In most years, the board's makeup would barely register with most of Penn State's alumni—more than a half-million strong across the country—let alone the general public.
But the board's actions have come under scrutiny since child sexual abuse charges were filed in November against retired assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Watchdog groups in particular are upset by the trustees' ouster of the late Joe Paterno as head coach and what they feel is a lack of independence in the school's internal investigation into the scandal following Sandusky's arrest. Board of Trustee members have said they are acting in the best interest of the university.
Sandusky has maintained his innocence while awaiting trial, which is scheduled to start in June.
While alumni will elect three board members, delegates from state agricultural groups will elect two trustees, the governor will appoint another two, and a panel of current board members will select another pair.
The two agricultural trustees are elected May 3 in State College. That same day, online voting ends for the three alumni-elected seats, which has drawn an unprecedented 86 candidates. The school said this week that a record 27,000 ballots have already been cast, about 3,000 more than the previous record in 1990, and twice as many as the turnout last year.
The terms of gubernatorial appointees—insurance executive Alvin Clemens and Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis—expire this year. Both were appointed before Gov. Tom Corbett won election in 2010.
Trustees appointed by the governor serve until their successors have been nominated and confirmed by the state Senate. Corbett wasn't ready to announce his nominations, the governor's spokesman, Kevin Harley, said this week.
Business trustees are selected by the board-member panel. A Penn State spokesman said the nomination process for those seats was still open. The two trustees representing business and industry whose terms expire this year are Edward R. Hintz Jr., president of Hintz Capital Management Inc., and Kenneth Frazier, president and CEO of drug company Merck.
Hintz did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Frazier, through a spokesperson, declined comment this week. His future with the board may be of particular interest since he heads the trustee committee that appointed former FBI director Louis Freeh to handle the internal investigation into the scandal.
With his term expiring this year, fruit and vegetable farmer Barron Hetherington opted against running again, following his appointment in May 2011 as a special adviser to Corbett for agriculture. The other agricultural incumbent, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau president Carl Shaffer, is seeking re-election. Four other candidates are also running.
The Pennsylvania State Grange's executive committee has endorsed candidates Paul Semmel and Shaffer, said Grange master Carl Meiss. The Grange and the Farm Bureau, two of the largest agriculture-related organizations in the state, typically endorse candidates backed by the other group.
"The decisions made by the Board of the Trustees in the Sandusky scandal were not the primary focus in choosing and endorsing trustees," Meiss said. "As an organization, we focus on the duties of the board" and issues including agriculture research and extension, and farmland preservation.
But whoever is elected must still deal with scandal-related issues that figure to linger for years to come.
Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam contributed to this story from Allentown, Pa.