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Originally published Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 2:33 PM

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Trustee who fired Paterno to leave Penn St. board

The Penn State trustee who fired football coach Joe Paterno over the phone will leave the board when his term ends in June, the university announced Thursday.

The Associated Press

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. —

The Penn State trustee who fired football coach Joe Paterno over the phone will leave the board when his term ends in June, the university announced Thursday.

John Surma was vice chairman of the Penn State Board of Trustees when he told Paterno that he was being ousted after 46 seasons as Penn State's head coach on Nov. 9, 2011.

Surma delivered the news shortly after the board voted unanimously to fire the Hall of Fame coach in the wake of the child sex-abuse charges against former Paterno assistant Jerry Sandusky. He then announced Paterno's firing at a late-night news conference, sparking angry demonstrations around Penn State.

Paterno died two months later at age 85.

The university said in a release that Surma had advised board leadership informally in December that he was planning to leave because of "several new and continuing business commitments."

Surma is chairman and CEO of U.S. Steel. He joined the Penn State board in 2007 and was re-elected in 2010.

Alumni groups had harshly criticized the board's treatment of Paterno, contending he was fired without due process and before all the facts were in, and that he had been made into a scapegoat. The board has said Paterno was fired in part because the coach didn't meet a moral obligation to do more to alert authorities about a 2002 abuse allegation against Sandusky that was passed on to him by a graduate assistant.

Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a watchdog group that had called for the resignation of the entire board, welcomed Surma's impending departure.

"We only wish he would have resigned sooner," the group said in a statement.

But new board Chairman Keith Masser said Surma and his family are owed "a significant debt of gratitude. ... His years of service to this university and our students is a source of inspiration and pride."

Sandusky is serving a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted last year of sexually abusing 10 boys.

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