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Blankenship honor is MU’s Paterno statue

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Don Blankenship plaque in the Lewis College of Business Hall of Fame. The plaques recognize outstanding achievement in business, dedication to public service and commitment to moral values.

Heath Harrison | Submitted Photo

Don Blankenship plaque in the Lewis College of Business Hall of Fame. The plaques recognize outstanding achievement in business, dedication to public service and commitment to moral values.


Last week, I made a return visit to the Marshall University for the first time in several years.
Returning to campus brought many nostalgic feelings. However, those were quickly replaced with bewilderment after what I saw upon entering Corbly Hall.
On a wall on the first floor is an exhibit honoring members of the Lewis College of Business Hall of Fame.
Plaques bearing the likenesses of prominent local business leaders such as Michael Perry and Lynne Fruth hang over an inscription of “recognizing outstanding achievement in business, dedication to public service and commitment to moral values.”
Then my eyes scrolled right, where they met the visage of Donald L. Blankenship, the former Massey Energy CEO, who retired in disgrace following the 2010 Upper Big Branch explosion which killed 29 miners. The school of business bestowed the hall of fame honor on the coal baron in 1999.
It amazes me this plaque has remained in place following the deaths of these men from the abysmal safety conditions in Blankenship’s mines, through his pleading the fifth and refusing to cooperate with investigators, through his indictment and, now, his criminal conviction.
One could question why Blankenship was even inducted in the first place, given his company’s history of mine safety and environmental violations prior to Upper Big Branch, but you’d think a one-year prison sentence for one of the worst workplace accidents in modern history would be enough to finally merit his removal from the wall.
Continuing to honor Blankenship turns the entire wall of fame into a laughing stock and a farce, with the idealized bronze portrait of a convicted criminal on display next to a plaque touting “moral values,” cheapening the honor for future inductees.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin may have successfully prosecuted and secured a landmark conviction of Blankenship for his role in the disaster, but, thanks to weak mine safety laws and penalties, the Coalfield Don has essentially escaped punishment with a slap on the wrist.
Penn State University had the decency to remove a statue of Joe Paterno from its campus, when information came to light of his inaction and cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes against children, while numerous universities and colleges have revoked honorary degrees from Bill Cosby as sexual assault allegations against the comedian multiplied.
An opportunity exists here for a teachable moment. By removing Blankenship’s plaque and rescinding his hall of fame honor, officials at the school of business can demonstrate they desire higher standards in business practices and educate students on the necessity of corporate citizenship.
As they await Blankenship’s entrance to prison, 29 families are mourning the senseless loss of a loved one due to the former CEO’s actions.
The least the school of business can do for them is strip Blankenship of this award and not play any part in future attempts to rehabilitate his image by continuing to enshrine him.
Blankenship deserves nothing more than to be a pariah to good society and I urge my alma matter of Marshall University to rescind Blankenship’s honor.
Heath can be contacted at [email protected]

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2 Responses to “Blankenship honor is MU’s Paterno statue”

  1. Wendy Silverwood on April 21st, 2016 5:12 am

    Heath – Penn State did not have the “decency” to remove the Paterno statue. You were told lots of LIES Heath.

    Penn State LIED when they said it was a “lightning rod” and an “impediment to healing”. The statue was removed because (then) Trustee Paul Suhey was in a panic over the NCAA and emailed (acting) PSU President Rod Erickson to “take down the statue – I don’t care if you have to use one of your tractors – just do it”.

    It was never “about the victims” – it was about Mark Emmert and the NCAA.

    Louis Freeh LIED about the “secret emails”. Tom Corbett and our Office of Attorney General had those well in hand even BEFORE Freeh was ever hired. Several copies were available, including those on file at law firm Duane Morris. Louis Freeh LIED when he said he’d conduct a “full, fair, independent” investigation. In fact, Louis Freeh was auditioning for a large chunk of the NCAA investigative/compliance pie – on Penn State’s time and Penn State’s dime, no less!

    It was never about “the victims” – it was about Mark Emmert and the NCAA.

    Our Office of Attorney General LIED in that grand jury presentment of November 2011. Prosecutor Frank Fina oversaw that presentment, and interestingly enough, Frank had a massive cache of PORN on his work computer that he shared among other public officials, judges, and prosecutors. PORN that included images of women engaged in ANAL sex, ORAL sex and GROUP sex. Frank Fina and his disgusting PORN habit and EX PARTE communications with judges, state officials and newspapers has ripped open a constitutional crisis in our commonwealth.

    It was never about “the victims” – it was about pervert Frank Fina escalating “slapping sounds” into SEX.

    In Pennsylvania, charitable non-profits – like Sandusky’s victim farm the Second Mile – fall under the auspices of the Office of Attorney General. Curiously Tom Corbett was the Atty General at the time and never strolled into those offices asking questions. Tom Corbett felt it more important to subpoena Twitter of all things, for 2 accounts that were critical of him in his run for Governor.

    It was never about “the victims” – it was about Tom Corbett’s rise to power.

    Tom Corbett hand-picked Frank Fina and fellow prosecutors to go after “public corruption”. Wherein Fina perfected the use of a grand jury and the leaking of grand jury material and its presentment to target political enemies. (See Bonusgate & Computergate). So when the Sandusky presentment came screaming down the pike, the 3 Penn State administrators had no idea they were the target.

    It was never about “the victims” – it was about Tom Corbett using Frank Fina to target Dr. Spanier in a political assassination.

    So Heath – it was never about “the children” – it was a collection of Trustees wetting their pants over Mark Emmert and the NCAA. It was about Louis Freeh managing the message to maximize his business model and his bank account. It was about our crummy, corrupt Governor using Frank Fina and his fellow gunslingers for political hit jobs.

    To date Heath – the licensed child welfare officials and caseworkers that gave Jerry Sandusky access to minors, placed adoptive & foster kids in his home, placed kids in his car and with his victim farm of a charity – the Second Mile – have yet to be credibly investigated. These same licensed child welfare professionals have ascribed to a Code of Silence these past 4 plus years – not a single one of them has stepped up to the microphone and said “I failed”.

    That’s the real Wall of Shame, Heath.

  2. Anthony P. Lubrano on April 21st, 2016 12:15 pm

    Heath, you got it wrong. As a Trustee at Penn State, I can assure you that we should not have removed the statue of Joe Paterno as he was not involved in a concealment or cover-up, contrary to the defamatory statements of Louis Freeh and his issuance of the Freeh Report. In fact, the prosecutor in the Sandusky case, Frank Fina, said as much in an interview with Armen Keteyian of CBS Sports on September 3, 2013.

    The headline read: Jerry Sandusky prosecutor: No evidence Joe Paterno participated in criminal cover-up at Penn State.

    This information is readily available.

    As a journalist in the making, you have an obligation to check and recheck whichever “facts” you intend to rely upon prior to writing a story. In the case of Joe Paterno, although the story has not yet been finished, we know he was not involved in a concealment or cover-up.

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