New student award to honor the legacy of Professor Emeritus Frank Ahern

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Professor Emeritus Frank Ahern has dedicated more than three decades of his professional life to conducting scientific research, mentoring hundreds of students, and co-founding and expanding the biobehavioral health program at Penn State. To honor his accomplishments and recognize the legacy of his contributions to the College of Health and Human Development, a crowdfunding effort is currently underway to create an award that will benefit students specializing in bio-behavioral health.

The effort is being led with a principal donation of $ 10,000 from Thomas J. Gould, Jean Phillips Shibley Professor of Biobehavioural Health and Head of Department, and Sheree F. Logue, Director of the Biomarker Core Laboratory and Associate Professor of Biobehavioural Health.

Once endowed, the Dr. Frank Ahern Student Award will be presented annually to undergraduate students studying biobehavioral health who have distinguished themselves through superior academic performance and exceptional commitment to community service.

“Frank’s passionate dedication to the ideals of bio-behavioral health and to aspiring students in the field – as well as Penn State at large – has set the bar incredibly high that continues to shape and define our department,” said Gould . “The fact that the Department of Biobehavioural Health is flourishing today is a testament to Frank’s visionary leadership and his tireless commitment to laying the groundwork for future success. I hope this award will be a way to recognize Frank’s efforts and the exceptional faculty in the department who have followed in his footsteps, while also inspiring students to greater achievement.

After launching the award, Gould and Logue are now encouraging other alumni and friends who were inspired by Ahern to consider contributing to the fund. Crossing the minimum grant threshold of $ 20,000 will convert the fund into a permanent endowment.

Professor Emeritus Frank Ahern, whose legacy of three decades of service at Penn State is honored with a new crowdfunding gift.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Frank Ahern

Ahern came to Penn State in 1984 from the University of Hawaii to be a member of the Center for Developmental and Health Genetics. It was involved in establishing the graduate program in Biobehavioural Health and gave high priority to epidemiology and ethics as mandatory elements of the undergraduate curriculum when the undergraduate program studies was extended in 1996 to a Bachelor of Science degree program.

He served on the program development committee and, in 1997, accepted the position of professor responsible for the undergraduate program, which he held until his retirement in 2016. In the years following his graduation. foundation, the Biobehavioural Health major has grown into one of University Park’s most popular majors, and is now offered on other Penn State campuses and as a fully online program.

Ahern and his wife, Joy C. Bodnar, after hearing about Gould’s initiative, decided to go ahead with a contribution to the fund themselves.

“I am truly honored by this unexpected gesture of appreciation, and, more than anything, I am grateful that this fund will increase the resources available to the department to recognize outstanding student achievement,” said Ahern.

Donations in support of the Dr. Ahern Student Award will advance A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence, a targeted campaign that aims to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid changes and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to meet the three key imperatives of a 21st century public university: keeping the doors of higher education open to hard-working students, their financial well-being; create transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impact the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Great State of Pennsylvania for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

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