The saga continues at Penn State
Penn State's beleaguered board of trustees has mishandled a series of high-profile issues over the two years since the volcanic eruption of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. It even flubbed its initial effort to hire a new president.
But recently, the board appeared to take a step toward redemption by hiring Eric Barron, Ph.D. as Penn State's next president.
Dr. Barron has sterling academic and administrative credentials. An internationally known climatologist, he is a former professor of geosciences and director of the EMS Environmental Institute and dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State, former dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas, former director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and current president of Florida State University, which he will leave by this spring for his new post at Penn State.
At Florida State, Dr. Barron improved its financial position and operational efficiency while significantly expanding its research component.
But Dr. Barron's greatest challenges won't be in the academic realm. Despite the controversy, Penn State has been doing quite well. It is the nation's eighth largest research university and it has a record number of applications for the next academic year.
His greatest challenge will be keeping the university moving forward amid the smoldering ruins of the Sandusky case. Former President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Vice President Gary Schultz are scheduled for trial this summer on charges resulting from the Sandusky saga.
Dr. Barron did not directly answer questions about those matters during his introductory press conference, instead focusing on engaging students and faculty to move beyond them.
Perhaps that is the answer. He characterized Penn State as a "blue and white Corvette" that needs to be driven faster. Full speed ahead is the best pace for the institution and the commonwealth that it serves.