Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

FSU's new chief Barron

TALLAHASSEE — Thirty-six years after Eric Barron graduated from Florida State University, he got a somewhat mixed invitation to return — this time as FSU's new leader.

University trustees on Tuesday selected Barron as FSU's 14th president, hoping his national reputation and experience at two highly regarded research institutions will help FSU boost its research profile and fundraising prowess.

"I truly believe this is a university that has tremendous potential and is ready to go to the next level," said Barron, 58, a 1973 FSU graduate.

The unanimous vote came despite some trustees' concerns that the search committee did not recommend more than one candidate for them to consider. Barron was one of 26 applicants and one of three invited to campus for interviews.

"Never in my dreams did I think the number (of recommended candidates) would be one," said trustees vice chairman Harold Knowles. "The problem I've got is not Dr. Barron. My concern is that we did not cast a broad enough net to get others like him."

But search committee members, including students and faculty, assured trustees that Barron was the best choice.

"It became very clear that he can handle all the constituents of this institution — students, faculty, staff, donors, everybody," said longtime music professor Clifford Madsen.

Echoed student Adam Fox, 21, of South Florida: "He speaks from a student perspective. I can see him walking around campus, eating with students in the dining hall."

T.K. Wetherell, FSU's president since 2003, announced this summer plans to retire in early 2010.

Search committee members initially expressed dismay that the applicant pool to replace Wetherell was lackluster. But when Barron visited the campus last week for interviews he emerged as the frontrunner for his views on leadership, fundraising and building relationships.

"When you think of the strong support that came from students, from faculty, from staff, from the search board, I think we have a responsibility to remember that," said trustees chairman Jim Smith, who served on the search committee. "I'm excited that we've got people in our university who are so excited about the potential he has as president."

Barron's experience in university fundraising also is vital, Smith said, because FSU needs to launch a billion-dollar fundraising campaign.

Still, Knowles complained the search was "truncated" and said the trustees were not involved enough in the search process.

"For us to be boxed in with one choice, I am concerned about it," he said. "But I think this gentleman is a dynamic person and would do well at this institution."

Barron, married with two college-age children, is a nationally renowned climatologist who has since last year served as director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Barron served as dean at Penn State and the University of Texas, which both enjoy membership in the prestigious 62-member Association of American Universities, an invitation-only group that FSU aspires to join. The University of Florida is the only institution in the state with AAU membership.

When trustee Knowles asked Barron whether his experience leading small science colleges at Penn State and UT will translate into leading a university of some 41,000 students, Barron didn't hesitate.

"The experience that is essential is to hire good people and get out of their way," he said. "Because I had the right people. ... The president is an advocate — for the students and for the faculty."

Trustees now will negotiate Barron's contract. Wetherell's base salary is now $315,545, plus benefits such as club memberships, a car and an annual bonus of up to $75,000. Taxpayer dollars cover $225,000; the rest comes from private donations.


Eric Barron

Age: 58

Hometown: Born in Lafayette, Indiana

Education: Bachelor's in geology, FSU, 1973. Master's and Ph.D. in oceanography, University of Miami, 1976 and 1980.

Career: 2008 to present: director, National Center for Atmospheric Research; 2006 to 2008, dean, Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas; 1986 to 2002, professor, center director and dean, Penn State University.

Accolades: In 2002, named a fellow of the National Institute for Environmental Science at Cambridge University. In 2003, received the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal.

FSU's new chief Barron 12/08/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 11:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'What Happened'? Clinton memoir sold 300,000 copies in first week


    Despite being met with decidedly mixed reviews, What Happened, Hillary Clinton's new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, sold a whopping 300,000 copies in its first week.

    The new memoir by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
  2. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  3. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings


    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham


    The Rays open their final roadtrip of the season tonight in Baltimore, and - continuing the theme of the week - willl cross paths with another familiar face, INF Tim Beckham.

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  5. Unemployment claims double in Florida after Hurricane Irma


    The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

    Homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Big Pine Key last week. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where unemployment claims more than doubled from the previous week.
[The New York Times file photo]