Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown’s love for Penn State University runs deep, so deep, in fact, that 10 years after finishing her graduate work she found herself working as her alma mater’s regional director of recruitment, long before she started her political career.
She laughs when she’s reminded of the bumper sticker – the one that reads “If God isn’t a Penn State fan then why is the sky blue and white?” – that those proud of the institution have put on the backs of their cars for decades.
Reynolds Brown is also the mother of a 15-year-old daughter. She has been, if nothing more, a ferocious advocate for children, responsible, along with former Mayor John F. Street, for convincing the Phillies and the Eagles to contribute $1 million each over the next 30 years to establish a children’s fund.
But the never-ending stream of sordid details from the child sex scandal oozing out of Happy Valley is where she draws the line.
“As a mother,” Reynolds Brown said, “when I think that for eight years what any child had to endure during that time, it just breaks my heart. And to know that the adults involved deliberately looked the other way.”
Reynolds Brown admitted that she had not seen the 23-page grand jury report that resulted in the arrest and arraignment of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on 40 criminal counts. But like everyone else, she has heard the accounts of how Sandusky allegedly showered with and sodomized boys right on the Penn State campus. And how he allegedly once told a woman who suspected him of showering with her son that he could not promise her that he would not do it again.
The fallout has been incalculable. Penn State’s trustees have fired legendary coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier. Former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz have been charged with covering up what they knew about allegations leveled against Sandusky, and rioting broke out late Wednesday and carried over into Thursday morning on the State College campus after Paterno, in his 46th season, was fired.
Pity, however, is not an emotion Reynolds Brown can muster for Paterno or anyone else caught up in the scandal. She is completely satisfied that Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history, has gotten the ax.
Paterno is not facing legal action, because he told Curley of the allegations against Sandusky. However, some alumni say he had a moral obligation to remove Sandusky after the incidents were first reported.
Sandusky retired as an assistant coach in 1999 after 30 years there. However, much of the abuse cited in the grand jury report happened while he continued to operate his nonprofit for at-risk boys, The Second Mile, on Penn State’s campus.
“To know that they chose to be silent about that - and that as a consequence of their silence there are so many more victims;that’s indefensible,” Reynolds Brown said. “I won’t say that [Paterno] was complicit. I will say that he did not exercise his moral authority. Let his kids walk in the shoes of the kids who experienced what they did for one hour.”
After the story broke, Paterno still maintained that he wanted to remain as coach for the final three games of the regular season and any potential bowl bid that Penn State (8-1) might receive.
“No, he doesn’t deserve that chance,” Reynolds Brown said.
Bruce B. Rush, president and CEO of The Marketing Store, a one-stop marketing and public relations firm in the city, has a B.S. in science and an MBA in marketing from Penn State. He loves the school so much that he once tried to become a trustee.
Rush, too, is satisfied with the actions of the trustees.
“I live and die with Penn State football,” said Rush, who has been to at least one home football game this season. “But this gives us a black eye. I’m energized because the board of trustees did not hide from it. If they are going overboard, they are doing erring on the side of caution. There is a whole lot of healing that has to take place.”
Former Nittany Lions cornerback Adam Taliaferro suffered a spinal cord injury while playing at Penn State in 2000. He bounced back from that injury in spectacular fashion. Told he would never walk again, Taliaferro, of South Jersey, is a lawyer who earlier this week won a freeholder’s seat in Gloucester County.
He says he was never aware of any rumors concerning the program, to which he says he remains close to this day.
“It’s like, ‘What the heck just happened?’” Taliaferro said on a radio show earlier this week. “I’m kind of still at a loss for words. It’s hard. I know those guys. I knew all those guys and grew close to them over the last 11 years. And to see them, for this to happen, and for the victims to be going through this, it’s just sad.”