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Penn State names 18th president

Updated: Tuesday, February 18 2014, 11:40 AM EST

Reported By: Gary Sinderson
Written By: Marc Stempka

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania State University board of trustees have named the school's 18th president, and it's someone who's familiar with the school, but said he still has a lot to learn about being back in Centre County and will be responsible for continuing to guide the university through the aftereffects of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

The PSU trustees voted unanimously Monday to approve Eric Barron, 62, as the school's 18th president. He will replace President Rodney Erickson, who months ago announced his plans to retire.

Barron's contract will begin May 12 and run through June 30, 2019, the university said. His base salary is $800,000 annually, has a one-time $200,000 transition payment and if he completes the full five-year contract term, PSU will award him an additional $1 million retention payment, plus other incentives. He and his wife, Molly, will reside at the Schreyer House on campus.

Barron returns to PSU from Florida State University, having spent four years as the leader of the Seminoles. Previously, Barron spent 20 years at Penn State from 1986 to 2006, including four years as dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

CLICK TO WATCH: Press conference announcing Barron as president

During his introductory press conference, Barron said, pointing first to his heart and then to his head, about what it means to return to PSU.

"In many ways I never left Penn State," Barron said. "Penn State lives here, Penn State lives here, and there's a great pleasure to be about to live here."

It has been a 15-month process to hire a new president for Pennsylvania's largest university. There was widespread speculation that the BOT was to name a new president in November, but that fell through and an announcement was not made.

Board member and selection committee member Karen Peetz said hundreds of people were looked at for the university's top leadership role.

"Nearly 400 individuals were contacted about the position and another 150 were asked to suggest candidates who might be available and interested in the position," Peetz said.

Barron's return to Happy Valley hadn't been the best-kept secret over the past week, despite university officials refusing to directly talk about the decision. Barron publicly spoke about leaving FSU in an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper over the weekend.

Barron said one his first priorities with starting the new job will be to meet university staff in charge of the academic departments. These meetings will need to be juggled with the budget, trustees and athletic department concerns that continue to mount for the school.

"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,'" Barron said. "I want you to show me your physical plant, I want you to tell me all these things you brag about."

Barron also faced several questions surrounding the Sandusky scandal and a scandal involving a Florida State football star that played out in the media during this most recent bowl season. His first and last questions of the open media session surrounded scandal-related questions.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was the center of a sexual assault investigation last fall. Following an investigation by the state's attorney general's office, there was not enough evidence found to prosecute Winston on the charges.

Winston then went on to win the Heisman trophy and was a member of the team winning Florida State's national title in football this past season.

Barron said of the scandal issues that he would handle each situation in a manner that protects the university and its students, while letting police and prosecutors do their jobs.

He will take over the PSU position as Erickson leaves his short time as university president. Erickson was named the school's president following the dismissal of president Graham Spanier in the initial wake of Sandusky's arrest in November 2011.

Spanier, along with two other former top university officials, are accused of covering up Sandusky's crimes, some of which happened on Penn State's campus. Sandusky was sentenced 30- to 60-years in prison for child sex abuse-related crimes.

During Barron's four years as president at FSU, he's been responsible for overseeing the university's $1 billion capital campaign, according to his biography on the Florida State University website.

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

Barron is a native of Lafayette, Ind., and received a bachelor of science degree in geology from Florida State, and a master's degree and Ph.D., both in oceanography, from the University of Miami. Barron and his wife have two grown children, Emily and James.

Penn State names 18th president

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