Trustees honor Erickson for meritorious University service

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Retiring Penn State President Rodney Erickson was recognized today (May 9) during a Board of Trustees meeting with several honors for his distinguished record of academic leadership and meritorious service to the University as president.

“Following 18 years as a faculty member and another 16 years as an administrator, including 12 years as the University’s executive vice president and provost, Rodney Erickson assumed the presidency of Penn State. He did so under unprecedented circumstances, and leaves behind a 37-year legacy of unwavering dedication, service and support of Penn State’s faculty, staff and students, as well as its educational mission," said Keith Masser, board chair. "I am honored to have had the privilege of working with Dr. Erickson for a small part of his exemplary Penn State career and to experience first-hand his devoted leadership to Penn State.”

The Board of Trustees voted to recognize Erickson in several ways:

-- Erickson has been bestowed the Penn State Medal, originally adopted by the Board of Trustees on Dec. 6, 1957. The principal purpose of the award, at the time of implementation, was to recognize and honor achievements of people who have made an outstanding contribution to higher education in Pennsylvania. In 1987, the board approved a revision to recognize those people in Pennsylvania whose accomplishments in general or on behalf of higher education specifically serve as an inspiration for similar high-level achievement by Penn State students. This is only the third time the medal has been awarded since its criteria were modified. The previous awardees are President Emeritus Bryce Jordan and President Emeritus Joab Thomas.

Dr Erickson - Penn State Medal - RKnapik

Retiring Penn State President Rodney Erickson posed with Penn State Shop Carpenter Rob Knapik following the Board of Trustees meeting on May 9. Knapik designed and created a custom display crafted from a Penn State elm for Erickson's Penn State Medal. The honor was presented at Erickson's final Board of Trustees meeting as President of Penn State.

Image: Patrick Mansell

Penn State carpenter Rob Knapik, a 25-year employee of the Office of Physical Plant, designed and created a custom display for the medal. The display was crafted from a Penn State elm, and Knapik was recognized at the meeting for his craftsmanship and contribution to this historic action. 

-- The Food Science Building, dedicated in September 2006, officially will be renamed the Rodney A. Erickson Food Science Building, in honor and recognition of his dedicated service and leadership. The naming resolution cites Erickson’s responsibilities as executive vice president and provost, in which he was “responsible for administration of Penn State’s resident instruction, research, continuing education, and for the general welfare of the faculty and students. In November 2011, Rod Erickson selflessly accepted the position of Penn State’s 17th president in response to the University’s need for steady, confident and experienced leadership during an unforeseen and unprecedented crisis.”

The Food Science Building houses the Berkey Creamery and the Department of Food Science, encompassing state-of-the-art research and teaching laboratories, three specialized and dedicated pilot plants, and the largest and most sophisticated dairy manufacturing plant associated with any academic institution in the nation.

-- Erickson was awarded the status of president emeritus and professor emeritus of geography and business administration.

-- Members of the Penn State community, including faculty, staff and students from across the Commonwealth, expressed their appreciation for President Rodney Erickson in a video shown at the board meeting.

Erickson, who holds faculty appointments in the Smeal College of Business and in the Department of Geography, would like to resume previous U.S. Census economic data-driven research he conducted until he was named dean of the Graduate School in 1995. His emeritus office will be in the Smeal College of Business.

“Rod has always been a humble and genuine individual that cares deeply about the University and the people he works alongside. When interviewing candidates for Penn State’s next president, many individuals who knew Rod expressed deep respect for Rod’s accomplishments and the legacy he has bestowed upon the higher education community," said Paul Silvis, vice chairman of the board. "The Penn State medal and honorary naming of the Food Science Building attempts to express the gratitude of the Board of Trustees, on behalf of the entire University community, for Rodney Erickson’s selfless, unflagging service to Penn State during what has been, arguably, the University’s greatest challenge."

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Last Updated May 12, 2014