STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The difficult task of rebuilding Penn State's shattered image began Friday with a pledge by the board of trustees to search for the truth amid an unfolding child sex abuse case against a former assistant football coach, a scandal that has already claimed the jobs of coach Joe Paterno and the school's president.
The vow came as the school faced a warning by the Moody's credit rating company that its bond rating could be downgraded because of risks to its reputation and finances from the scandal.
In front of an overflow crowd at a meeting that was moved from a hotel boardroom to a ballroom to accommodate more people, the trustees opened with Chairman Steve Garban welcoming the replacement president, Rod Erickson, and Gov. Tom Corbett, who had pressed publicly for fast action by trustees accustomed to deferring to former president Graham Spanier.
The meeting was the first public gathering of the 32-member board in the wake of the scandal, which has gripped one of the nation's largest universities and touched off a violent student demonstration.
Trustees removed the "interim" tag on Erickson's new title but will continue to search for a permanent successor to Spanier. Erickson, previously the university's longtime provost, said Penn State must devote itself to its core values — honesty, integrity, excellence and community — now more than ever.
"I know we can do this. We are resilient; we are a university that will rebuild the trust and confidence that so many people have had in us for so many years," Erickson said in a six-minute speech to the trustees.
But Moody's Investors Service Inc. said it put the school's high Aa1 bond rating under review for a possible downgrade and will assess over the next few months the potential impact on the school from possible lawsuits, a decline in students applying to attend, the loss of donations from philanthropies and changes in the school's relationship with the state.