Penn State announces details on how, when Neeli Bendapudi will take over as university president

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Neeli Bendapudi will officially begin her tenure as the 19th Penn State president on May 10, following a presidential transitional period that starts in March, according to the university.

The former Louisville president was announced in December as the next PSU president. She will succeed Eric Barron, who plans to retire May 9, the day after the conclusion of spring commencement.

“I cannot wait to begin to get to know our students, faculty and staff and to become a part of the wonderful Penn State and State College communities,” Bendapudi said in a written statement. “I look forward to spending time with President Barron and university leaders to gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”

Prior to March’s transition, Bendapudi will meet with the 22-member President’s Council, which consists of university leaders such as executive vice president Nicholas Jones and athletic director Sandy Barbour. According to the university, she will be introduced to “university units and critical initiatives” during that time.

She plans to bring on her former Louisville chief of staff and vice president for external affairs, Michael Wade Smith, as Penn State’s senior vice president and chief of staff in March. She will also move with her family from Kentucky to State College in the spring; she will operate during the formal transition period with a mix of remote and on-site meetings.

“Penn State is a large, complex university, and this onboarding period will support a seamless transition by providing an opportunity for learning and listening,” Board of Trustees Chair Matt Schuyler said in a written statement. “Both our current and future leaders are committed to this important time to provide continuity to our students, faculty and staff throughout this change and to enable Penn State’s future success.”

When she does eventually take office, Bendapudi will become the first woman and first nonwhite person in the university’s 167-year history to serve from the top post. According to the term sheet, Bendapudi will earn $1.3 million annually over the next five years, which includes a $950,000 base salary and $350,000 in supplemental retirement contributions.

Neeli Bendapudi speaks during a press conference after being named the next Penn State president on Dec. 9, 2021. She will officially takeover as university president on May 10.
Neeli Bendapudi speaks during a press conference after being named the next Penn State president on Dec. 9, 2021. She will officially takeover as university president on May 10.

Bendapudi, who earned her marketing Ph.D. in 1994 from the University of Kansas, became Louisville’s 18th president in 2018. Prior to that, she served as the provost/executive vice chancellor at Kansas after having served as dean for Kansas’ School of Business. Since earning her doctorate, she has also worked as an assistant marketing professor and then marketing professor at Texas A&M, Ohio State and Kansas.

Back in October, Barron said he intended to retire June 30. But his revised May 9 retirement will allow Bendapudi to begin her tenure ahead of the summer’s first six-week session on May 16.

Barron will help guide Bendapudi prior to then.

“I look forward to working with Dr. Bendapudi and appreciate her enthusiasm and initiative to meet our community as she prepares to transition into this leadership role,” Barron said in a written statement. “I was able to follow a similar process at the start of my tenure, and it was very helpful to me. I’m pleased to similarly support Dr. Bendapudi’s smooth and successful transition as the next president of Penn State.”

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