Graham Spanier, the Jewish former president of Penn State University whose parents fled Nazi Germany and who had been a big supporter of the campus Hillel, is now facing criminal charges. He was fired last year in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal that centered around former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Spanier has been charged by the state with perjury, endangering the welfare of children, obstruction of justice, failure to report suspected child abuse charges to authorities and conspiracy, according to several published reports.
The South African native — who has written about being a victim of psychological abuse at the hands of his father — spent 16 years at the helm of the state’s largest university, which has 24 campuses and a $4.3 billion annual budget. Penn State’s board ousted him and legendary football coach Joe Paterno in November 2011, soon after the scandal gained national attention.
Paterno died in January. Sandusky was convicted in June on 45 counts related to sexual abuse.
The Freeh report, released in July of this year, stated that Spanier and Paterno had taken part in a conspiracy to cover up allegations that Sandusky had sexually abused boys and had known about the allegations as far back as 1998.
In an August interview with The New Yorker, his only extensive interview in the last year, Spanier denied most of the charges made against him in the Freeh report.
Though not a religious Jew, Spanier has long belonged to a Reform synagogue in State College and had been known as an active supporter of Jewish life on campus.
He had served as honorary co-chair of the capital campaign to construct a new Hillel building.
He also helped broker the deal that allowed Hillel to buy land downtown, just off-campus, according to sources involved in the project. Just two months before his ouster, he hosted major donors to the project in his private box at Beaver Stadium for a Lions home game.