Two Penn State graduate alumni recognized for lifetime achievements

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Geoffrey Godbey, who received a doctorate in recreation, park and tourism management, and John R. McWhirter, who received a doctorate in chemical engineering, are recipients of the 2013 Graduate School Alumni Society (GSAS) Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes graduate alumni who have achieved exceptional success throughout the course of their profession and have demonstrated loyalty to the Penn State and the Alumni Association. Both were honored at the GSAS Recognition Dinner, one of the events held during the Graduate School’s weekend Celebration of 150 Years of Graduate Education at Penn State, March 22 to 24.

Godbey was a professor of recreation, park and tourism management prior to retirement. He began his career as a research intern for the Philadelphia Department of Recreation, and next, headed an associate degree program in recreation leadership at the Penn State Abington campus. From there, he became an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and then, returned to Penn State as an associate professor. Godbey also was co-founder of Venture Publishing, a publisher of scholarly books dealing with leisure, play and recreation and parks.

Godbey was a member of the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, a consultant to the Third Nationwide Outdoor Recreation Plan, president of the Society of Recreation and Park Educators and of the Academy of Leisure Sciences and gave testimony to numerous U.S. Congressional committees. Currently, he is the Sir Yue-Kong Pao Visiting Professor at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.

Godbey received an honorary doctoral degree from the State University of New York: Cortland; the Distinguished Alumni Award From Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development; the Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research and the National Literary Award from the National Recreation and Park Association; the Distinguished Fellow Award, Society of Park and Recreation Educators, and was elected to membership in the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration.

“Because of his international reputation, Dr. Godbey has been interviewed more than 100 times by hosts of various news shows such as the 'Today' show, National Public Radio and 'Talk to the Nation,' and he has had his writing summarized in publications such as The Economist, U.S. News and World Report and The New York Times. He has been invited by governmental leaders in countries such as Poland, China and Brazil to discuss the future of leisure and leisure services and has been a visiting scholar with centers and universities all over the world,” said one of his nominators.

John R. McWhirter is the founder, president and CEO of Nittany/BullDog BioDiesel LLC; Mixing and Mass Transfer Technologies LLC; and Copper Beech Townhome Communities. He began his career with E.I. DuPont de Nemours as a research engineer in 1962 and then went on to be manager of Research and Development for LIGHTNIN Inc. From 1966 to 1986, McWhirter worked for the Union Carbide Corp. where he rose to vice president and general manager of the Environmental System Division and the Union Carbide Agricultural Chemical Co. From 1986 to 2000, he was a professor of chemical engineering at Penn State, and during this time, he founded, developed and managed Copper Beech Townhome Communities, which grew to become the fourth largest student rental company in the United States by 2011.

McWhirter is the holder and inventor of more than 40 U.S. patents in the area of wastewater treatment and chemical process systems technology and has been widely recognized for his pioneering efforts in the invention, development and commercialization of the UNOX High Purity Oxygen Activated Sludge Wastewater Treatment System in the 1960s and 1970s. He has also received numerous awards including the Penn State Outstanding Engineering Alumnus Award, and in 2008, was honored as one of the 100 preeminent Chemical Engineers of the Modern Era on the 100th anniversary of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

“Dr. McWhirter provided significant input and guidance to the Chemical Engineering Department on both research and educational activities. He has mentored numerous students in our department, including many that he taught while on the faculty at Penn State. More recently, he gave the keynote talk at the department's Graduate Student Research Symposium in 2007, providing our graduate students a unique perspective on industrial research and career opportunities in chemical engineering. Dr. McWhirter has been a speaker in our Process Safety course for the last several years, providing students important information on industrial safety including the major accident at the Union Carbide facility in Bhopal, India in 1984. Dr. McWhirter has also established the John R. and Jeannette McWhirter Graduate Fellowship in Chemical Engineering, which provides full support for an outstanding graduate student in our PhD program,” said one nominator.

Another nominator added, “Jack is a proud Penn Stater who has served as an advocate and ambassador for the University over the course of many years. He has never hesitated to credit much of his professional success — as a corporate innovator, as a Penn State faculty member and as an environmentally conscious entrepreneur — to the graduate education he received at the University.”

Contacts: 

Marilyn Engle

Work Phone: 
814-863-8117
Last Updated April 12, 2013