Penn State names FSU's Barron its new president - abc27 WHTM

Penn State names FSU's Barron its new president

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On Presidents Day, Penn State University's board of trustees elected its 18th president, Dr. Eric Barron.

The president-elect was introduced in State College and answered questions about the university's future and past.

Trading sun for snow, Barron left Florida State University's palm tree-filled Tallahassee campus for the mountains of Happy Valley.

By a unanimous vote, the board of trustees voted him as Rodney Erickson's replacement.

A thunderous applause welcomed Barron to the podium in what Penn State hopes will become lightning in a bottle. The university is still healing after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, the firing and subsequent death of legendary football coach Joe Paterno, and the firing of top officials including president Graham Spanier.

Outspoken trustee Anthony Lubrano made remarks that challenged Barron to "dare to be great," using words once spoken by Paterno.

"I hope the winds of change are blowing in the form of renowned climatologist Dr. Eric J. Barron," he said. "It's time to bring us all home. We want to return. We want to heal."

During the 45-minute public meeting, it was detailed that the 62 year-old would receive a five-year contract worth $6 million. As president, Barron will earn an annual salary of $800,000, $200,00 more than Erickson's current salary.

Barron is also slated to receive a $200,000 "transitional payment" when he begins duties on or before May 12. Trustees outlined that Barron will also receive an extra $200,000 payment in years two through five of his contract. If Barron completes his full term, he will be entitled to a $1 million bonus.

Barron is said to live on campus at the President's Schreyer House with utilities paid for by the university. Barron has a wife, Molly, and two grown children, Emily and James.

Even though Barron will be 67 when his contract expires in 2019, the meteorology expert said he does not forecast retirement at any point. He joked that his wife would kick him out of the house because he is too antsy remaining still.

Barron answered questions during a brief news conference following the public meeting. He answered questions regarding how Penn State handled he Jerry Sandusky situation, and maintained the university has done everything it's been asked to do and more.

When asked about his position on how the university should remember or honor Paterno, he asked Nittany Lion nation to give him more time before taking a stance.

Barron was also questioned about his handling of recent rape allegations against Florida State Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Florida's attorney general has cleared Winston of any wrongdoing.

"I have an obligation to protect all of our students and not to choose sides," said Barron. "It's an interesting lesson and one I won't forget."

Trustees did not answer if Barron's handling of the Winston situation was coincidence or intentional when vetting him for the position.

Barron graduated from Florida State in 1973 with a bachelor of science in geology. He earned his master and doctorate degrees in oceanography from the University of Miami in 1976 and 1980 respectively.

He became a faculty member at Penn State in 1986. From 2002 to 2006, he was dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

He left Penn State  in 2006 to become the Jackson School of Geosciences dean at the University of Texas at Austin. In February 2010, he was named president of Florida State University at Tallahassee.

Although Barron has spent the last eight years away from State College, he said State College never left him. Neither trustees or Barron discussed in any detail when he was recruited to become the next president, other than to say he was always interested in this job.

"It's truly a dream come true to be here," he said.

In general, Barron said he would like to make sure each student takes full advantage of the educational opportunities at Penn State. He said he will work the with the legislature to solidify research grants and develop high quality programs.

Barron said he is also humbled by his position and would not and does not want to accomplish the university's goals alone. He said that when he takes over as president, he will begin by listening before any action is taken.

"The first thing I'd like to do is tap each dean on the shoulder and say, 'I'd like to spend half a day with you,' " he said.


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