Anonymous $1M matching gift fuels drive to endow department head in food science

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An anonymous donor is putting his or her money where our mouths are, pledging to match gifts — on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to $1 million — in an effort to enhance food science programs at Penn State.

If the donor's maximum match is reached — resulting in $2 million in total gifts — these funds will be combined with a 2014 gift from the same donor, also of $1 million, to reach the $3 million needed to create the first endowed department head position in the history of the College of Agricultural Sciences, which dates back to Penn State's 1855 founding as the Farmers' High School.

Funds from this campaign would enhance the Philip G. Keeney Food Science Department Head Excellence Fund, which was established with the 2014 gift. The fund was named in honor of the professor emeritus of food science who helped establish the department and who is best known for his expertise on ice cream and chocolate. Proceeds from the endowment can be used at the discretion of the department head to support programs and new initiatives in food science research, extension and teaching.

If the fundraising goal is met, the chair of the department will be named the Philip G. Keeney Food Science Department Head.

"We are incredibly grateful for the generosity that created the Keeney Excellence Fund, which already has begun to positively impact our food science programs," said Robert Roberts, professor and head of food science. "But as the Penn State Berkey Creamery — which is housed in our department — celebrates its 150th anniversary, now would be a perfect time to enhance that endowment to help ensure another 150 years of innovative food science programs at Penn State, while further honoring Phil Keeney, who helped build the foundation for the department's and the creamery's success."

Keeney noted that he is extremely humbled and pleased to have such an endowment named in his honor. "The Food Science Department has a group of young faculty who are at the forefront of food science innovation," he said. "The department has evolved to meet societal needs in areas such as sensory evaluation and consumer behavior, food safety, health and nutrition, food chemistry, and food engineering. The creamery also has adapted to incorporate the latest science-based information and comply with new federal standards."

"Times change fast, and you can't stand still," he added. "I believe this fund gives the head of the Food Science Department flexibility in launching new — and maybe unforeseen — initiatives that might not be possible otherwise."


The Rodney A. Erickson Food Science Building houses the Berkey Creamery, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Enhancing the excellence fund named in honor of Professor Emeritus Phil Keeney would "help ensure another 150 years of innovative food science programs at Penn State," according to Robert Roberts, professor and head of food science. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons


Once called the "Emperor of Ice Cream" by People magazine, Keeney was director of the Penn State Ice Cream Short Course from 1955 until his retirement in 1985. The short course, which expanded during Keeney's tenure, attracts ice cream professionals from all over the United States and from many foreign countries. Until recently, he continued to help teach the course every year.

Throughout his career, Keeney also was involved with the direction of the Berkey Creamery, the largest university creamery in the nation. Keeney Beany, a chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks and vanilla bean, was named for him and is part of the Creamery's "hall of fame" lineup of flavors.

A graduate of Penn State with a doctorate in dairy science, Keeney joined the Penn State faculty in 1955 as an assistant professor of dairy science, rising to the rank of full professor in 1966. He became a member of the food science faculty when Penn State designated the dairy manufacturing major as part of the food science program in 1975. He served as head of the Department of Food Science from 1980 to 1985. In 1998, he was named a Penn State Distinguished Alumnus, the University's highest alumni award.

The campaign to endow the food science department head's position in Keeney's name already has picked up steam with a recent $25,000 gift from Penn State dairy science alumnus Louis Galliker, chairman and president of Galliker Dairy Co. in Johnstown, a leading dairy operation that provides a wide range of dairy and nondairy products to the mid-Atlantic region.

The campaign also will be bolstered by contributions from customers of the Berkey Creamery. A portion of the sale price for half gallons of Keeney Beany ice cream will be donated to the fund.

In addition, anyone wishing to contribute to the effort can get more information and make a donation online.

Phil Keeney and a lab assistant examine an ice cream cone during Keeney's heyday as the "Emperor of Ice Cream." A fundraising campaign is under way to endow the chair of the Food Science Department in Keeney's name. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated September 04, 2020