Penn State names Eric J. Barron president

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The 18th president of Penn State has been named by the University's Board of Trustees. Eric J. Barron, a former dean at Penn State and current leader of Florida State University, will begin as Penn State's next president on or before May 12, 2014.

After an exhaustive search, Barron was appointed today (Feb. 17) during a special meeting of the University's Board of Trustees on the unanimous recommendation of the 14-member Trustee Presidential Selection Council, chaired by Trustee Karen Peetz. Barron will succeed Rodney A. Erickson, who in 2012 announced his intention to retire before June 30, 2014. Information about the president-elect's compensation is available online.

History of accomplishment

Barron, 62, has served as president of Florida State University in Tallahassee since 2010. In this role, he oversees Florida State University's 16 colleges that offer more than 275 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, professional and specialist degree programs, including medicine and law. Serving nearly 41,000 students, Florida State is one of the largest and oldest of the 11 institutions of higher learning in the State University System of Florida.

Before his presidency at Florida State University, Barron held a number of notable positions within higher education, including dean of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences from 2002 to 2006, having become a member of the Penn State faculty in 1986.

"My wife, Molly, and I spent 20 years at Penn State, where I served as a faculty member, center director and dean.  In that time, I learned what it meant to continually strive for excellence – to make every year stronger than the year before," Barron said. "I also came to understand the power of this community, we are unbeatable when we are working together for a common purpose. It is an honor to lead this great University."

Scholar, educator, administrator and researcher

"In Eric Barron, we have found a president who is energetic, innovative and dedicated to maximizing the potential of our great institution," said Board Chairman Keith Masser in introducing Barron to the board. "Dr. Barron has a track record as an accomplished educator, highly respected researcher, an effective administrator and an internationally recognized scholar. It is clear that Eric Barron is not only familiar with our University, but also has the experience and knowledge to lead us forward, continuing our path of excellence."

Trustee Peetz agreed and said that Barron's credentials and proven leadership abilities brought his name to the top of the list. The executive search firm Isaacson, Miller contacted nearly 400 individuals regarding the position, as well as tapping into another 150, who were asked to suggest individuals who might be available for the position.  Of particular interest to the selection committee was Barron's role leading a doctoral research university that also has a law school and a college of medicine, as well as his strategic plan to take Florida State University into the top 25 ranking of national public universities.

Looking toward the future

"This is certainly a pivotal time in the history of Penn State, and Eric Barron is the eminent leader that our University needs to take us to the next level of academic excellence and national prominence," said Peetz. "Dr. Barron has remarkable experience in so many facets of higher education and within the communities of which he has been a part. He has demonstrated strengths in fiscal matters, strategic planning, leadership and communication, and his track record for partnering with the community is stellar."

While leading Florida State University, Barron directed the university's rise to a U.S. News & World Report ranking as the most efficiently operated university in the nation.

From 2008 to 2010, Barron served as director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), a prominent federally funded research and development laboratory in Boulder, Colo., devoted to service, research and education in the atmospheric and related sciences. Barron had previously been a scientist at NCAR from 1981 to 1985.

Before his NCAR directorship, Barron was dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas-Austin, from 2006-2008, where he oversaw the task of building a school that just four years before had received a single gift of $282 million for the purpose of creating a school of geosciences. A major research university, the University of Texas at Austin is the largest institution in the University of Texas system and is home to more than 50,000 students.

In the previous two decades, Barron was a familiar figure at Penn State. From 1986 to 2006, he served in various positions at Penn State, including 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. He also earned the title of distinguished professor of geosciences at Penn State, and was named winner of both the Wilson Award for Excellence in Teaching (1999) and the Wilson Award for Excellence in Research (1992) in recognition of both his scholarly distinction and his outstanding teaching. Barron came to Penn State after one year on the faculty of the University of Miami.

He is a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society and the Geological Society of America. Barron is a highly recognized scientist and has received a number of national awards as a scholar, researcher and distinguished lecturer, including NASA Group Achievement Award and NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal.

His expertise in the areas of climate, environmental change and oceanography, among other earth science topics, have led to extensive service for the federal government and the international community. He has served as a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is a member of its science advisory board; a member of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, director's advisory committee; and chair, Committee on Ocean Infrastructure Strategy for U.S. Ocean Research in 2030.

Barron brings to Penn State nearly 35 years of experience in academic administration, education, research and public service, as well as fiscal management within large and complex institutions.

Barron, who was at the board meeting Monday, said that he looks forward to again working with Penn State faculty, staff, students and alumni in advancing Penn State's core mission.

"I am thrilled to take on the leadership role of one of the nation's most prestigious universities," Barron said. "Penn State, already well-known for its high academic standards, its innovative research, global vision and unmatched public service, is well-positioned for the future and for creating more opportunities for students, as well as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." 

"The appointment of Dr. Barron as Penn State's next president ensures an excellent future for our University," said Dean Ann (Nan) Crouter, chairman of the University Presidential Search and Screen Committee, an 18-member group composed of students, faculty and staff. "He has been an outstanding faculty member, highly regarded researcher and an administrator who understands the roles and dynamics of the academic community. He has a remarkable record in building enrollment while ensuring academic excellence and diversity, and his desire to be inclusive in his decision making is something that is very important to our community."

A native of Lafayette, Ind., Barron received a bachelor of science degree in geology from Florida State University, a master's degree and Ph.D, both in oceanography, from the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla.

The president-elect and his wife, Molly, an educator, will live in Schreyer House on the University Park campus. The Barrons have two grown children, Emily and James.

See what other Penn State leaders are saying about the appointment of Eric J. Barron as University president.

For a look at Dr. Barron's credentials, visit http://www.psu.edu/ur/2014/Eric_J_Barron-CV.pdf or http://www.psu.edu/ur/2014/Eric_J_Barron-CV_full.pdf.

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Last Updated February 26, 2014