Ralph Ford, Ph.D.

Ralph Ford, Ph.D.
Chancellor and Dean, Penn State Behrend
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Glenhill Farmhouse
Mailing Address:
ERIE, PA 16563

Dr. Ralph Ford, chancellor of Penn State Behrend, has more than 25 years of leadership experience in higher education and industry.

As Behrend’s chief academic and administrative officer, Dr. Ford has responsibility for all teaching, research, and outreach activities of the college as well as overall campus operations, including planning, human resources, enrollment management, strategic communications, development and alumni relations, and intercollegiate athletics.

Dr. Ford joined Penn State Behrend in 1994 as a faculty member in electrical and computer engineering, subsequently serving as department chair. From 2005 to 2015, he served as director of the School of Engineering, leading significant growth in school enrollment, creation of new academic programs, increased external research funding, and the formation of research centers and industrial partnerships. Under his leadership, the School of Engineering increased its national visibility, reflected in its regular ranking as one of the top undergraduate engineering schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

In 2013, while director of the School of Engineering, Dr. Ford assumed additional responsibilities as Penn State Behrend’s associate dean for industry and external relations. In this role, he led Behrend’s Open-Laboratory model of learning and discovery, which brings students and faculty members together with external partners to explore ideas, pursue research opportunities, advance technologies, and refine products and services. In the Open-Lab environment of Penn State Behrend, students gain relevant hands-on experience while delivering research, development, and design solutions to partners. In his role as associate dean for industry and external relations, Dr. Ford also oversaw the college's strategic partnership with Knowledge Park, which is home to more than twenty companies employing more than 500 people, including numerous graduates and current students.

Dr. Ford became chancellor of Penn State Behrend in January 2016, having served as interim chancellor since July 2015. As chancellor, he has overseen development and execution of a five-year strategic plan for the college; growth and refinement of academic programming; expansion and improvement of campus facilities and infrastructure; an increase in external research activity; the college’s expanded impact on economic and community development; and a highly successful fundraising campaign, generating more than $75 million in support of students, faculty, research, and regional economic and community initiatives. In 2022, Dr. Ford was named to the Higher Education Power 100 list of most influential educators in Pennsylvania by the statewide news organization, City & State PA.

Dr. Ford is the author of numerous publications, including the book, Design for Electrical and Computer Engineers (McGraw Hill). He has secured more than $3 million in competitive external grant funding. In 2005, he was a Fulbright Scholar to Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic. In 2019, he received an honorary doctorate from Brno, in recognition of his accomplishments as a distinguished scientist and for his collaboration with the institution. He is a past vice president and past member of the board of directors of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the largest technical professional society in the world. Since 2022, he has served as the president of the IEEE Foundation.

Prior to joining Penn State Behrend, Dr. Ford worked at IBM Microelectronics developing computer vision systems for semiconductor inspection and at Brookhaven National Laboratory on the strategic defense initiative. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Clarkson University and master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Arizona.