STATE COLLEGE, PA. -- In the lobby of the Penn Stater hotel, they stood vigil -- reporters, cameramen, students, alumni, residents and a few tipsy hotel bar patrons. It was Nov. 9, 2011, shortly before 9 p.m., and the throng awaited the decision of the Pennsylvania State University board of trustees. Behind the closed doors of Room 206, the 32 men and women charged with navigating the worst crisis in Penn State's 156-year history were on the verge of a painstaking but seemingly unavoidable verdict.
Near the back of a conference room littered with coffee cups and plates of half-eaten fudge brownies and chocolate-chip cookies, a 79-year-old trustee and philanthropist named Mimi Coppersmith stood up and beseeched her colleagues to reconsider what they were poised to do. "Coach Paterno is revered here in State College," she said.
"We're not going to drink the Kool-Aid," snapped John P. Surma, then the board's vice chairman and the chief executive officer of United States Steel Corp. "This is what we need to do."