Graham Spanier

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Graham Spanier
Graham Spanier.jpg
16th President of the Pennsylvania State University
In office
September 1, 1995 – November 9, 2011
Preceded byJoab Thomas
Succeeded byRodney Erickson
Personal details
BornGraham Basil Spanier
(1948-07-18) July 18, 1948 (age 70)
Cape Town, Union of South Africa
Spouse(s)Sandra Spanier
Alma materIowa State University and Northwestern University

Graham Basil Spanier (born July 18, 1948) is a South African-born American sociologist and college administrator who served as the 16th president of Pennsylvania State University, from September 1, 1995, to November 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. He was later convicted on March 24, 2017, of one misdemeanor charge of child endangerment.

Early life and education[edit]

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.[dubious ][citation needed] His father had previously escaped Nazi Germany in 1936;[1] 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."[2]

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.[3] 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).[4] 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).[5]

Following his graduation from Iowa State, Spanier attended Northwestern University, where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and earned his Ph.D. in sociology in 1973.[6]


Prior to his tenure as president of Penn State, Spanier served as:[6]

16th President of The Pennsylvania State University[edit]

Spanier in 2005

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."[7]

Spanier created the Penn State World Campus, the Schreyer Honors College, the Presidential Leadership Academy, the College of Information Sciences and Technology, the School of International Affairs, and programs in forensic sciences and security and risk analysis. He 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.

Board memberships[edit]

Schreyer Honors College Dean Christian Brady (left) and Graham Spanier (right), at the Schreyer Honors College medal ceremony on December 17, 2010.

Spanier has served as a board member for the following national boards of directors/trustees:

In addition, Spanier served on the board of advisers for the President at the Naval Postgraduate School and Naval War College.[8][9]

Penn State child sex abuse scandal[edit]

Resignation from Penn State[edit]

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",[10] and they "operate at the highest levels of honesty."[11] Spanier was criticized for expressing support for Curley and Schultz, and failing to express any concern for Sandusky's alleged victims.[12] After this, he largely dropped from public view. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Board of Trustees ordered him to keep silent.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15] An online petition at called for Spanier's ouster. It garnered over 1,700 signatures in four days.[16]

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.[17][18] On the night of November 9, the board announced that Spanier had resigned and Paterno had been fired — in both cases, effective immediately.[19] Several Penn State sources told 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."[20][21] 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.[22][23] 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.[24] Provost Rodney Erickson was named his successor.

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.[25] 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 same year for lack of evidence.[26]

The Freeh Report and related lawsuits[edit]

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.[27] 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."[28][29] Spanier and his attorneys disputed the accuracy of Freeh's findings, alleging it contained "many, many errors."[30]

A later report commissioned by the Paterno family by former U.S. Attorney General and former Governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh, concluded that the Freeh report was "seriously flawed" and a "failure."[31] Freeh's firm was reportedly paid $6.5 million by the Penn State trustees to compile the report.[31] Subsequent billings have raised the amount to $8.2 million.[32] 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.[33]

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.[34] The suit demanded monetary damages and a jury trial.[35] 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.[36][37] 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.[38]

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.[39]

Criminal charges[edit]

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.[40] [41] Curley and Schultz were also indicted for these charges in a superseding indictment.[42] On July 30, 2013, the charges formally moved ahead following a preliminary hearing by District Judge William Wenner.[43]

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."[44]

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.[45]

Trial and conviction[edit]

Shortly before their cases were to go to trial, Curley and Schultz accepted plea deals for one misdemeanor count each of endangering the welfare of children.[46] Spanier refused a similar deal and went to trial on March 20, 2017 on two counts of endangering the welfare of children and one charge alleging conspiracy with Curley and Schultz to cover up a molestation allegation against Sandusky; both Curley and Schultz testified at Spanier's trial.[47] On March 24, Spanier was found not guilty of the conspiracy charge and one of the endangerment counts.[47] He was, however, found guilty of one count of endangerment in a split verdict.[47][48] His attorney indicated they will appeal the guilty verdict.[49]

On June 2, 2017, Spanier was sentenced to two months jail and two months house arrest. Additionally, Spanier was ordered to pay a $7,500 fine and perform 200 hours of community service. Curley and Schultz began serving their sentences on July 15,[50] but Spanier remains free while he appeals his conviction.[51] On June 26, 2018 his appeal to the Superior Court was rejected by a vote of two to one:

In the majority opinion, Judge Victor P. Stabile, joined by Judge Carolyn H. Nichols, rejected claims that too much time had passed to charge Spanier, that he was not responsible for safeguarding the welfare of the boys that Sandusky abused and that he could not be charged because he was not directly supervising the boys.

Judge Lillian Harris Ranson issued a dissent and argued that the court had violated Spanier’s due process rights "when it failed to inform him of its intent to rely upon an exception to the statute of limitations at a reasonable time before trial."[52]

One of Spanier's attorneys said that Spanier would pursue a further appeal.[52]

Selected publications[edit]

Spanier has published more than 100 scholarly publications, including 10 books. He was the founding editor of the Journal of Family Issues, 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. Among his most cited publications are:

Personal life[edit]

Spanier and his wife Sandra have two children. Sandra Spanier[53] 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.[54]


