PSU president steers clear of campus controversies

Eric Barron took over in February.

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania State University's new president talked Monday about making the university a driver for economic growth, but politely steered clear of lingering controversies from the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal.

Speaking before several dozen business and government people at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon at a downtown Harrisburg hotel, Eric Barron vowed to find new ways to connect students and their innovations with prospective mentors in the business world.

"Every great inventor needs a great entrepreneur in order to get an idea to the marketplace," Barron said.

Penn State's research expenditures, which totaled $848 million in 2013-14, placed it among the top 20 schools in that category nationally, but it lagged many other schools in marketing inventions and discoveries, he said.

"This is a cultural change. This is creating a powerful path from intellectual property into the marketplace," he said. "It's focused on partnerships because we're public. We're not going to do everything within our own walls. We can change the culture inside our walls; outside of the walls, we need partners to help us be successful."

Barron, a former Florida State University president who took the helm at Penn State earlier this year, declined to take sides in an ongoing dispute on the size and composition of the Penn State board of trustees.

The board has exclusive control over the selection of the university's president.

"Wise people don't try to choose their bosses," he quipped.

He also stayed out of a dispute over whether trustees should order a review of an internal investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh into events surrounding the child sex abuse conviction of former assistant football coach Sandusky, including the allegation that longtime coach Joe Paterno and three other school officials concealed allegations against Sandusky.

"It's on a lot of people's minds and so I think the fact that a discussion is taking place is a good thing," he said.

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