Board of Trustees meets; President Erickson's remarks

Rodney A. Erickson Remarks
President’s Report
Nittany Lion Inn Ballroom, 9:45 a.m.

Thank you, Chairman Garban, I am honored and humbled by your appointment of me as president.

I want to thank you for placing your confidence in me—and the other members of Penn State’s administrative team as we move forward. We are indeed a team, one that pulls together day-in-and-day-out. I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce my wife, Shari, who is a wonderfully loyal Penn Stater despite being a University of Iowa Hawkeye. She’s been the love of my life for the past 43 years since we first met, and she keeps me well grounded.

As you know, I’ve been with Penn State for more than 34 years, and I am deeply committed to this institution, first and foremost to our students; and to those who make it happen every day—our faculty and staff; and to those who have great pride and a sense of family in Penn State—our alumni and friends reaching from the Commonwealth to the far corners of the world. I accept this new leadership role under circumstances that I never could have imagined. It has been truly difficult to comprehend the terrible nature of the allegations that were revealed in the Attorney General's presentment last week. My heart aches for the victims and their families, and my mind searches for answers, like millions of others across the nation.

This is a tragedy for many lives, and it will take all of us some time to come to grips with the full magnitude of all the damage that has been done.

I want to thank the Board of Trustees for your leadership and guidance through this difficult time. Your deliberations and decisive actions have now set a course for the University’s future.

Later today we will vote on a proposal to form a Special Committee to undertake a full and complete investigation of the circumstances that gave rise to the Grand Jury Report. Healing cannot occur until we understand how responsibilities to these children failed and how we can prevent such tragedies in the future.

I am grateful for the Board’s commitment to Penn State’s mission and your stewardship of the University. Each of you shares my personal resolve to re-energize our commitment to be the best that we can be, individually and collectively, to strive for excellence in everything that we do, and to represent the highest standards for honesty and integrity.

It is beholden on everyone now to carry on the work that so many of us have dedicated our lives to doing. We have 96,000 students, 46,000 full- and part-time employees, and more than half a million alumni. We are a learning community and we must continue to deliver outstanding teaching, research and service. Our work is as important to society’s future today as it was last week, perhaps even more so.

This board helped to craft the strategic plan that continues to provide the roadmap for setting priorities and pursuing strategies to achieve our objectives. We are certainly not adrift, or without a vision going forward. In the days and weeks ahead, I will be meeting with representatives from the Faculty Senate, student leadership, staff, alumni groups, donors and friends, as well as officials from state government.

My purpose will be to listen. I want to hear their concerns and their ideas for Penn State.

My purpose will be to reassure. I want Penn Staters to understand that the actions of any individual do not represent our University. I want to help rebuild our confidence in who we are.

My purpose will be to reaffirm. I want all Penn Staters to know that our future is still bright.

And my purpose will be to talk about our core values. Our values will define this University long after we are gone.

For more than 150 years, Penn State has been committed to its core values of honesty, integrity, excellence, and community. Now, more than ever, we need to articulate these values in everything we do, and we need to live them in our work, our service, our extracurricular activities, and our place in the community.

I know we can do this. We are resilient. We are a University that will rebuild the trust and confidence that so many people have had in us for so many years.

I have not accepted this appointment as your president to be a caretaker. During my time of service, I commit to seeing us move forward, and that Penn State continues to deserve a reputation as one of the finest educational institutions in the world.

Again, thank you for your trust and confidence in me.

Last Updated November 16, 2011