Eric Barron quietly assumes Penn State presidency

Eric Barron began his tenure as Penn State’s 18th president Monday.
Eric Barron began his tenure as Penn State’s 18th president Monday. CDT file photo

On a quiet Monday, with campus nearly empty the day after commencement, Eric Barron walked into Old Main to start his tenure as the 18th president of Penn State.

The university released a short video greeting that Barron had recorded but, beyond that, there was little done publicly to mark the occasion.

That doesn’t mean it was an uneventful day inside Old Main or for Barron, who left his job as president of Florida State to come back to University Park, where he had been a longtime faculty member.

“He’s champing at the bit to get started,” said Bill Easterling, who succeeded Barron as dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences when he left the university in 2006. “And it all comes flying into his face on Monday morning.”

Barron spent most of his day in Old Main, meeting with his senior leadership team (typical Monday business for presidents); discussing things that need his immediate attention with Tom Poole, vice president for administration; and continuing one-on-one meetings with vice presidents and deans that he began having weeks ago, Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.

“He’s really in a listening mode,” Powers said in an email.

That’s been a reoccurring theme for Barron since April 2, when he left Tallahassee to start preparing for his presidency here.

Former president Rodney Erickson, who ended a 37-year career Sunday, previously said he and Barron had talked about a number of things related to the transition of power.

And Barron spent the past few weeks crisscrossing the state, stopping at commonwealth campuses and listening to students, faculty and staff.

“My goal has been to listen and, when I become president, to know the most I possibly can,” he told a group of student leaders last month.

Once he has the lay of the land, there will be some pressing decisions facing Barron, including hiring an athletic director and two vice presidents — one to oversee research and the graduate school and the other for marketing and communications.

Barron also is starting in the middle of state appropriation discussions.

University officials have been hoping get back some state funding it lost several years ago, but officials expect funding to remain flat this year.

“I’m sure that will be something very much on Dr. Barron’s mind,” Erickson said in a previous interview.

“He’s had to struggle with similar kinds of issues in the state of Florida that have faced Florida State University, and in some ways, the cuts there have been more severe. The reliance on state government funding has been greater in the Florida public universities than it has been here historically.”

In his video message to the university Monday, Barron professed his love for Penn State and said he’s ready to get to work.

“I love this university, and it is truly great to be back,” he said.

“I can’t wait to get to know you. I can’t wait to work together to make a great university even greater. Thank you.”