Graham Spanier

GRAHAM SPANIER (1995-2011)

Graham Spanier

Graham Spanier was appointed Penn State’s 16th president in 1995. His prior positions include chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Oregon State University, and vice provost for undergraduate studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He previously served Penn State from 1973-1982 as a member of the faculty and in three administrative positions in the College of Health and Human Development. He held academic appointments as professor of human development and family studies, sociology, demography, and family and community medicine.

A distinguished researcher and scholar, he has more than 100 scholarly publications, including 10 books, and was the founding editor of the Journal of Family Issues. A family sociologist, demographer, and marriage and family therapist, he earned his Ph.D. in sociology from Northwestern University, where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Iowa State University, where he was honored with the Distinguished Achievement Citation and an honorary doctorate.

A national leader in higher education, Dr. Spanier was the first university president to receive the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence. He served as chair of the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board and was a member of the National Counterintelligence Working Group and the Board of Advisors of the Naval Postgraduate School and the Naval War College. He was a member of the Board of Governors of Junior Achievement Worldwide and the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Oversight Board.

Dr. Spanier chaired the Association of American Universities, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents/Chancellors, and the NCAA Division I Board of Directors. He led the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities, was a founding member of the Internet2 Board, and served on the Board of Trustees of the National 4-H Council. He was president of the National Council of Family Relations, chairman of the Board of Directors of Child Fund International, vice-chair of the Worldwide Universities Network, and co-chair of the Committee on Higher Education and the Entertainment Communities.

Dr. Spanier was described as an unconventional university president. He loved spending time with students. He was a magician and performed with Penn State’s Musical Theatre students, the Blue Band, the Glee Club, and the Chamber Orchestra. He occasionally substituted for the Nittany Lion mascot. He ran with the bulls in Pamplona, had a commercial pilot’s license, and played the washboard with the Deacons of Dixieland and other bands. He and his racquetball partner were the eleven-time Penn State co-ed intramural racquetball champions. He hosted “To the Best of My Knowledge,” the live, call-in program on public television and radio, and "Expert Opinion," the sports topic program on the Big Ten Network. But most of his time was spent overseeing one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive universities, with 46,000 employees on 24 campuses, an annual budget of $4 billion, and a physical plant of 1,700 buildings. He oversaw $3 billion in philanthropic contributions to Penn State.

His wife, Sandra, is an English professor specializing in 20th-century American literature and serves as the general editor of Hemingway’s letters. They have two children: Brian, a finance graduate of Penn State, and Hadley, a marketing graduate of Penn State.