“Wherever I went, it seemed like trouble was sure to follow. Not the kind of trouble that would land me in jail. Just the mischievous kind of trouble.”
—Jerry Sandusky, 2001
These are the bitingly ironic words of Jerry Sandusky, published in his 2001 biography Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story, and evocative proof that either this warped, twisted horror of a man truly believed he had done nothing wrong or he had convinced himself he would never be punished for his crimes.
Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg, in his compelling piece, “Sandusky case should be watershed moment in our society,” reminded the world on June 23, 2012, of Jerry Sandusky’s reaction to the allegations raised against him by an 11-year-old boy in 1998, now known as Victim 6. In response to his mother’s thorough statement to authorities explaining in detail how Sandusky forced himself on her son, holding him tightly against his body while showering with the boy, Sandusky expressly admitted to the assault, saying, “‘I was wrong. I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead.’”
The crystal-clear implication is that he knew exactly what he was doing and, what is infinitely worse, exactly how wrong it was. Of course, the possibility remains that Sandusky—a highly intelligent, battle-tested master of publicly displaying only what he had long-since learned was proper, expected and acceptable—was simply saying what he calculated might help him escape the most profoundly injurious and potentially damaging public situation of his life. Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar, upon agreement by the boy’s mother, likely in consideration of Sandusky’s connection to Penn State, The Second Mile and his measure of local celebrity, not to file criminal charges.
But seven decades before Jerry Sandusky bulldozed the steel guardrails of sanity, sped off the unstable precipice of his own humanity and plummeted to ignoble infamy as the most dishonorable and disrespected figure in the history of American sport, the convicted, multiple child molester and former Penn State assistant football coach was a shy, quiet, bright, young man learning to read and playing nearly every organized sport available in the rural, blue-collar community of Washington, Pennsylvania.
Born January 26, 1944 in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, Jerry Sandusky is the only child of Arthur and Evelyn Sandusky who, by all accounts, could not have been more consummate parents and citizens. As printed in the Washington Observer-Reporter on November 22, 2001, the Sandusky family lived in a cramped, makeshift apartment above The Brownson House, a United Way-affiliated, youth service organization providing after-school recreation programs for Washington area residents of all ages. According to Brownson’s website, since its inception in 1926, the Brownson mission has always been to provide Washington and surrounding communities with “quality youth and adult recreation, education, and character development through team effort.”
According to the Observer-Reporter’s 1996 article, “Arthur Sandusky, Brownson House director, dies at 76,” Art Sandusky, who passed away on September 14 of that year, served as Brownson’s executive director for 33 years, from 1952 to 1985, while Evie worked side-by-side with her husband as pro bono cheerleading coach, concession stand supervisor and theater arts director. Mrs. Sandusky also volunteered hundreds of hours as a mentor-leader with the Brownies, a 7 to 10-year old, female Guiding program akin to The Girl Scouts. To this day, Art and Evie are roundly considered two of the finest, most genuinely charitable individuals in Washington, Pennsylvania’s 244-year history.
Mr. Sandusky’s Brownson House successor Dan Petrola told the Observer-Reporter’s Sandy Trozzo in 1996, “‘[Art] was happiest when he was involved with children.’” Petrola went further, saying, “‘He basically devoted his whole life to working with the youth of this community.’”
According to the Washington-Greene County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, into which Arthur Sandusky was inducted in 1989, in addition to serving as Brownson’s director, Art coached the 1955 Pony League World Series Champions, the first and only Washington team to earn that title.
In documented history, no one anywhere has ever questioned the compassion, goodwill, honor or integrity of Arthur and Evelyn Sandusky.
So, how is it possible that the progeny of two kind, devoted, perennially magnanimous champions of all that is right and good in the American spirit—a couple whose most selfish act was opening a neighborhood ice cream shop to bring joy to the lives of everyone around them—transformed himself from a teenager whom Sandusky’s Washington High School classmate Frank Steratore remembered in a 2011, Observer-Reporter interview as “‘a great fellow . . . the nicest person you ever wanted to meet’” into a man CBS Sports labeled “the monster no one wanted to see?”
Jerry Sandusky’s boyhood friend and high school teammate John Liptak described him as “‘a saint,’” saying, “‘I could see how he turned out to be a great coach. He had all the tools.’”
