NEW YORK - (Reuters) - The head of the special committee set up by Penn State University to investigate the child sex abuse scandal said on Tuesday he hoped the inquiry could be completed in the current academic year.
Kenneth Frazier, chairman of the trustees special committee and chief executive of Merck & Co, said he did not have a formal timetable for the investigation launched in November and headed by former FBI director and federal judge Louis Freeh.
"I would hope that it would be done by the end of this academic year so we could come back in the new academic year and have all of that behind us, but I can't put a timetable on it," Frazier said at The Wall Street Journal Viewpoints breakfast meeting in New York.
The Penn State academic year finishes in the spring of 2012.
Several investigations, including the internal probe, have been launched surrounding the allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was charged in November with multiple counts of sexually abusing young boys.
Sandusky, who faces 52 charges of molesting 10 boys over a decade, on Tuesday waived his right to a preliminary hearing on the charges against him, allowing the case to go straight to trial. He has said he is innocent of the charges.
Two former university officials who were charged in an alleged cover-up also maintain their innocence.
Days after the charges became public, Penn State trustees fired legendary coach Joe Paterno and the university president for failing to tell police about one allegation of abuse.
Penn State hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to help in the investigation. Frazier said the probe was in its early stages and Freeh had "free rein.
Frazier's experience leading Merck's defense of lawsuits over the recall of arthritis drug Vioxx made him the choice to serve as chairman of the special committee, he said.
Merck was seen as successful in its defense of the lawsuits because the ultimate liabilities were lower than some on Wall Street initially had expected.
Frazier said many people focused on the financial cost of the Vioxx lawsuits, but within Merck it was seen as a defense of the institution.
"So too is Penn State an important institution," Frazier said. "I took on that responsibility because I believe in the institution ... This is a horrible situation that occurred but it doesn't define that university.
"I don't know what the facts will ultimately be, but I think it's important in times like this that people step up and remind people of the value of an institution to the country and that's how I see my responsibility."
(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune)