Gerald McClearn to Retire After 30 Years in HHD

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Gerald McClearn, Evan Pugh Professor of Health and Human Development and Biobehavioral Health, retired from the Department of Biobehavioral Health in the College of Health and Human Development on July 1, 2011.

McClearn’s research focuses broadly on how genes and the environment influence complex biological traits. In particular, he studies the effects of genetics and the environment on aging, using both mice and human twins as research subjects. Human twins are ideal for exploring nature-in-collaboration-with-nurture questions, as the roles of inherited and environmental influences are much clearer between twins than between those who do not share the same genetic blueprint. His famous study on octogenarian twins living in Sweden countered the prevailing assumption that as we age, environmental factors play a greater role in what we know and how we know it. Instead, the study demonstrated that as we age our genes contribute at least as much to our cognitive functioning as does our environment.

McClearn’s research achievements have earned him a number of awards and honors. In 2009, he received the Robert W. Kleemeier Award from the Gerontological Society of America. He also is the recipient of the 2008 Longevity Prize from La Fondation IPSEN, the 1998 J. B. Isaacson Award from the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism, the 1995 Pauline Schmitt Russell Distinguished Research Career Award from the Penn State College of Health and Human Development, the 1994 National Institute on Aging Merit Award, the 1991 Royal Patriotic Society Medal from Sweden and the 1989 Dobzhansky Memorial Award for Eminent Research in Behavioral Genetics from the Behavior Genetics Association. He is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research and the Society of Behavioral Medicine.

In addition to conducting research and teaching, McClearn has served on several national committees, including the National Research Council’s Committee on Population, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research’s Executive Council, the National Institute on Aging’s National Advisory Council on Aging and the National Academy of Science’s National Research Council Committee on Substance Abuse and Habitual Behavior. He is an author on over 230 peer-reviewed publications and over 40 book chapters. His book Behavioral Genetics has been published through five editions.

McClearn was an instructor at Yale University from 1954 to 1955; an assistant professor at Allegheny College from 1955 to 1956; an assistant and then associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1956 to 1965; and an associate and then full professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, from 1965 to 1981. He joined the faculty at Penn State in 1981. From 1990 to 1992, he was the head of the Biobehavioral Health Program, and from 1992 to 1994, he was the dean of the College of Health and Human Development. From 1994 to 2002, he was the director of the Center for Developmental and Health Genetics.

McClearn earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Allegheny College in 1951 and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in psychology at the University of Wisconsin in 1953 and 1954, respectively. He conducted postdoctoral research at Edinburgh University in Scotland and University College in England.

For additional information, contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at 814-865-3831 or

Last Updated January 10, 2015