If you have heard of Penn State, you have probably heard the phrase “Happy Valley.” The school, the students, and the media regularly use “Happy Valley” in reference to the school and the surrounding community. The school considers the association so strong that Penn State recently applied to register HAPPY VALLEY as a trademark
– James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 was a bright, cold, sunny day as I prepared to depart State College, Pennsylvania, the home of Penn State football, after participating the evening before in a really interesting and wide-ranging panel discussion; an exploration of the problems this University is facing, and continues to face, before 200 people. The program was called, “Integrity in Times of Crisis.”
By now, just about everybody reading this blog knows what I’m talking about, the sexual assault and rape of young boys by a coach, Jerry Sandusky, and perhaps others, who has since been sentenced to 60 years in prison. Head coach, Joe Paterno, was fired and died soon after. Among his dying words were, “I should have done more.” These words still ring around the University.
The University itself is still going through extraordinary trauma. Those in charge at the time of the crimes were fired, but were paid handsomely. The next crew of managers brought in did their best to protect the reputation of those just fired, and began the collective forgetting process, which is always a part of the post-crime behaviors of corporate leadership. The subsequent investigation by Louis Freeh, former head of the FBI, an independent observer and monitor, forced this second group of managers out, their having been complicit in a cover-up of the cover-up, and a new crew of leaders was installed.
After this much trauma, one would think that the folks at Penn State would be ready for a rest, and hopefully to begin the process of healing the organization. But not this University.
Almost from the beginning there was pushback against the authorities, against the media, against anyone who would dare criticize the University’s athletic programs and the iconic coach, Mr. Paterno. These emotions persist to this day. But, there is more.