In the prologue to his memoir, Graham Spanier summed up his life as president of Penn State University until his world came crashing down around him in November 2011.
“I was all in,” he said. “And it should be no 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 serves as his side of the infamous Jerry Sandusky story.
But the look of this campus will be different.
Unlike previous book signings at alumni tailgates outside Beaver Stadium, his bookstore event at the HUB-Robeson Center will put the 74-year-old State College resident in front of an audience in the heart of campus, a short walk from Old Main and the president’s office he occupied for 16 years.
Many alumni and others who lived through the fallout from the Sandusky scandal still have intense feelings.
But increasingly, Penn State is populated by students who were elementary school students when Sandusky, a former Nittany Lions assistant football coach, was accused on Nov. 5, 2011, and later convicted of sexually abusing several boys — rocking the campus, the sports world and the nation.
The book is not about Sandusky’s guilt or innocence, a Spaniard says he barely knew. Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in prison.
Instead, Spanier claims he and others, including the late football coach Joe Paterno, were unfairly tainted by a “criminal justice system run amok, political vindictiveness and retribution, moral panic and the influence of a twisted media narrative.”
In an emailed response to questions Friday, Spanier said he is helping tell the truth about what he says were lies spun by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who investigated the case, and politicians and others.
Spanier says he has held about 30 commemorative 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 prolong the trauma that lingers for so many Penn Staters from 11 years ago, but in the … emails I continue to receive daily, it is clear that the book has been important to set the record straight for the thousands of Penn Staters who never accepted the false narrative promulgated by Louis Freeh, prosecutors and others,” Spanier said.
Convicted of misdemeanor child endangerment for the school’s handling of an incident in 2001, Spanier served 58 days of a two-month sentence plus house arrest. He insists he was unaware Sandusky had molested children and said the report of Sandusky bathing with a boy was characterized to him as “horseplay.”
Spanier said many stood by him when the furor erupted, but many did not, despite his quarter-century career there as a faculty member and administrator.
“The corporate side of my own university, which I had served loyally and ably for more than 25 years, and to my dismay even a few of my close colleagues, distanced itself from me,” he said.
Penn State had no immediate comment on Spanier’s scheduled appearance at the HUB from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, which he said is hosted by the University Park Barnes & Noble bookstore.
Sydney Gibbard, a senior at Penn State and president of the University Park Undergraduate Association, said her peers have mixed feelings.
“I think many students are tired of the book signing and uncomfortable with how much publicity this event will attract against Penn State and Graham Spanier himself, especially since our school has really tried to move on from the Sandusky case over the last few years. years,” Gibbard said.
“That being said, there’s definitely a large population of students who don’t know much about Penn State’s history and probably aren’t that affected by this happening on campus,” she added.
“I wholeheartedly support Dr. Spanier’s efforts to share his story. I think it’s an important story,” he said. “I look forward to his performance.”
Spanier’s memoirs were published in early September. Spanier said the first run of 5,500 books has sold out and a second printing is being considered.
Spanier is also scheduled to appear from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Penn State Altoona Barnes & Noble bookstore. Future appearances are scheduled in South Carolina and Florida through mid-February.
Spanier acts as a consultant in national and international security, intelligence and risk management. He retains the titles of president emeritus and professor emeritus and says he remains active in university affairs and plays racquetball on campus.
A sociologist and family therapist, he was once among the nation’s most prominent figures in higher education, serving as head of a public land-grant university with 100,000 students and over 45,000 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.
He straddled academia, where he authored 10 books and was a scholar on family issues, and his life on campus as an atypical president who advised Penn State performing magicians, did one-armed pushups in the Nittany Lion mascot. costume and – as his 53rd birthday approached – 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 top administrators were charged in connection with their handling of the case.
Officials, including Spanier, considered telling authorities about the 2001 incident, which was reported in a team shower, but instead took other actions, including barring the former coach from bringing children to campus.
An email from Spanier then noted that “the only downside for us is if the message is not ‘heard’ and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it.”
Spanier notes that Sandusky was found not guilty of the incident in 2001. Spanier wrote in the prologue to his book that the situation was “alleged to have been falsely reported to Joe Paterno and … (ultimately) to me.”
Spanier added, “The legendary football coach was Joe Paterno who got caught up in the media storm surrounding the announcement. It wouldn’t be long before I would be swept up in the 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@example.com or via Twitter .