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Pharmaceutical Exec To Lead Penn State Investigation


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel


And I'm Guy Raz. And we begin this hour in State College, where Pennsylvania State University leaders are scrambling to address a devastating scandal. Today, Penn State placed assistant football coach Mike McQueary on administrative leave. McQueary was a graduate student in 2002 when he allegedly witnessed the football team's former defensive coach, Jerry Sandusky, committing child sexual abuse. McQueary's actions afterwards have been the subject of scrutiny.

SIEGEL: Also today, Penn State's board announced a new internal investigation, and they appointed a pharmaceutical executive, Merck's CEO Kenneth Frazier, to lead it. We have two reports. The first from NPR's Jeff Brady.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: It's been a rough week for Penn State fans after a grand jury indictment claiming former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky molested eight boys. Two high-level administrators also have been charged with failing to report child sexual abuse. Less than a week later, the school president is gone, fired, along with the school's beloved coach, Joe Paterno. The job of finding out what happened falls to Kenneth Frazier. He's a member of the board of trustees, president and CEO of Merck. And after this morning's meeting, the man surrounded by cameras and microphones.

KENNETH FRAZIER: Well, we're at the very beginning, and it's hard for me to say what the course of the investigation will be. I can only assure you that we've been told that we will have complete and unfettered access subject only to the fact, once again, that there is a pending criminal investigation that takes precedence over all other activities.

BRADY: Trustees made it clear that the special committee will be dominated, if not completely comprised, of people with ties to the university. Because of that, Frazier found himself fielding questions like, should the university be investigating itself? Frazier responded there will be an independent counsel involved.

FRAZIER: The first thing we do is we have to have an organizational meeting to decide who will be on the committee and, more importantly, who we'll retain as our independent counsel to do the actual investigation.

BRADY: Frazier's appointment was announced at one of the board of trustees' regular meetings. The new interim president of Penn State, Rodney Erickson, also was introduced. He told trustees that his heart breaks for the alleged victims and that this is a tragedy for many people.

RODNEY ERICKSON: Healing cannot occur until we understand how our responsibilities to these children failed and how we can prevent such tragedies in the future.

BRADY: Even though he'll be president only until a permanent one is found, Erickson says he will not be just a caretaker, but will help repair the school's reputation.

ERICKSON: I want Penn Staters to understand that the actions of any individual do not represent our university. I want to help rebuild our confidence in who we are.

BRADY: That kind of talk appeals to the fans camped outside the football stadium, hoping to be first in line for good tickets for tomorrow's game against Nebraska.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Nebraska fan?


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Oh. Well, welcome. Welcome.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: We hope you have…

BRADY: Clearly these campers are heeding calls around town for Penn State fans to be extra civil to Nebraska fans during tomorrow's game. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has asked students to behave since anything they do could be a reflection on the school. Penn State student Jeffrey Lowe seems to have gotten the message. And reacting to the board of trustees' new investigative committee, he offers this advice.

JEFFREY LOWE: There needs to be the right people who look into what happened, look into how to prevent it from happening and make sure that no stone is unturned.

BRADY: It's not clear how long the investigation will take. But once it's finished, the board of trustees says findings will be revealed at a public meeting. Jeff Brady, NPR News, State College, Pennsylvania. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.