Former classmates and teachers at Sandusky’s alma mater, Washington High School, have never had a negative word to say about the young man they knew from 1957 through 1962. Many have since amended their memories, but, when they knew him best, they knew him as a warm, sensitive, empathetic human being and a popular, talented scholar-athlete who often befriended the most critically unpopular of his classmates, those who he noticed had difficulty making friends.
Why did this former white knight, this resoundingly all-world athlete, student and coach end up destroying his life, plaguing the lives of his family and forever ravaging those of so many others?
Did his parents spend so much time raising other children through Brownson that they had nothing left to give their son? From what we know about Arthur and Evelyn Sandusky, this is unlikely. Has Sandusky somehow internalized the psychotic, pathological complex of a need to do everything possible to assist young boys in their formative years—with profoundly ambitious efforts like The Second Mile charity he founded in 1977—and then collect some perverse, sexual cost for his assistance? The best answer is perhaps that there is no logical explanation for Jerry Sandusky’s descent into the most feculent, unimaginable dregs of sinful human depravity.
Throughout every interview conducted with former classmates and friends of Jerry Sandusky, there is one, consistent truth. No one—not one person—who knew him before he accepted his first college coaching job at Juniata College (PA) in 1967, saw the slightest hint of a sign that Sandusky might have secretly been a wanton sexual predator. If we are to believe this astonishing notion—and we would have to doubt dozens of documented, first-hand reports not to—until 1998, when a young boy and his mother went to authorities claiming Sandusky had made inappropriate sexual advances in Penn State’s Lasch Football Building showers, there were no ostensible clues to the true nature of the most disgraceful and egregiously hypocritical public figure since Jim Bakker.
He started at defensive end for Nittany Lion Football’s well-respected helmsman Rip Engle from 1963 to 1965, where, according to The New York Times’ Mark Viera in his insightful piece, “A Reputation Lies in Tatters,” Sandusky graduated first in his Penn State Class of 1966 with a Bachelor of Science in Health. Four years later, he earned a Physical Education Master’s. Penn State University confirms that Sandusky served as graduate assistant to legendary Nittany Lion Joe Paterno in 1966—ironically the same position held 36 years later by the Sandusky prosecution’s star witness, Mike McQueary.
As documented by ESPN in its November 9, 2011 resource, “Sandusky, Penn State case timeline,” McQueary was only the second accuser, after the teenager known as Victim 1, to testify before the 2010 grand jury investigating reports of sexual assault by Sandusky with a first-hand account of criminal conduct. Nearly ten years before Sandusky’s formal indictment, McQueary witnessed the former assistant coach’s now-infamous March 1, 2002 sexual assault of a child in late afternoon on Penn State University grounds.
As The New York Times’ Peter Durantine reported on November 16, 2011, the incident involved Sandusky and a boy of an unspecified age, between 7 and 11 years old, whom he sexually abused in the locker-room shower of Penn State’s Lasch Football Building. McQueary testified that he saw Sandusky behind the child, clearly in a “sexual position,” his body “‘slapping’” against the boy’s rear during an aggressive act McQueary described as “‘some kind of intercourse.’”
The former Penn State quarterbacks coach, dismissed in November 2011 along with Coach Paterno and university president Graham Spanier just five days after Sandusky’s formal indictment, graphically recounted for jury members how he watched in horror from a locker-room wall as Sandusky molested the boy, his tiny hands forced flat against the tiled wall of Lasch’s showers.
In 1966, the first year of Joe Paterno’s storied career as head coach of the Nittany Lions, thirty-six years before Mike McQueary brought Sandusky’s sexual assault to Paterno’s attention, Sandusky finished service as a graduate assistant and began his own NCAA coaching career. His first billet was assistant basketball and track coach at Juniata College (PA) in 1967. A year later he was hired as Boston University’s offensive line coach, presumably—at least in part—upon recommendation by Coach Paterno.
Sandusky was once considered by college football experts to be of the ten most notable assistant coaches never to be promoted. In light of his horrific crimes, it is a veritable certainty that Sandusky’s reputation, stemming from the very-public-but-quickly-hushed 1998 incident involving his first, documented sexual assault of a young boy, the only occasion of clear-cut sexual assault to which Sandusky has directly admitted.
