Wolf appoints new education board chair after predecessor resigns


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  • Karen Farmer White



The governor on Friday named a new leader of the State Board of Education, a day after accepting the resignation of the longtime chairman following accusations he pursued sexual relationships with teenage girls more than 35 years ago.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Karen Farmer White of Pittsburgh will step in immediately as the new chairwoman of the board, which develops education policies for the state. She has been on the board for two terms.

She replaced Larry Wittig, 68, who has denied claims by two women who told The Philadelphia Inquirer he had sexual relationships with them beginning when they were 16 and 17 and while he was in his late 20s and early 30s.

Farmer White holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and has been involved with numerous educational and philanthropic entities.

She has been vice president of education at WQED, Pittsburgh's PBS affiliate, and executive director of the Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise. She worked at Mesirow Financial Corp. and the Community College of Allegheny County.

Wittig was named to the state board in 2001 and became chairman in 2011.

The Inquirer story said one woman said a relationship with Wittig began in 1981, the summer after she graduated high school, and continued at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was her rowing coach.

She told the Inquirer her relationship felt consensual at the time but now she believes she was coerced, given the age difference and that he was her coach. The Inquirer reported that some of her high school teammates also claim Wittig made sexual advances on them.

A second woman claimed Wittig began a two-year sexual relationship with her when she was 16 and he was 29.

Wittig was charged in 1970 with raping his sister's friend but was acquitted. He claimed this week that the girl, then 15, made up the story to extort money. The accuser told the Inquirer she stands by her account.

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