Steven Zarit named distinguished professor

January 24, 2013

Penn State has named Steven Zarit, head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, a distinguished professor for his record of research, teaching and service.

"Steve’s research program illuminates the complex challenges families face when caring for older adults with dementia, as well as the effects of providing care on caregiver health and well-being," said Ann C. Crouter, Raymond E. and Erin Stuart Schultz Dean College of Health and Human Development. "He has worked with state and federal agencies, foundations, and communities to explore ways to mitigate caregiver stress and improve the lives of dementia patients. A wise and effective department head, strong teacher, and prolific graduate student mentor, Steve has contributed greatly to Penn State and is very deserving of this honor."

Described as a pioneer and a founder of the field of clinical gerontology, Zarit was one of the first researchers to study the effects on caregivers of family members with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. He has shown that it is possible to predict the onset of disability through the use of psychological measures, and he has developed clinical models that are aimed at improving health care and living conditions for older adults. He has published over 260 papers, chapters and books on these topics.

"In addition to his illustrious research career, Steve has a strong commitment to undergraduate and graduate education," said Douglas Coatsworth, professor human development and family studies, who was one of several people to nominate Zarit for a distinguished professorship. "He brings his expansive knowledge and experience to the classroom, introducing students to the most important theoretical and empirical work in the area of adulthood and aging, and he consistently receives high student rankings in his courses, demonstrating his commitment to and ability to deliver teaching excellence."

Since 2003, Zarit has served as head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State. He also serves as associate editor of the journal Aging and Mental Health. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the Distinguished Career Award from the Gerontological Society of America, the M. Powell Lawton Award from the American Psychological Association and the Senator John Heinz Memorial Award from the National Council on Aging. He also has received the Evan G. and Helen G. Pattishall Oustanding Research Award and the Pauline Schmitt Russell Distinguished Career Research Award from the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State and the President's Award for Academic Integration from Penn State.

Zarit earned a bachelor's degree in political science at the University of Michigan, a master's degree in American civilization at the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in human development at the University of Chicago, where he also completed postdoctoral studies. He came to Penn State in 1986.


  • Steven Zarit, head of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 24, 2013