NEW YORK — Eric J. Barron, the president of Florida State University and a nationally known climatologist, was named Monday as the president of Penn State University, which has spent the past year trying to find a new leader in the wake of the 2011 Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
In selecting Barron, a former professor and dean at Penn State, the university will get an effective fund-raiser who worked to widen FSU’s donor base, who sought to mend fences with legendary football coach Bobby Boden after his firing in 2009, and who worked to improve the finances of the school’s athletic department.
Barron has been praised for his efforts to boost FSU’s research standing; at the same time, he has shown he is comfortable running a school where football is a defining force.
Barron, 62, who is scheduled to take over at Penn State by May, will receive salary and other compensation that could total $6 million over the five years of his contract.
He replaces Rodney A. Erickson, who had been Penn State’s provost and executive vice president before he was appointed president after the Sandusky scandal led to the resignations of Graham B. Spanier, the former president, and Joe Paterno, the football coach.
Paterno died in 2012, and Spanier and two other former high-ranking Penn State officials are facing trial on charges that they were part of a cover-up related to the scandal.
Sandusky, a longtime top assistant to Paterno, was convicted of child sexual abuse and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
‘Whatever we do, we have to make sure that we do it with a high sense of dignity and honor. And sometimes that takes time.’
The university’s board of trustees has agreed to pay about $60 million to settle claims made by Sandusky’s victims.
The specter of the Sandusky scandal, and how the university handled it, was a major topic at the news conference after Barron’s selection Monday at a Penn State board of trustees meeting.
When asked how the university would handle Paterno’s legacy, Barron said, “My feeling is, the wisest answer is to tell you to give me time, OK?”
He added: “I watched all of his great strengths as a faculty member and as a dean and as someone who loves this institution, but in my view whatever we do, we have to make sure that we do it with a high sense of dignity and honor. And sometimes that takes time.”
A native of Lafayette, Ind., Barron graduated from high school in Atlanta. He earned a geology degree from Florida State in 1973 and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Miami.
Barron joined the Penn State faculty in 1986 as director of the Earth System Science Center and associate professor of geosciences. In 2002, he became dean of the school’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
In 2006, Barron left the university to become dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas. In 2008, he became director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., where years earlier, he was a geology graduate student.
Two years later, Barron moved on to Florida State, where he became the university’s 14th president.