and came to Chicago as an infant following his parents' decision to flee apartheid. His father had previously escaped Nazi Germany in 1936; much of his father's extended family perished during the Holocaust.
The family moved to a working-class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, living there until 1956. Spanier’s father worked in a nuts, bolts and screws warehouse loading and unloading trucks; his mother worked in a clerical position. The family moved to the suburb of Highland Park, where Spanier graduated from Highland Park High School in 1966. His father became postmaster of Highland Park in 1962 and retired from that position in 1975.
Spanier has revealed that his father was physically violent with all three of his children. His sister Anita told The New York Times that Graham received the most violent beatings, leaving him with lifelong complications. “I’ve had to have four operations to correct serious deformities inside my head from beatings my father gave me,” Spanier said. “They had to rebuild me from the inside out.”
As a teenager, Spanier largely supported himself financially, working part-time jobs at a radio station, a children's clothing store, a legal office, and saving for college by mowing lawns and baby-sitting. He was president of J&A Radio Productions, a Junior Achievement company that produced a weekly show called “Variety” targeted to Chicago-area youth. Along with Brian Ross, he co-founded a radio news service that covered the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
He attended Iowa State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in sociology in three years (in 1969) and continued his education to earn a master's degree (1971). As a graduate student, he taught undergraduate classes in marriage and family sociology while on an assistantship.
During college, Spanier served as a head resident in the residence halls and worked in radio and television at WEEF (Chicago), KASI (Ames, Iowa) and WOI-TV (Ames, Iowa). He had summer jobs as a radio announcer, news director, pizza maker, bank teller and public relations officer. He received numerous honors while a university student for his leadership in student government and campus activities, including the Gold Key of the Cardinal Key Honor Society. Iowa State later honored him with the Distinguished Achievement Citation and an honorary doctorate (2004).
Prior to his tenure as president for The Pennsylvania State University, Graham Spanier served as:
- Member of the Penn State faculty and served in three administrative positions in the College of Health and Human Development: professor of human development and family studies; sociology, demography; and family and community medicine (1973–82).
- Vice provost for undergraduate studies at The State University of New York at Stony Brook (1982–86)
- Provost and vice president for academic affairs at Oregon State University (1986–91)
- Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1991–95)
16th President of The Pennsylvania State University
During his presidency, Spanier set goals to make Penn State the “top student-centered research university in America” and for the university to lead the nation in “the integration of teaching, research, and service.”
Spanier created the Penn State World Campus, the Schreyer Honors College and the Presidential Leadership Academy. He created numerous academic units, including the College of Information Sciences and Technology; the School of International Affairs; and programs in forensic sciences and security and risk analysis. Spanier oversaw the merger with the Dickinson School of Law, creating an accredited and acclaimed two-campus law school. He was recognized by the American Institute of Architects for “Outstanding Contribution to the Profession by a Non-Architect” (2006) and with the Elizabeth Holtzman Award for his improvements to campus landscaping, master planning, and community relations.
During his tenure, applications exceeded 120,000 per year, enrollment grew to 97,000, and the academic standing of dozens of programs rose in national and international rankings.
As president, Spanier made a commitment to spend time with students. He performed with Penn State’s Musical Theatre students and occasionally with Penn State’s marching band, the Glee Club, and the Chamber Orchestra. He and his racquetball partner are eleven-time Penn State co-ed intramural racquetball champions. He hosted “To the Best of My Knowledge,” a live call-in program on public television and radio, and “Expert Opinion,” a sports topic television program on the Big Ten Network.
Research and publications
As a family sociologist, demographer, and marriage and family therapist, Spanier has more than 100 scholarly publications, including 10 books. He was the founding editor of the Journal of Family Issues (JFI website), an associate editor of the Journal of Marriage and the Family, and a member of the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Marriage and Family Counseling (now Journal of Marital and Family Therapy). Among his most cited publications are:
- Graham B. Spanier (1976), "Measuring Dyadic Adjustment: New Scales for Assessing the Quality of Marriage and Similar Dyads." Journal of Marriage and the Family 38: 15–28.
- Graham B. Spanier and Paul C. Glick (1980), "Mate Selection Differentials Between Whites and Blacks in the United States." Social Forces 58: 707–725.
- Graham B. Spanier and Robert A. Lewis (1980), "Marital Quality: A Review of the Seventies." Journal of Marriage and the Family 42: 825–839.
- Graham B. Spanier and Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr. (1982), "Remarriage after Divorce: A Longitudinal Analysis of Well-Being." Journal of Marriage and the Family 44: 709–720.
