Ron Darbeau appointed chancellor at Penn State Altoona

Ron Darbeau

Ron Darbeau

Credit: Courtesy of Ron Darbeau

ALTOONA, Pa. — Ron Darbeau, vice president for faculty affairs and academic operations at Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania, has been named chancellor of Penn State Altoona, effective Jan. 3.

Darbeau succeeds outgoing Chancellor and Dean Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry, who will retire at the end of 2022 after more than 38 years of service to Penn State and 43 years in higher education. Bechtel-Wherry has led the Altoona campus since 2005. 

"We look forward to welcoming Ron to Penn State, where he will draw on his career success as an administrator in higher education to shape the future of Penn State Altoona,” said Kelly Austin, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor. “His longstanding experience as an educator, researcher and academic leader — particularly in the areas of faculty development, academic and student affairs, and institutional effectiveness — will positively impact Altoona’s campus and community for years to come.”

“I am both grateful and excited for the opportunity to work with the talented and dedicated faculty, staff and administrators at Penn State Altoona to capitalize on the wonderful legacy left by the inimitable Lori Bechtel-Wherry,” said Darbeau. “It is a singular honor to accept the leadership of this campus in its continuing mission that highlights student success, academic excellence, diversity, sustainability and community engagement — values which resonate strongly with my own. With the support of the campus community and its extended family, I intend to usher in a period of prosperity and strategic growth for Penn State Altoona.”

Darbeau most recently served as vice president for faculty affairs and academic operations at Commonwealth University, the integrated institution of Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities that was established in July 2022. There, he served on the president's cabinet and provided leadership for faculty affairs for four campuses of approximately 13,000 students and 800 faculty. He oversaw graduate education and sponsored research, institutional effectiveness and institutional research, libraries, the Clearfield branch campus of Lock Haven University (LHU), and workforce development. He joined LHU as provost and vice president for academic affairs in July 2020.

Prior to LHU, he served as interim dean of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Arkansas —Fort Smith for the 2019-20 academic year and as dean of the university’s former College of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics and the School of Education from 2015 to 2020.

His academic career began at McNeese State University in 1996 where he was head of the Department of Chemistry and Physics for the last 12 years of his tenure.

A physical organic chemist, Darbeau has secured more than $2 million in grants for research, research training, infrastructure and student aid. He has published dozens of peer-reviewed papers and has mentored over 80 undergraduate and graduate students – many of whom are co-authors on his publications.

A fellow of the American Chemical Society, he is the recipient of numerous awards and honors and serves, or has served, on many committees, councils, and boards at the local, state and national levels — including current appointments with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Regional Advisory Council and the Board of Trustees of Arkansas Colleges of Health Education.

A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Darbeau holds a bachelor’s degree with honors in chemistry from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus, and both master’s and doctoral degrees in organic chemistry from Johns Hopkins University.