Penn State President Rodney Erickson - One-on One

By Carolyn Donaldson

Published 05/19 2014 10:19PM

Updated 05/20 2014 01:14AM


Most people outside Penn State didn't know Rodney Erickson until he was thrust into most high stress job at the university --- named president right after the Sandusky scandal broke.

Erickson was ready to retire in the fall of 2011, when Sandusky was arrested.

Within two weeks, he went from being Graham Spanier's right-hand man To taking over his job.

Colleagues called him the "rock" during this tumultuous time.
When the Freeh report was released and the NCAA reacted.  Critics blamed him for agreeing to the harsh NCAA  sanctions.

"The prospect of not being able to have a program for many years is very very devastating,
 Not just for the university, for the student athletes and for the entire community, " said Erickson.
 "It was the most difficult and gut wrenching decision I ever had to make, but I still think it was the right decision to accept the consent decree that was imposed on us."

It was President Erickson who had the Joe Paterno statue removed calling it a "lightning rod of controversy".
Erickson maintains Penn State will honor Paterno when the time is right.

As he explains, "I think that's a question for the board and for President -elect Barron to address at the appropriate time.  In the meantime,  we have the Paterno Library and I think that's a lasting testament to his legacy and the educational impacts on Penn State."

And Erickson thinks new coach James Franklin will also focus on the total student-athlete, as he did at Vanderbilt.

 "To me that said a lot to what his goals were;  that he not only wants to do well in terms of the program but he's also very committed to his players and their educational development, " Erickson said of Franklin.

As he leaves the presidency, Erickson thinks the biggest challenge facing Penn State is keeping higher education affordable. 
He said, "We need to find ways to not just keep the costs down, but we also need to find ways to enhance the quality of what we're doing."

How does he want to be remembered?

"You hope that your legacy is in the careers and the lives of the many students that you worked with in varying degrees, " the retiring president said.

He's moving down the street from the president's office in Old Main to Room 406 in the Business Building. There, he hopes to return to research and teach future business leaders.

He adds, "I hope that many of them will stop by on the 4th floor and say hello."

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