All that remains of Gerald Sandusky’s life, now that he has irrevocably—perhaps unwittingly—forfeited his freedom and whatever legacy he hoped to build in football or youth assistance or any other platform, is his wife Dorothy “Dottie” Sandusky, whom he married in 1966, and the couple’s six, adopted children. The only other Sandusky footnote, aside from his founding of The Second Mile, which has likely irremediably lost its community and government support, is Dorothy and her husband’s commendable service as guardians to several foster children, a role they first performed shortly after their marriage and reprised several times over five decades until September 2010. But today Dottie Sandusky has very little hope for maintaining any traditional degree of familiarity.
Like each one of us, she cannot hide from history. As Fox News’ Dr. Keith Ablow opined Monday, she is and always will be the woman who “lived with a serial rapist” for 46 years—a man who aggressively molested at least 10 children over the course of at least 15 years, many of whom were raped under her own roof, just footsteps from her bed, her kitchen, her family room, her children’s bedrooms.
Ablow entitled his opinion, “Is Dottie Sandusky guilty of child sexual abuse, too?” But unless another, heroically courageous figure like Matthew Sandusky emerges to support other inextricably scarred victims and do the right thing for justice, for basic human decency, we may never know the answer.
But we do know this. Believing that Dorothy Sandusky never once suspected her husband of even the slightest degree of pedophilia or other impropriety—in all the years he continually hosted private slumber parties, showered compulsively with pre-teens and played weekly, PSU Football escort to an ever-growing parade of troubled 7 to 12-year-old boys—as she vehemently testified under oath, is as preposterous for any reasonable person as it is impossible.
Barring some extraordinarily rare psychological or emotional defect, or a degree of willful blindness not even an Oscar-winning film could consummate, a woman whose husband plans decades of secret sleepovers, during which he spends all night alone in her home with 7 and 8-year-old boys, could not possibly be simultaneously human and unsuspecting.
The once-admired son of an overwhelmingly respect, loved couple from idyllic, 11,000-small, Washington, Pennsylvania—a uniquely benevolent individual of uncommon prowess and promise sixty years ago—has metamorphosed into a revoltingly shameful specter, the ashen-hearted, soul-dead antithesis of every good and right thing displayed by two saintly parents he referred to in his 2001 biography Touched as “my shining light.”
Even now, visualizing the graph of Gerald Arthur Sandusky’s timeline, its lifespan curve steeply rising to the heights of great personal achievement and then sharply crashing to the bowels of rank, unimaginable decay, it is though the whole story is but a shockingly raw, graphic novel—something unreal, invented to stir mass controversy and sell copies. But these crimes actually happened. The truth is that they happen every day.
We would all like to forget there are sociopathic, immoral, criminal minds like Jerry Sandusky in our world, but we are required to deny ourselves that illusion. Our responsibility lies clearly before us, and the first man to articulate it properly was—not-so-ironically—Joseph Vincent Paterno. As chronicled by The New York Times and echoed in media outlets around the globe, in a public statement he made without the blessing of Penn State trustees shortly after Sandusky’s indictment, Paterno said, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
We know this accomplished champion apprised Penn State athletics director Tim Curley and then-supervisor of PSU police Gary Schultz of the vivid, disturbing scene relayed to him by graduate assistant Mike McQueary. We also know that Coach Paterno trusted university officials to handle the matter; he respected the institution’s far-reaching recourses for capably dealing with legal matters and elected not to alert the authorities. Two months after he announced his forthcoming resignation, the legend was dead, never having forgiven himself for failing to do what he knew in his heart—to his final hour—he should have done. The image is palpable—its lesson, incontrovertible.
As moral human beings we have an obligation to protect the welfare of our young, and it is a sacred duty even our most vigilant citizens need to perform more consistently, with much stronger commitment. This is as fundamental as our protective instincts themselves. There is simply no rational reason for the staggering number of years Jerry Sandusky was permitted to pursue, manipulate and repeatedly rape at least 10 children—likely more who have chosen to remain anonymous.
Each of us knows the heartbreaking true story. We all have the benefit of hindsight. And we must do more.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com