Trustees Honor Erickson on his Retirement
When Board of Trustees chair Keith Masser opened Friday’s meeting, he noted that Rod Erickson would be giving the president’s address for the last time before he retires. There was a round of applause, and Masser noted that there would be plenty of opportunities to honor Erickson throughout the meeting.
He wasn’t kidding.
Erickson, who is retiring after 37 years at Penn State, the last 31 months as president, was unanimously voted president emeritus and professor emeritus of geography and business administration. He received an additional $50,000 to a $100,000 bonus in his contract. He had the Food Services Building—home of the Berkey Creamery—named after him, also by unanimous vote. The resolution naming the building saluted Erickson’s tenure as executive vice president and provost.
It was announced that more than $500,000 had been raised in his honor to fund the Erickson Discovery Grants, which will allow undergraduate students to conduct individual research outside the classroom, attend professional conferences, or travel for additional study. The program, according to this news release, is designed to “address an unmet need of several students who cannot afford the associated costs, or the sacrifice of time that might otherwise be spent in paid work, to pursue such engaged scholarship opportunities.”
And Erickson also received the Penn State Medal, which the board adopted in 1957 to honor people who “made an outstanding contribution to higher education in Pennsylvania,” according to this news release, and then modified in 1987 to honor anyone whose accomplishments, in or out of higher education, inspire Penn State students. Since the change, it has been awarded to only two people—former presidents Bryce Jordan and Joab Thomas.
Erickson was also the subject of this tribute video, which includes good wishes from everyone from Essence of Joy director Anthony Leach to students at various Commonwealth campuses to Mike the Mailman. The best part, in my opinion, is an old family photo in which Erickson is supporting a trendy 1970s hairdo—i.e., long and a little wavy … and possibly with sideburns?
Erickson said repeatedly that he was honored and privileged to have served at Penn State and said that two Penn Staters expressed his feelings better than he could. He quoted the late William Schreyer, who said, “It feels good to be a Penn Stater. You feel like you belong to a great institution that is only getting better.”
He joked that the Food Services Building was a fitting tribute because of his love of agriculture (he and his wife, Shari—who was also honored—live on a 52-acre farm, and he told me in 2012 that he believes he’s the only university president who owns a bulldozer) and his love of ice cream. And when he received the Penn State medal, he said, “I accept this on behalf of the faculty, staff, student, and alumni who have made Penn State the great institution it is.”
Lori Shontz, senior editor