Joe Paterno reminds us that few leaders finish well

by | Nov 14, 2011 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

This blog was first published November 14, 2011. In light of the conclusion of the trial relating to Penn State, Paterno and Sandusky, it seems appropriate to republish this reminder/warning.

Near the end of George Verwer’s address to the Mission Catalyst Inland NorthWest conference this past Saturday evening, he pleaded, “Please pray for me. I am 73 years old and I don’t want to mess up. I want to finish well!” The fact is, according to research compiled by Dr. J. Robert Clinton of Fuller Seminary, few leaders finish well. He studied biblical, historical, and contemporary leaders and the results were similar. In each of these categories statistically few leaders finish well. Verwer has been in organizational leadership most of his life and he is personally aware of this unfortunate reality. He has watched many leaders fail.

During the past week I have joined other Penn State alumni in morning the fall of Joe Paterno and other PSU leadership. Before the Sandusky scandal, Paterno appeared to be beating the odds and ending his career on a positive note. He was untainted. He had built up so much goodwill, that it seemed that he would cruise to the end of his career on a high note. However, now he has ended his career with a tarnished reputation. Everything he has accomplished during what appeared to be an exemplary career will forever be diminished by this incident. Even if it is proven that he did nothing wrong, he will be permanently tied to the event that forced him out.

The lesson for the rest of us: be forewarned! The odds of us finishing well are small. Be diligent to build your character, protect your reputation, and pray for God’s grace. Avoid sins of commission and¬†omission. If George Verwer is concerned about finishing well and if Joe Paterno can be taken out at this sage of his life, you and I are¬†vulnerable.


  1. Laura Fritz

    Good post. I thought that was one of the most memorable moments of Verwer’s talk as well. Crazy to think about as a young person!

  2. David Dougherty

    For me, the enduring legacy of Penn State has been the Perspectives Program (thanks, Jay Gary) and the football team. Now it’s much simpler.


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