It's official: FSU president Eric Barron to leave for Penn State
In a unanimous vote a short time ago, the Penn State University Board of Trustees chose Florida State University president Eric J. Barron as its 18th president.
Barron, a former professor and dean at Penn State, immediately walked to the podium with his wife Molly to accept the position. Trustees and a packed house of onlookers gave him a standing ovation.
He will replace Rodney Erickson, who was appointed to the Penn State presidency from within after the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal led to the resignation of then-president Graham Spanier.
Barron’s tenure will provide Penn State with some separation from the scandal. But it leaves a large void at Florida State, where top officials, including trustees, were shocked when news of his departure first broke last Friday.
Barron became Forida State’s president in February 2010.
Previously at Penn State, he was a professor of geosciences, director of the Earth System Science Center, director of the EMS Environmental Institute and dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. At Florida State, he has been popular with students and faculty and has earned accolades for working successfully with the Legislature and raising FSU’s national standing.
Here is a transcript of his remarks Monday after Penn State Board of Trustees vote:
“Well, thank you for the honor of leading this truly great university. I am much more than pleased to accept. It's truly my pleasure. My wife, Molly, and I spent 20 years here. Faculty member, center director, dean. In that time I learned what it meant to continually strive for excellence to make every year stronger than the year before, and I have to say that for my four years as dean, Rod Erickson was my boss but he was much more than that. He was my mentor and I honor him for it and how he impacted my career and my life.
“I also came to understand the power of community at Penn State. We are simply unbeatable when we're working together for a common purpose. I've taken those two Penn State traits, the push for excellence and the power of community, everywhere I have gone. So in many ways I never left Penn State. Penn State lives here (motioning to his heart), Penn State lives here (pointing to his head), and it is a great pleasure to be about to live here (pointing at the lectern).
And in true Penn State fashion, for every job that I've accepted, I have set the same goal and asked the same question of myself: How do you make a great institution even better? That defines my job. It reminds me of a story that I like to tell about learning to drive with my father. It was an exercise in constantly correcting and overcorrecting, as you might imagine driving down the road. And my father said, ‘Eric, lift your head up, instead of driving by looking at the hood ornament.’ Of course that dates me, right? ‘Lift your head up and look down the road. And if you look down the road you will discover it is much easier to get to where you're trying to go.
And at the time I thought that was a pretty good driving lesson because when I lifted my head up above that hood ornament I definitely had a much better driving experience. But I also came to realize that this was a philosophy to live by. Our job, all of our job is to see down the road, sense the future, and ensure that this great institution is at the forefront of success and achievement. And there are enormous opportunities ahead, and we could sit and talk about them, but I'll just give you a single example, and I hope in the process that you'll forgive me for one more automotive analogy.
There should be a universal question in higher education today: Why don't students take full advantage of the breadth and depth of a university? Why don't we take full advantage of all those things we might do as a student? If you view Penn State as sort of the educational equivalent of American sports car, a blue and white Corvette, if you will, or pick Mustang, you pick the brand that you're most interested in, but you view yourself as that blue and white educational equivalent of America sports car. We need to ask, why is it that so many students drive it 20 miles an hour when there is so much that is worthwhile?
If we can engage students in and outside of the classroom, then I'm absolutely convinced that they'll be happier, they'll make better choices in life, they'll have stronger resumes, and they'll get better jobs. So this is a key opportunity, the opportunity to provide a university and to engage students so that they put this great university through its paces as opposed to driving it 20 miles an hour. My bet is that Penn State can do this better than any other institution with incredibly positive outcomes for our students. It's one example, just one example, with more to come, hopefully, with one goal: To make a great university even greater.
I want to thank you again for placing your trust in me. My wife Molly and I are a team, and we intend to make you very proud. Thank you. Thank you very much."