An Ohio State University College of Agriculture alumnus is coming home.
Bruce McPheron, former dean of Penn State University’s college of agricultural sciences, will be starting as the OSU vice president of agricultural administration and dean of the college of food, agricultural, and environmental sciences on Nov. 1.
McPheron will be taking the position of Bobby Moser, who announced his retirement from a 20-year term in September 2011.
“I need to be respectful to my colleagues back at Penn State and help with the transition. I was offered the job in mid summer and accepted it in August,” Mcpheron said when asked why he’s starting so late into the semester. “We have made a lot of changes in Penn State’s college of agricultural sciences, structural changes, philosophical changes, budgetary changes, and I felt that I owed it to them to be able to help our current president, Ron Erikson, made the transition in finding new leadership for the college.”
McPheron’s dedication to Penn State is nothing new. He’s been a faculty member there for 24 years after starting in 1988 as an assistant professor of entomology. But when given the chance to come back to Ohio, McPheron felt it was an opportunity he had to “really take a hard look at.”
“I come from Ohio originally, I actually started my career in bugs as a 4-Her in Union County, Ohio, and then grew up in Hardin County, in the northwest part of the state,” he said.
McPheron earned his bachelor’s degree in entomology with honors at Ohio State, and a master’s degree in biology and a doctorate in entomology at the University of Illinois, according to a university press release.
Besides getting the chance to return to his home state and alma mater, McPheron says it was OSU President E. Gordon Gee who convinced McPherun to take the job.
“(President Gee) began to talk about the discovery themes that are going to guide Ohio State’s thinking over the next many years. And as he listed those off, food production and food security, energy and environment, health and wellness, those are all the core mission of this college, and I thought to have a university president of a university of this quality sit there and tell me that the university’s going to be driven by things that my college would do was a really compelling argument,” McPheron said.
President Gee has made it clear that he is “delighted” to have McPheron take the job.
“Dr. McPheron is an Ohioan by birth, an Ohio State alumnus, and spent three years working as a county Extension educator in the state,” said President Gee in a university press release. “He brings a global view and worldwide experience back to Ohio to lead one of Ohio State’s most important educational programs.”
McPheron is internationally recognized for his research in insect genetics, including the development of new genetic tools for monitoring the spread of invasive fruit fly species, according to a university press release.
He has also testified before the U. S. House of Representatives regarding the Farm Bill, which is “the legislation that really authorizes how the federal government deals with agriculture,” said McPheron.
“In 2008, we were working on a reorganization of the part of the US Department of Agriculture that works with our land-grant universities. This is really a critical component of universities like the Ohio State University which is Ohio’s only land grant university. That agency oversees the competitive grants that fund research in food and environment and agriculture production, they oversee the programs that support agricultural research and cooperative extension, and so I had a chance to carry a message on behalf of the nation’s land-grant universities to help them get a sense of why we were suggesting some changes in that structure,” he said.
McPheron has also served as chair of the experiment station component of the Board of Agriculture Assembly of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and he is currently chair-elect of APLU’s Policy Board of Directors of the Board on Agriculture Assembly. He has also has served nationally in LEAD-21, the country’s professional development program for agricultural leaders that promotes linkages among research, academics, and extension, according to a university press release.
McPheron is “excited” for the changes to come, but that what he’s going to do first is “a lot of learning.”
“I need to look at leadership and helping our staff, faculty, even students, understand the importance not only of the subject matter we look at, but also the importance of being a leader in that subject matter. We have a lot of issues of infrastructure, facilities that we need to take a look at, you know, there’s been some storm damage a couple years ago from a tornado at Wooster that we’re recovering from, there was storm damage this summer out at Don Scott field and our animal facilities, a lot of the buildings here on campus look very much the same as they did when I was a student here,” he said. “There are some opportunities to really take a look at that.”
But equally important to McPheron is “getting to know the students.”
“I try to be visible to our students because I think it’s important. It was important to me as a student and I think it’s important to our current students to reinforce that we’re a family here and we’re committed to your success because you’re the future,” he said.
There are around 2000 students in the college on main campus and over 700 more students at the Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio, said McPheron.
Faculty and students in the college of food, agricultural, and enviromental sciences are as excited as McPheron about his transition.
“I am thrilled. I think, if I had the opportunity to pick somebody, I would have picked someone with the exact characteristics that he has,” said Joan Lieb, Executive Assistant to the vice president and dean. “I have not heard one negative thing. I think everyone really excited and anxious to work with him and it’s all been very positive.”
“I watched a couple videos that our college put up about him … He was a great ambassador for agriculture in (Pennsylvania),” said Krysti Dubler, a second-year in animal sciences and community leadership. “It seems like he’s going to be a great replacement for Dr. Moser.”
McPheron is married with two children: his son is a Navy rescue swimmer in San Diego and his daughter is finishing her final semester as a photography student at Penn State. Although they grew up in Pennsylvania, McPheron says they’re “all really excited about the opportunity.”