- Graham B. Spanier (1983), "Married and Unmarried Cohabitation in the United States: 1980." Journal of Marriage and the Family 45: 277–288.
Spanier has served as a board member for the following national boards of directors/trustees:
- Association of American Universities AAU website, where he served as chair, 2007–08
- Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges APLU website, where he served as chair, 2001–02
- Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents/Chancellors Big Ten website, where he served as chair
- [National Collegiate Athletic Association] [Division I (NCAA) | Division I] NCAA website, where he served as chair and was a member of the Association's Executive Committee, 1997–2001
- Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, where he served as chair, 1996–2000
- University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (Internet2) Internet2 website, where he was a founding member, 1997–2000
- Child Fund International (formerly Christian Children’s Fund), 1985–94; chair, 1992–94
- Worldwide Universities Network, where he served as a founding member and vice-chair, 2000–07
- National 4-H Council 4-H website, 1997–2000
- National Council on Family Relations, where he served as president from 1987–88
- Universities Research Association URA website, 2001–05
- Business Higher Education Forum, 2005–11
- Council on Competitiveness council website, 1998–2011
- United States Department of Education Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, 2002–03
- Presidential Policy Advisory Board on Information Technology, Chair, 1997–99
- Joint Commission on Accountability Reporting in Higher Education, 1994–97
- Association of Academic Health Centers Council on Health Sciences and the University, where he served as co-chair, 1996–99
- Joint Committee on Higher Education and the Entertainment Communities, where he served as co-chair, 2002–06
- National Security Higher Education Advisory BoardNSHEAB website, where he served as chair, 2005–11
- United States Steel Corporation, where he served as independent director and was a member of both the Audit Committee and the Corporate Governance & Public Policy Committee, 2008–11
- Citizens Financial Group, where he served as director, 2002–11
- National Counterintelligence Working Group, 2005–11
- Junior Achievement Worldwide J.A. website, where he served on the Board of Governors, 2003–11
- FM Global Insurance Company FMG website, where he served as director, 2010–12
- Bowl Championship Series BCS website, where he served as chair of the Presidential Oversight Committee
Penn State child sex abuse scandal and Graham Spanier's resignation
During the investigation into allegations of child sex abuse by former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, dozens of individuals were interviewed by prosecutors, and many were called to testify before a Grand Jury. Those interviewed included Penn State football coaches, staff members and university administrators. Among them were Head Football Coach Joe Paterno, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy Curley and President Graham Spanier. As a result of grand jury testimony, Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse.
Spanier issued a statement the day the charges came to light in which he said Curley and Schultz had his "complete confidence", and they "operate at the highest levels of honesty." Spanier was criticized for expressing support for Curley and Schultz, and failing to express any concern for Sandusky's alleged victims. After this, he largely dropped from public view. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Board of Trustees ordered him to keep silent. He did, however, cancel head football coach Joe Paterno's weekly press conference due to legal concerns. Paterno was a key witness in the grand jury probe.
A group of Penn State students created the Facebook page "Fire Graham Spanier" in order to call on Penn State's Board of Trustees to fire Spanier. An online petition at change.org called for Spanier's ouster. It garnered over 1,700 signatures in four days.
At emergency meetings on Nov. 5 and 6, Spanier briefed the board of trustees. The board decided that they alone wanted to manage the unfolding crisis. On the night of November 9, the board announced that Spanier had resigned and Paterno had been fired — in both cases, effective immediately. Several Penn State sources told StateCollege.com and The Patriot-News of Harrisburg that Spanier and Board of Trustees vice chairman John Surma mutually agreed that the best way forward for all involved would be for Spanier to resign "voluntarily and with grace." However, the decision was not entirely voluntary; earlier that day The Express-Times of Easton reported the Board of Trustees had given Spanier an ultimatum—resign before that night's meeting or be fired. A member of the board later told The Morning Call of Allentown that the board was very angry about his statement of unconditional support for Curley and Schultz. Provost Rodney Erickson was named his successor.
In November 2011 the Penn State Board of Trustees hired former FBI Director Louis Freeh to conduct an external investigation into the handling of the Sandusky matter. Released on July 12, 2012, the Freeh report concluded that Spanier, Curley, Schultz and Paterno “concealed Sandusky’s activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities.” In addition, the report said the four men “exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being” and that they allowed him “to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the University’s facilities and affiliation with the University’s prominent football program.” Spanier and his attorneys disputed the accuracy of Freeh’s findings, alleging it contained “many, many errors.”
