Longtime Penn State administrator Ford Stryker to retire after 20 years
Associate Vice President, Physical Plant, and Chief Facilities Officer Ford Stryker, who has dedicated almost 20 years to Penn State, announced his retirement effective June 30, 2017.
With retirement looming, Stryker remains focused on what he has left to accomplish before his last day.
“Many people ask me if I’m counting the days until retirement,” said Stryker. “I may be counting the days, but in the sense that I only have so many days left and I have a lot of things I want to do. I feel like there are a number of loose ends that I would like to tie up to make things easier for the next person. Further I want to meet with all of our crews and staff to see how things are going, and to thank them for their dedication and hard work.”
Stryker, a registered professional engineer, joined OPP in 1997 as deputy associate vice president responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization at the University Park campus. He assumed duties as associate vice president in 2004, overseeing more than 32 million square feet of buildings and 22,000 acres of land across 23 campuses around Pennsylvania.
“It is impossible to imagine what Penn State would look like today or how it would operate without Ford’s leadership over the last 20 years,” said David Gray, senior vice president for Finance & Business. “His guidance has helped grow not only our physical plant operation, but the University as a whole. Ford’s dedication to environmental stewardship, workplace safety, preserving valuable infrastructure and planning and executing multi-billion dollar capital plans has put Penn State in a strong position to continue to pursue its mission of teaching, research and service. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Ford and wish him all the best in retirement.”
Penn State has had a robust capital program over the past two decades overseen by OPP. Between 2004 and the present, $4.8 billion was invested in the physical plant, which resulted in more than 5 million additional square feet, plus many renovated facilities and infrastructure improvements. Some of the most significant investments have been in:
- Infrastructure improvements such as a central chilled water system, conversion of the steam plant from burning coal to natural gas, a new water treatment plant, and two data centers;
- Numerous academic and research buildings, which were built or renovated, including two new law school buildings, the Millennium Sciences Complex, a new Chemical and Bio-medical Engineering Building, and numerous other academic projects at the Commonwealth Campuses and University Park;
- Student support and recreational facilities at Altoona, Brandywine, Harrisburg, York and University Park constructed or renovated;
- A freestanding, $240 million children’s hospital and a cancer institute at Hershey, plus a new health services building at University Park;
- New and renovated residence halls, including renovations of North, South and East halls at University Park and construction of new halls at the Abington, Brandywine, Behrend and Harrisburg campuses;
- Athletics facilities, including a new hockey rink, baseball park and softball park.
Some other accomplishments of note include:
- Consolidating and strengthening environmental compliance programs;
- Implementing a standardized capital project approval and delivery process;
- Significantly reducing energy use and lowering Penn State’s greenhouse gas emissions;
- Improving workplace safety for OPP employees;
- Implementing a program to improve the appearance (curb appeal) of all campuses.
“I’m optimistic about the future for OPP and the University physical plant,” said Stryker. “We have a really strong organization. We have great support from the administration. Customers appreciate what we do. There will be challenges, but I think the organization is in a good place to face them successfully.”
Before working for Penn State, Stryker served in the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineering Corps, where he attained the rank of captain. His last assignment before coming to Penn State was as commanding officer of the Public Works Center Norfolk. He also commanded Amphibious Construction Battalion Two, which deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Stryker graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York, with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering. He also has a master’s degree in civil engineering, construction management, from the University of California, Berkeley.
While Stryker continues to focus on accomplishing as much as he can before his last day at the office, he is looking forward to the extra time he will have to spend with his wife, children and grandchildren. Traveling, fishing and dedicating time to local nonprofit organizations will also keep him busy.
“It’s been an honor to work for Penn State,” said Stryker. “The physical plant is a critical ingredient needed to educate students, provide a quality student experience, and allow researchers to make new discoveries that will benefit society. Working in a support unit that is so closely tied to the University’s mission has been a real pleasure. The diversity of facilities and people at Penn State is incredible. It’s been fascinating working on such a wide range of projects. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I’ve really appreciated the support the Office of Physical Plant has received from the Board of Trustees and the administration. The last 20 years have truly been a rewarding time for me.”
A nationwide search is currently in progress for Stryker’s replacement.