Former Penn State executive vice president and provost John Brighton has died

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa .– Former executive vice president and provost John Brighton passed away on June 28, 2021, after a long battle with dementia. He was 87 years old.

Highly sought after as a leading university administrator in the United States, Brighton was from 1991 to 1999 Executive Vice President and Dean of Penn State. He was the second individual to hold the title of Executive Vice President and Provost in Penn State history. The position was created in 1983 by then-president Bryce Jordan. Brighton changed roles in 1999 to become a university professor and chairman of the Teaching and Learning Consortium until 2003.

Brighton initially joined the University in 1965 as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and obtained the rank of Associate Professor in 1967, which he held until 1977. That year, Brighton joined Michigan State University as chair of its mechanical engineering department, then assumed a director role in 1982 for the School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Brighton returned to Penn State in 1988 as Dean of the College of Engineering, a position he held for three years before becoming Executive Vice President and Dean of Penn State.

As a researcher, Brighton – with BS, MS and PhD in mechanical engineering – was widely recognized as the senior fluid mechanics engineer for Penn State’s artificial heart, which is still in use today. today. In addition, Brighton was the founding editor of the Journal of Biomechanics, authored dozens of research papers and held numerous patents.

“From his humble roots, John Brighton is an incredible example of excellence in academic endeavor which has led to an abundance of achievement and exceptional leadership in higher education in general,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. John served Penn State in a variety of capacities and he not only helped the university in times of need but beyond as many of his inventions are still in use today. John’s life and work have not not only influenced our university, but also had an impact on our nation. ”

At Penn State, colleagues have described Brighton as “inclusive”, “supportive”, “passionate” and “engaged.” Colleagues also cited Brighton for its leadership in strategic planning, its unwavering commitment to diversity and its dedication to improving education at Penn State. Importantly, while at Penn State, Brighton helped set up the School of Information Sciences and Technology, which is now one of 12 Penn State university colleges on the University Park campus.

As chairman of the University’s Future Committee – a group now disbanded and designated to strategically reallocate funds to strengthen Penn State’s core missions – Brighton has helped colleges and individual units focus on high priority areas for reinvestment of funds. Notably, the Future Committee was tasked with cutting costs and reallocating $ 30 million over a three-year period of reduced state funding in the early 1990s.

Brighton left Penn State to join National Louis University as provost in 2003. From National Louis University, the National Science Foundation (NSF) appointed Brighton deputy director of the NSF engineering branch. He managed an annual budget of $ 540 million and researched a diverse workforce for women and minorities in engineering fields.

After the NSF, Brighton was appointed vice president of research at Iowa State University in 2005. In 2008, he assumed the role of vice chancellor for academic affairs and system integration in the department of Ohio Education.

Prior to his leadership at Penn State, he held faculty positions at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Purdue University.

Born in 1934 to John and Esther as one of seven children, Brighton began his educational career at a local community college and later was admitted to Purdue University, where he earned three degrees. Surviving Brighton are his 19-year-old wife Cheryl Achterberg, who was founding dean of Schreyer Honors College at Penn State from 1997 to 2005; daughter, Jill; sons, Kurt and Eric; and many other family members.

A public memorial service will be held at the Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Service – Northwest Chapel in Columbus, Ohio, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on July 16. The family requests donations from Compassion and Choices or the American Humanist. Additionally, individuals can plant Brighton memorial trees and share their memories or condolences with the family online.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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