UNIVERSITY PARK — On Presidents Day, Penn State University names its next president.
Eric Barron, 62, currently the head of Florida State University, was appointed Monday afternoon by the board of trustees.
Barron succeeds Rodney Erickson who is retiring.
The new president had previously served as dean of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences from 2002 to 2006 before becoming president at Florida State in 2010.
The man who will be the 18th president of the university is a familiar face on campus.
There was a standing ovation and a unanimous vote as the leadership of Penn State will soon be in the hands of its next president.
At a board of trustees meeting at the university’s main campus, Eric Barron accepted the position. He’ll take over for Rodney Erickson.
Barron will leave his job as president of Flordia State University to return to a place he used to call home.
“In many ways I never left Penn State. Penn State lives here, Penn State lives here, and it is a great pleasure to be about to live here,” Barron said.
For the next five years, Barron will lead Penn State, the same university where he spent four years as dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Before that he was a professor.
Some students across Penn State campuses believe this new leadership is just what they need to heal from the 2011 Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal and its aftermath.
“It’s basically a relief to any Penn State fan, basically. It has been rough for everyone here at the university but we’re all together,” said sophomore Georgiana Butler.
Butler of Lansford attends Penn State’s Hazleton campus but plans to transfer to Main Campus in the fall. She’s glad a former Penn State dean was selected for the job, one that pays $800,000 per year.
“For him to be a former dean to come back here too, it’s got to be great for him too and we’re glad to have him back.”
Freshman April Comstock of Tobyhanna realizes Barron has a tough road ahead because of fallout from the Sandusky scandal.
“I think it’s probably taking on a huge role, something that is going to bring a lot of controversy, but probably better in the end.”
Although Penn State’s new president comes to the university with 20 years of experience here, he says he still has a lot to learn.
“I do think it’s a mistake to sit there and say, ‘OK, I’ve been a university president for four years, I’ve directed a national laboratory, I know what to do.’ Because it doesn’t usually work that way,” Barron said.
Students taking classes in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at University Park say this is an exciting moment for them all.
“It’s definitely a brand new chapter. It’s definitely opening a lot of our eyes to a lot of new opportunities. A lot of new and exciting things are coming,” said junior Kevin Towell.
As for Joe Paterno’s legacy and how Barron plans to leave it, he says give him time.
Barron will take over as president on May 12. His contract runs through June 30, 2019.