"As a resident of a top bunk, I can report that college men never have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, whereas those of us over 50 do," Spanier, 64, quipped on his Facebook page after the weekend stay. "Negotiating that ladder in the dark can be a challenge."
That annual routine fit the personality of the charismatic leader who could build a billion-dollar endowment and still play washboard in a local band and perform magic acts for students. It galvanized his reputation as a president who appeared more comfortable among the students than towering above them.
But colleagues and critics say the Spanier they encountered in the board room didn't always resemble the affable college president who would don the Nittany Lion suit to fill in as college mascot.
That closed-door Spanier, they say, was a controlling boss who steamrolled those who opposed him, faced off with the governor over subsidies, and kept his own board of trustees in the dark about allegations of former assistant football coach
It's that Spanier, according to former
It's also that Spanier who told the board last week in an eight-page letter that he intends to fight the Freeh Report's conclusions, which he labeled "egregious" and "inaccurate."
There's little question that since Spanier resigned last year as the Sandusky sex scandal unfolded, the sterling image he carried as president of the nation's fifth-largest university has been tarnished.
Though Spanier has not been charged, state Attorney General Linda Kelly said the grand jury investigation into the scandal is "active and ongoing," even as Spanier fights to preserve his reputation.
Four days after Sandusky was charged with dozens of counts of child sexual abuse, the board accepted Spanier's resignation and fired football coach
In the days leading up to his resignation, Spanier appeared confident in his ability to manage the crisis, pledging his "unconditional support" for Curley and Schultz, a remark his critics would later use against him. And he didn't hide. Even as a media circus converged on State College, he met with students at the local
Whether Spanier believed he could control the tempest or failed to see it brewing is unclear. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
Last month, Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child sexual abuse involving 10 victims between 1994 and 2009. Paterno, who was also blamed in the Freeh Report for his inaction, died in January.
The storm that erupted eight months ago in State College intensified last week when current President Rodney Erickson ordered a statue of Paterno removed from outside Beaver Stadium and the NCAA punished the university with a $60 million penalty, a four-year bowl games ban and the vacating of the team's 112 victories since 1998, the year the first allegation against Sandusky surfaced.
The Freeh Report, released July 13, pinned much of the blame on Spanier, Paterno, Curley and Schultz, concluding they could have stopped Sandusky years ago but chose instead to preserve the university's image. According to the report, all knew that assistant coach
"They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001," the report says.
Spanier "failed in his duties as president," it concludes, by not informing the board of trustees about the allegations.
Spanier issued a letter last week denying he covered up Sandusky's abuse and requesting an opportunity to meet with the board to explain himself. The Freeh Report has it wrong, he says in the letter. He didn't know Sandusky's shower with a young boy involved anything more than "horsing around."
The man who once ran with the bulls in Pamplona has no intention of backing down to Freeh, according to Peter Vaira, Spanier's Philadelphia lawyer.
"At no time during my presidency did anyone ever report to me that Jerry Sandusky was observed abusing a child or youth or engaged in a sexual act with a child or youth," Spanier wrote. "This conclusion should have been abundantly clear to Mr. Freeh and his colleagues who interviewed me for five hours before their report was finished and interrogated scores of employees about me. Yet the report is full of factual errors and jumps to conclusions that are untrue and unwarranted.
"Had I known then what we now know about Jerry Sandusky," he added, "I would have strongly and immediately intervened."
POOR AND ABUSED