Likely Penn State president is world-class scientist

Florida State University president Eric J. Barron was named as Pennsylvania State University's 18th president by a unanimous vote Monday of the board of trustees.
Florida State University president Eric J. Barron was named as Pennsylvania State University's 18th president by a unanimous vote Monday of the board of trustees.
Posted: February 17, 2014

STATE COLLEGE The selection of noted climate scientist Eric J. Barron to lead Pennsylvania State University, a decision expected to be approved Monday by the trustees, reflects the importance of research to the university's future and its role as a jobs engine for the state, the executive director of the school's alumni association said Saturday.

Roger L. Williams said he was delighted with reports that Barron would become Penn State's next president, ending a long search to replace Graham B. Spanier, who was forced out in 2011 over his handling of the Jerry Sandusky child-molestation scandal.

"He is a world-class scientist and was dean of one of our strongest schools," the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, said Williams, who spoke from New York, where he was setting up an alumni fund-raising gala at Lincoln Center.

Barron was a professor at Penn State for almost 20 years, and later ran the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He comes to Penn State from Florida State University. Named president there in 2009, Barron gained a reputation as an efficient manager and prodigious fund-raiser, as well as someone dedicated to making the school an academic powerhouse.

Barron took over FSU in a time of severe budget cuts, yet managed to improve the school's academic ranking, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. At Penn State, he will be replacing Rodney Erickson, who has been in something of a caretaker role. Because Barron is 62, some have wondered how long he plans to stay in State College.

Penn State has still not fully recovered from the Sandusky scandal, so Barron will need to apply all his management and diplomatic skills. With 98,000 students and 42,000 employees spread out over 24 campuses, it is bigger than many large corporations.

None of the trustees reached Saturday would confirm Barron's appointment, which was leaked to the media Friday. They said they preferred to wait until after their Monday meeting.

Although Williams hasn't spoken to Barron, he predicts Barron will focus heavily on Penn State's research mission. The university spends $850 million on basic research, much of it financed by government grants.

"Penn State's importance as a research institution has been growing at a "phenomenal rate," said Williams, making Barron "a very good fit."


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