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Penn State rescinds offer to honor ex-official of Sandusky charity

AUDREY SNYDER
YorkDispatch


UNIVERSITY PARK — Nineteen hours prior to Bruce Heim’s walking out of the Beaver Stadium tunnel in front of a sellout crowd as a coin toss honoree, Penn State University rescinded an offer to the former board member of Jerry Sandusky’s Second Mile charity.

Mr. Heim, who said he witnessed Sandusky enter showers with children, played football at Army and earned an MBA from Penn State. His selection, made public on Thursday, to serve as a coin toss honoree for today's Army vs. Penn State football game, resulted in more than 100 complaints within the first 24 hours from Penn State fans and alumni.

“Bruce Heim is a former football player and graduate of West Point and recipient of the Bronze Star in Vietnam who has served our nation with distinction,” Penn State president Eric Barron said in a statement Friday evening. “Unfortunately, his participation in Saturday’s coin toss ceremony has re-opened deep wounds in our community that do not involve his service to country, but have distracted the public from the purpose of the day.”

Mr. Heim, who was on The Second Mile’s first board in 1977 and said he remained active with the charity until it closed its doors in 2012, did not return phone calls seeking comment Friday.

With the Nittany Lions playing Army for military appreciation day, Mr. Heim was selected more than a month ago by a committee of 25 people, inside and outside the university, who didn’t voice any concerns about his selection. Penn State trustee Ryan McCombie nominated Mr. Heim for the honor, citing his military service as the reason. Mr. Heim said Mr. Barron, who took over as Penn State’s president in May 2014, even called him last month to congratulate him on the honor.

Mr. Heim, who was also the largest donor to the charity that aimed to help at-risk youth in Central Pennsylvania, said in an interview with the Post-Gazette on Thursday that he and The Second Mile didn’t do anything wrong. Mr. Heim said he was surprised to learn Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts in a child sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Penn State community.

“I’m not guilty of anything,” Mr. Heim said Thursday. “I’ve been married for 50-some years, I never had an affair, never did anything, never was arrested for anything, I’m just a good old American boy who happened to have a very happy life and anyway, here we are.”

Complaints filed to Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour on Friday morning were met with a return email that read, “This decision was not made by the Intercollegiate Athletics staff. The leadership group of the Military Appreciation Week Committee made the decision regarding coin toss participants.”

A Penn State spokesman said that typically athletics selects a former player for the honor, but this week did not.

Mr. Heim, the founder and chairman of Keystone Real Estate Group, is also a donor to Army and Penn State. He said Thursday those details — allowing Army to use his private jet for recruiting, his financial contributions to Penn State, in addition to holding degrees from both places and serving his country— likely helped him land the coin toss spot in the first place. He said he was told he was the top choice and selected over four others.

Thursday evening he said “it was a bolt out of the blue” that people would voice complaints about him serving as one of the coin toss honorees. He said never in his wildest dreams did he expect it would be a problem for him to do the coin toss.

Mr. Heim also said he didn’t think people would voice their frustrations to his face.

“I would love to have those people who are complaining come and look me right square in the eye and tell me why they’re complaining and why they think I shouldn’t be out there,” Mr. Heim told the Post-Gazette on Thursday. “I would bet you there would be very, very few of them who have the fortitude to walk up to me — an Airborne Ranger— and look me in the eye and tell me I have harbored a pedophile. I think they should be afraid to do that and they would be and they wouldn’t do it.”