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Outgoing Penn State President Erickson says Farewell to Faculty Senate

by on April 30, 2014 6:30 AM

Outgoing Penn State President Rodney Erickson delivered an upbeat assessment of the university while appearing at his last faculty senate meeting Tuesday.

"I feel I'm leaving the university in very good shape," Erickson told the senate. "I believe we've never been stronger academically."

Erickson says student applications continue to increase at all Penn State campuses with more than 81,000 undergraduate applications so far this year.

"We're very pleased with another round of very strong undergraduate recruitment across the university," he says. Erickson is retiring May 11 after serving in the top post for more than two years.

While Erickson is retiring after 37 years in higher education and 19 years at Penn State, he noted there are many issues still before the senate, from general education requirements, teaching and learning in the Digital Age, and making a Penn State education accessible and affordable.

"There are no shortage of issues before you in the next several years as a senate," he says. "I wish you much success in your future deliberations."

Kim Steiner, director of Penn State's Arboretum, has known Erickson for 15 years. The pair worked closely together when Steiner served as senate chair and Erickson was university provost.

"I can say he was never anything other than completely supportive of everything that we do here in the senate in ways that most of us don't even notice," says Steiner.

Steiner noted that it was Erickson who fully supported the Arboretum from concept to completion. Recently, Erickson made a donation to the Arboretum.

Erickson assumed responsibilities as president of Penn State on Nov. 9, 2011, following the indictment of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

Erickson replaced Graham Spanier. Spanier served as president for 16 years.

Authorities have charged Spanier, along with former Athletic Director Tim Curley and retired Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz, with multiple criminal charges, including perjury and failing to report child abuse for their alleged roles in the Sandusky scandal.

Sandusky, now a convicted pedophile, is serving 30 to 60 years in state prison for sexually abusing boys.

Erickson is perhaps best known for signing the decree between Penn State and the NCAA, which allowed the NCAA to impose sweeping sanctions on the university sanctions.

The sanctions included a $60 million fine that is slated to go toward prevention of child sexual abuse and assist victims, a four-year ban on participation in bowl games, and a reduction in football scholarships.

As provost, Erickson was chief academic officer of the university, responsible for administration of the university's instruction, research and continuing education programs, and for the general welfare of the faculty and students.

Erickson's short-term contract with Penn State, dated Nov. 10, 2011, was written to end June 30, 2014, or earlier if both parties agreed.

Eric Barron, former president of Florida State University, will be replacing Erickson.

At Tuesday's meeting, faculty senate Chair Brent Yarnal read a statement on behalf of Barron, who is currently visiting Penn State's branch campuses.

"It's a great honor to be at the helm of an academic community I have always admired," Barron said. "My goal...is to listen, assess and learn as much as I can about this institution and the people we serve."

Barron says he will attend the first faculty senate meeting in the fall semester.

Barron worked at Penn State for 20 years. He was a professor of geosciences, director of the Earth System Science Center, director of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Environmental Institute, and dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Barron became Florida State University's 14th president in 2010. He graduated from FSU in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in geology. He has master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Miami.

He previously served as director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. He also served as dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin from 2006 to 2008.

In other news, Keith Crocker, chair of the faculty health care task force, formally presented a report about health insurance to the faculty senate. Specifically, Crocker highlighted what the task force saw as critical – the university getting immediate access to health care related data to better manage health care spending.

Crocker says Penn State is self-insured and therefore owns the data. However, it is not compiled in an easily accessible database to be analyzed for decisions regarding contracted vendors, prices paid to providers and the quality of care received by beneficiaries.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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