The Man At Penn State

Joe Paterno’s statue at Penn State

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?

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24 thoughts on “The Man At Penn State

  1. Bob Lindquist

    Yes. Melt it down! At first, it seemed Joe did his part by reporting Sandusky to his superiors. But after the recent release of information that showed he and his superiors were all involved in a cover up to avoid sullying the Penn State image…..Fire them all. What a tragedy to put the reputation of the university above the physical and psychological damage caused by that pedophile! Disgraceful at best! Arrogance at it’s worst!

  2. Matt

    After all the lawyering is over, and your gut still squirms when you think about it, then sorry JoPa, but it’s gotta come down. Tragic situation all around.

  3. Josh I

    Being a PA native who cheered for Penn State as a child as well as a survivor of intense abuse, it is an insult to all PA residents to have Joe Paterno’s statue anywhere in the state.Fortunately, we have been allowed to see the true character of Joe Paterno. He obviously didn’t give two cares for the kids — all he cared about was football and image. No one can take his football accomplishments away from him. However, football is a silly game played primarily by neanderthal men. Its importance does not come close to the the importance of protecting innocent, already damaged children.

    Rip down the statue. Eliminate Penn State football permanently. The talented kids can play sports somewhere else. Penn State lost the privilege to participate in NCAA football.

    Maybe God judged “Joe Pa” in a forgiving manner, who is to say? In the event he is in a dark place in the afterlife (which it appears is where he belongs), perhaps he can experience for eternity what he covered up half his life.

  4. trashcup

    Take it down. Remove Paterno from the history of football. Everyone talks about baseball players who used drugs to enhance their performace NEVER getting into the hall of fame. Paterno was worse. Letting that perpetrator to continue his vile attacks on kids for YEARS without doing anything. Wipe Paterno from Penn State’s history.

  5. Jim

    If you eliminate football at Penn State, and melt Joe’s statue, it makes it too easy to forget what went on there. That attitude is very close to “pretend it didnt’ happen”. Besides, eliminating football at Penn State will punish the innocent, as it appears the abuse never touched the actual players.

    Move the statue, but don’t melt it. Place it inside a “museum” room near the Football stadium, along with an explanation of Joe’s legacy (both good and bad). Include the details of the abuse and the cover-up. Every visitor to Penn State (including those who cheer on the football team) will have the opportunity to learn about it that way.

  6. Gregg

    Commision a new bronze statue to be placed just out of the sightline of Joe Pa’s statue.
    Make it of a barefoot, shirtless crying boy, holding is pants up with one hand and reaching out to Joe Pa for help with the other.

  7. Jim

    Yes. It has to come down. A shame, but nothing compared to the pain and suffering JoPa enabled via Sandusky.

  8. Bruce Renwick

    Great post to Gregg. Hard hitting and to the point.
    Paterno and the rest not only covered-up and ignored what was going on right under their noses and their stadium but indeed it appears helped perpetuate it in the name of winning football games. It’s hard to put into words what this really represents. The statue should be melted down and any individuals that can be brought to justice today for these crimes and cover-up’s should be! Paterno’s winning legacy is nothing noteworthy at this point, only his criminal cover-up. Too many innocent children have suffered from his actions or inactions even though he and others apparently knew exactly what they had among themselves.

  9. Dave

    Haven’t seen all the cards. While we’re dismanteling the football program lets disband the boy scout and abolish the Catholic church

  10. Jim

    If you melt the statue and eliminate football at Penn State, there will never again be TV crews filming it and reminding us what happened at Penn State. No statue = no more media coverage of event.

  11. Eric

    This is exactly the reason that you don’t build monuments, name elementary schools, or name roads after people that are still alive. Wait until their legacy is sealed so you can make sure the person doesn’t have any skeletons in the closet.

  12. Nick Bloom

    Jim and Gregg posts give us something interesting to think about. The point about not wanting to punish the innocent is often made. But in all enterprises when leadership fails, the whole team suffers… in business, in sports, in families, in communities. I graduated from SMU, a fine University that received the NCAA “death penalty” for recruiting and pay-for-play violations in their football program shortly after they won the Cotton Bowl in the early 80’s. It’s taken many years to rebuild the program, and yes, innocent football players suffered along with students, alumni, the community. But in my opinion, SMU handled the set back with class and appropriate re-dedication to the meaningful tenants of higher education. Today the school is even more effective as a educational institution then it was before the death penalty. I think most of the innocent people who had to suffer the death penalty at SMU will even say that the event helped get SMU on track to the right priorities and they will never again make the mistake of forgetting that the institution is about leadership, education, and community, and not sports, ego and money over all else.

  13. Steve

    Melting it down is putting a bandage on a severed limp. I hope the victim sues the school for so much that Penn State will go bankrupt. That would set a presidence that Sports are not the ultimate goal in high education, that education is the goal. I used to like Joe P. until his compliance came to light.

  14. Pat Kane

    My alma mater, Tulane University, look action on its own when a point shaving scandal was discovered in its basketballl program. The university shut down the program without outside pressure. Penn State could be noble and not wait for the NCAA to thrust the knife. Paterno’s statue should be melted in place and let the puddle of metal remain in the place where the statue stands today.

  15. KK

    Two choices hear;

    1. Destroy it!
    2. Modify it so it shows JoeP sexually abusing a child. No one would forget the issues then!

  16. james w.shrode

    Actions against small boys who were taken advantage of by wanting to be in step with their coaches, this “good ole boy” protectionism this should not tolerated by letting the statue remain unless an equal bronze explaining plague is erected for all to read and reflect what a real hero he is NOT.

  17. Mark

    Drag the statue behind a pick up truck all the way to lake Erie and dump it 100 miles out.
    If there ever was a university that was mired in the puke that is college football Penn State is it. The response of those idiot students watching the NCAA hand down penalties yesterday was pitiful why are they so upset about football when children were raped. One thing I’ve learned about central Pennsylvania is that football is their only identity the community is undeserving of a state school it should be completely shut down and change the name from State College to Turnablindeyeville.

    Lloyd your classmate is wasting his time.

  18. Rick

    I think there should be a museum set up for the atrocity of child abuse, similar to the Holocaust museum, etc. People that commit crimes against youth, be it sexual or psychological, would have their names and images submitted to the museum, to forever live in infamy and shame. I would start with Joe Paterno’s statue. And, shame on all of us for only seeing the “glory” of winning, paying billions of dollars to athletes and coaches while even now millions of people are subjected to abuse – verbal, sexual, whatever. Time to get our priorities straight and help those in need…that’s what REAL heroes do.


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