New student award to honor legacy of Professor Emeritus Frank Ahern

The endowment will benefit undergraduates studying biobehavioral health

Faculty couple Thomas J. Gould, Jean Phillips Shibley Professor of Biobehavioral Health and head of the department, and Sheree F. Logue, director of the Biomarker Core Laboratory and associate teaching professor of biobehavioral health, are together spearheading an effort to honor Teaching Professor Emeritus Frank Ahern with an endowment to benefit undergraduates studying biobehavioral health. Credit: Courtesy of Thomas J. GouldAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Teaching Professor Emeritus Frank Ahern devoted 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 achievements and recognize the legacy of his contributions to the College of Health and Human Development, a crowdfunding effort is now underway to create an award that will benefit students majoring in Biobehavioral Health.

The effort is being spearheaded with a lead gift of $10,000 from Thomas J. Gould, Jean Phillips Shibley Professor of Biobehavioral Health and head of the department, and Sheree F. Logue, director of the Biomarker Core Laboratory and associate teaching professor of biobehavioral health.

Once endowed, the Dr. Frank Ahern Student Award will be conferred on an annual basis to undergraduates studying biobehavioral health who have distinguished themselves on the basis of superior academic achievement and through outstanding community service engagement.

“Frank’s passionate dedication to the ideals of biobehavioral health and to the field’s aspiring students — as well as to Penn State writ large — set an incredibly high bar that continues to shape and define our department,” said Gould. “The fact that the Department of Biobehavioral Health is flourishing today is a testament to Frank’s visionary leadership and tireless commitment to laying the groundwork for future success. I hope this award will be a way to recognize Frank’s efforts and the outstanding teaching faculty in the department who have followed in his footsteps, while at the same time spurring students to greater achievement.”

Having kicked off 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 award threshold of $20,000 will convert the fund into a permanent endowment.

Teaching Professor Emeritus Frank Ahern, whose three-decade legacy of service to Penn State is being honored with a new crowdfunding gift. Credit: Courtesy of Frank AhernAll Rights Reserved.

Ahern came to Penn State in 1984 from the University of Hawaii to be a member of the Center for Developmental and Health Genetics. He was involved with establishing the Biobehavioral Health graduate program, and he placed a high priority on epidemiology and ethics as required components of the undergraduate curriculum when the course of study was expanded in 1996 into a bachelor of science degree program.

He served on the curriculum development committee and, in 1997, he accepted the role of professor-in-charge of the undergraduate program, which he held until his retirement in 2016. In the years since its founding, the biobehavioral health major has grown into one of the most popular majors at University Park, and is now offered at other Penn State campuses and as a fully online program.

Ahern and his wife, Joy C. Bodnar, upon hearing of Gould’s initiative, decided to move forward with a contribution to the fund themselves.

“I’m truly honored by this unexpected gesture of appreciation, and, more than anything, I’m grateful that this fund will enhance the resources the department has at its disposal to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of students,” said Ahern.

Gifts to support the Dr. Ahern Student Award will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit


Last Updated October 28, 2021