  1. ^ "Bequeathing Family Continuity". Journal of Marriage and the Family. JSTOR. doi:10.2307/352363.
  2. ^ "The Trials of Graham Spanier". The New York Times. July 20, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  3. ^ "You Can Call Me Graham" (PDF). Static Square Space. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  4. ^ Anderson, John (April 13, 2004). "Iowa State honors alumni and friends in new ceremony". Iowa State University. Archived from the original on September 6, 2006. Retrieved January 23, 2007.
  5. ^ Graham Spanier note 4
  6. ^ a b "GRAHAM SPANIER (1995-2011)". Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  7. ^ "2009 State of the University Address". YouTube. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  8. ^ "Graham Spanier: Executive Profile & Biography". Businessweek.
  9. ^ Stripling, Jack (November 14, 2011). "Spanier's National Footprint Fades". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  10. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard, "Rich in Success, Rooted in Secrecy", The New York Times, November 21, 2011. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
  11. ^ Spanier: Curley, Schultz 'Operate at the Highest Levels of Honesty'
  12. ^ "Penn State's insufficient action amid child sex allegations stunning". November 5, 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  13. ^ Wolverton, Brad (November 6, 2011). "As Students Call for President's Ouster, Insiders Say Board Told Spanier to Keep Silent". Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  14. ^ "Report: Penn St. planning Paterno's exit". Fox Sports. November 8, 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  15. ^ Tully, Jessica (November 6, 2011). "Penn State students react to grand jury investigation, charges against former coach Sandusky, AD Curley, VP for Finance and Business Schultz". The Daily Collegian. University Park, PA. Archived from the original on November 9, 2011. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  16. ^ Fontaine, Tom (November 6, 2011). "Online petition seeks ouster of Penn State president Spanier". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Pittsburgh. Archived from the original on May 22, 2016. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  17. ^ "Former Penn State president Graham Spanier volunteered to resign, wasn't fired, report says". The Patriot News. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  18. ^ "Sources: Spanier Volunteered to Step Aside at Penn State, Was Not Fired". Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  19. ^ Penn State trustees oust football coach Joe Paterno, president Graham Spanier
  20. ^ Former Penn State president Graham Spanier volunteered to resign, wasn't fired, report says. The Patriot-News, Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  21. ^ Smeltz, Adam. Sources: Spanier Volunteered to Step Aside at Penn State, Was Not Fired., November 16, 2011.
  22. ^ "Penn State President Graham Spanier will quit or be fired today in wake of Sandusky charges". The Express-Times. November 9, 2011. Retrieved November 9, 2011.
  23. ^ Simpson, Ian (November 9, 2011). "UPDATE 3-Paterno retires, Penn State president may be next". Reuters. Retrieved November 9, 2011.
  24. ^ Kennedy, Sam; McGill, Andrew. Trustee: Media frenzy forced board's hand. The Morning Call, Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  25. ^ "Penn State ignored abuse allegations, Ariz. man claims". McClatchy. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  26. ^ "Victim Says Penn State Officials 'Rejected' His Claims That a University Professor Allegedly Molested Him". ABC News. ABC. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  27. ^ "Freeh report released to public". Penn State News. The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  28. ^ "Report of the Special Investigative Counsel Regarding the Actions of The Pennsylvania State University Related to the Child Sexual Abuse Committed by Gerald A. Sandusky" (PDF). Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, LLP. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  29. ^ "Joe Paterno, others covered up Jerry Sandusky abuse of children, PSU-Freeh report says". The Patriot News. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  30. ^ "Graham Spanier's attorneys to rebut Freeh Report findings". Sporting News. Associated Press. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  31. ^ a b "Joe Paterno family releases report". ESPN. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  32. ^ Sokolove, Michael (July 20, 2014). "The Trials of Graham Spanier". The New York Times.
  33. ^ "Arbitrator Rules To Reinstate Sandusky's Pension". CBS Local Media. June 23, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  34. ^ "Graham Spanier sues Louis Freeh". Associated Press. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  35. ^ "Former Penn State president Graham Spanier to sue Louis Freeh for defamation". Centre Daily Times. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  36. ^ "Judge Grine addresses additional issues raised by Freeh in civil lawsuit". The Daily Collegian. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  37. ^ "Pennsylvania Court Won't Speed Up Lawsuit vs. Penn State". Philadelphia Magazine. July 1, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  38. ^ "Ex-Penn State president Graham Spanier wins ruling that delays defamation suit vs. Louis Freeh". Centre Daily Times. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  39. ^ "Graham Spanier files breach of contract suit against Penn State; defamation action against Louis Freeh". Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  40. ^ Sokolove, Michael (July 20, 2014). "The Trials of Graham Spanier". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  41. ^ Carroll, Matt (July 12, 2013). "Former Penn State president Graham Spanier to sue Louis Freeh for defamation".
  42. ^ Ganim, Sara. "Ex-PSU President Graham Spanier charged with obstruction, endangerment and perjury; more charges filed against other administrators". The Patriot News. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  43. ^ "Judge orders 3 former Penn State officials to stand trial in Sandusky scandal". Associate Press. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  44. ^ "Judge opts against testimony in Penn State case". WPVI-TV Philadelphia. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  45. ^ "Some Charges Against Penn State Ex-Administrators Thrown Out". ABC News. ABC News. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  46. ^ "Tim Curley, Gary Schultz plead guilty in Sandusky coverup case". Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  47. ^ a b c
  48. ^ "Jury reaches split verdict in trial of ex-PSU president Graham Spanier". Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  49. ^ Graham Spanier's attorney promises appeal of child endangerment verdict, retrieved March 25, 2017
  50. ^
  51. ^ "Former Penn State officials Gary Schultz, Tim Curley begin prison terms". July 25, 2017. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
  52. ^ a b Whitford, Emma (June 28, 2018). "Spanier Loses Appeal". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 2018-07-04.
  53. ^ Sandra Spanier, Professor of English and General Editor, Hemingway Letters Project, bio.
  54. ^ The Cambridge Edition of the Letters of Ernest Hemingway