I’ve read a lot about the terrible tragedy of the boys abused by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State and the cover-up that went up to Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier, the University’s President, but today it all has a personal twist that I’d like to relate.
Six weeks ago I celebrated the 50th high school reunion of my class at University High in Chicago. I got quite involved in the Internet communication in the run-up to the event, and I made it a point to meet one on one with guys I played basketball with on the team. The fellow I wanted to connect with the most was Steve Dunham who played guard on bad knees and was the leader of our group (even though I was the high scorer).
Steve has had a remarkable career as a lawyer, leading a 1,000-member law firm, and recently was lead counsel at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. We met at his hotel before the first night of the celebration and I asked him about his health. He said he was feeling good but he recently had a physical and the doctor did some blood work. When the results came back the doctor told Steve his numbers were fine but he was disturbed by a piece of information he had heard. He said, “Mr. Dunham, if you are going to take the job I heard you are taking, you, my friend, are certifiably crazy.”
What is the job Steve took on Monday? He will be chief counsel at Penn State.
At 66 years old, Steve was at the top of his field with a wonderful job in Baltimore, near his daughter and grandchildren. His wife, a professor of Chinese language, will stay behind while he comes back on weekends.
I echoed his doctor’s comments but Steve really wants to do this. I asked him why. He said ego was part of it, but at this point in his life, he wanted to “serve” and he could think of no other place where he could do something of more value than at Penn State, a great school whose reputation has been thoroughly sullied.
I’ve thought a lot about Steve in recent weeks, especially when the Sandusky guilty verdict came down, and the Louis Freeh report came out on Thursday. If anybody can sort things out and help move the University to a better place, it is my friend Steve Dunham, captain of the basketball team and the most respected kid at U-High.
But for me, talking to Steve and connecting with him in a closer way after 50 years was an inspiration. He could have stayed with what he knew at Hopkins or retired, but instead he chose to do the hardest job he had ever tried – at 66. Guts and Confidence. He never shirked from taking the big shot. Penn State is getting a winner.
Question: Should the statue of Joe Paterno at Penn State be taken down?