More than two years following the revelations of Jerry Sandusky's crimes against children and the alleged coverup of administrators' failures to stop him, Penn State has named Dr. Eric Barron as its 18th university president.
Introduced by the university's Board of Trustees at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center on Monday afternoon, Barron and his wife, Molly, were quickly brought up to speed on how much the scandal remains relevant in the community.
During a press conference that lasted just 10 questions, Barron handled five that related in some way to the scandal, the firing of former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, and ultimately, his opinion on all of it.
"My feeling is, the wisest answer is to tell you to give me time. OK? I watched all of his great strengths as a faculty member and as a dean and as someone who loves this institution," Barron said when asked how Paterno should be acknowledged by the university. "But in my view, whatever we do, we have to make sure that we do it with a high sense of dignity and honor. Sometimes that takes time."
Arriving at Penn State from his position as Florida State's president - a position he has held for the past four years before officially joining Penn State in the capacity as president on May 12 - Barron said he was quite aware of the Sandusky scandal, the handling of the board's firing of Paterno, and its effect on the university as it was happening.
Yet, emphasizing how the conversation and national perspective regarding the university has changed in the time since, Barron said that Penn State has emerged with faculty and alumni that are "eager and excited about the next thing."
Said Barron, "Of course those events were incredibly painful and saddening to all those people that love Penn State University, but what I see is an institution that has really taken control of compliance and is no doubt no a model university that I think a lot of other universities are going to look at and say, 'This is the way we should be operating to make sure that we're doing all the things the right way.' This is truly the Penn State way. If we find something that we're not doing well, we turn around and make sure that we are doing it well."
Still, urging the request of time to better understand the complexities that still exist within the Penn State community, Monday afternoon's introduction revealed little in the way of Barron's plans to bridge the divide that many perceive to still exist among alumni and within the university.
"I have a lot to learn. I want to make sure that I take the time to learn everything that I can. I think it's a mistake to think that just because I was here eight years ago or that I'm paying attention to what's going on in the world that I know everything and can make decisions and comments," he said. "But I will say this. I truly believe that everybody you talk to that is a part of this university wants to come together to support a truly great university.
"My feeling is that with the opportunity to talk about the greatness of this university and all the wonderful things that it is doing, all the wonderful things that it can do and will do, that this is one community that is so dedicated to this university that I believe we will all come together because we love the institution so much."
Other topics of interest regarding Penn State athletics - including the future for current athletic director Dr. Dave Joyner - were not discussed at Barron's introduction.