A later report, released on Feb. 10, 2013 by former U.S. Attorney General and former Governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh and commissioned by the family of the late Joe Paterno, concluded that the Freeh report was “seriously flawed” and a “failure.” Freeh’s firm was reportedly paid $6.5 million by the Penn State trustees to compile the report. Subsequent billings have raised the amount to $8.2 million. A ruling by an arbitrator for the State Employee Retirement System, in an appeal pertaining to the revocation of Sandusky’s pension in June 2014, also called into serious question the credibility of the Freeh Report.
On November 1, 2012, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly announced that Spanier had been indicted for grand jury perjury, obstruction of justice, child endangerment, failure to report child abuse and conspiracy in connection with the scandal. The charges were partially based on findings in the Freeh report.  Curley and Schultz were also indicted for these charges in a superseding indictment. On July 30, 2013, the charges formally moved ahead following a preliminary hearing by District Judge William Wenner.
Earlier that month, on July 11, one year after the release of the Freeh report, Spanier’s attorneys filed a lawsuit against Freeh and Freeh’s firm, Sporkin & Sullivan, citing slander, libel and defamation. The suit demanded monetary damages and a jury trial. In two rulings in Centre County Court, and in a subsequent appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, Freeh’s efforts to force Spanier to file the details of his formal complaint were turned down as premature. On February 25, 2014, over the objections of Louis Freeh and his law firm, Spanier was granted a stay in his defamation lawsuit until his criminal case is resolved.
Pretrial hearings in the case against Spanier began on December 17, 2013. Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover ruled at that time that Spanier's attorneys would not be allowed to call to the stand Cynthia Baldwin. Baldwin, who had been an attorney for Penn State, had accompanied Spanier, Schultz and Curley to their grand jury appearances in 2011. All three men would testify they believed Baldwin was their legal representation. Later, under the protection of a proffer agreement—a form of immunity—with the attorney general, Baldwin testified against the three men in her grand jury testimony. Attorneys for Spanier, Curley and Schultz asserted this was a violation of attorney-client privilege and their clients' civil rights. Elizabeth Ainslie, one of Spanier's attorneys, said, "I was never notified that Ms. Baldwin was going to testify against Graham Spanier, and neither was he. [Baldwin] says different things at different times about who she represented."
On January 22, 2016, a three judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court unanimously overturned a decision by Judge Hoover and threw out charges of perjury, obstruction and conspiracy against Spanier and Schultz, and charges of obstruction and conspiracy against Curley. The court found that Baldwin breached attorney-client privilege by testifying as to confidential communications between her and Spanier to the grand jury.
On February 10, 2016, Spanier filed separate lawsuits against Freeh and Penn State, claiming university trustees and Freeh colluded in placing blame for Sandusky's sexual misconduct on lack of action by Paterno, Schultz, Curley and Spanier. Spanier seeks a damage judgment against Freeh for defamation, and against the university for breaching terms agreed to upon his resignation in 2011.
In the wake of the Sandusky investigation, a Phoenix, Arizona private investigator named Paul McLaughlin publicly alleged he had been sexually abused by Penn State Professor John R. Neisworth and two other men in the late 1970s and early 1980s. McLaughlin claimed to possess a tape of telephone conversations with university officials, including Spanier, to verify that he had tried twenty years later to inform the university, but he later had to file an affidavit acknowledging that he did not have such tapes. The charges filed against Neisworth and the two other men in 2005 were dropped that that same year for lack of evidence.
Spanier and his wife Sandra have two children: Brian, who graduated from Penn State with a degree in finance; and Hadley, who also graduated from Penn State in marketing. Sandra Spanier is a professor of English and Women’s Studies at Penn State and the general editor of The Cambridge Edition of the Letters of Ernest Hemingway.
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- Graham Spanier note 4
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- Pérez-Peña, Richard, "Rich in Success, Rooted in Secrecy", The New York Times, November 21, 2011. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
- Spanier: Curley, Schultz 'Operate at the Highest Levels of Honesty'
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- Penn State trustees oust football coach Joe Paterno, president Graham Spanier
- Former Penn State president Graham Spanier volunteered to resign, wasn't fired, report says. The Patriot-News, Retrieved November 17, 2011.
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- Carroll, Matt (July 12, 2013). "Former Penn State president Graham Spanier to sue Louis Freeh for defamation".
- Ganim, Sara. "Ex-PSU President Graham Spanier charged with obstruction, endangerment and perjury; more charges filed against other administrators". pennlive.com. The Patriot News. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
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- "Victim Says Penn State Officials 'Rejected' His Claims That a University Professor Allegedly Molested Him". ABC News. ABC. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
- Sandra Spanier, Professor of English and General Editor, Hemingway Letters Project, psu.com bio.
- The Cambridge Edition of the Letters of Ernest Hemingway