Two Penn State faculty win Guggenheim Awards

April 20, 2010

University Park, Pa. – Penn State faculty members Katherine Freeman, professor of geosciences, and Helen O’Leary, professor of art, have been selected as Guggenheim Fellows for 2010.

Freeman and O’Leary are two of 180 artists, scientists and scholars selected from some 3,000 applicants for the annual Guggenheim Fellowship Award. According to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, fellows are chosen on the basis of achievement and exceptional promise. This year's fellows range in age from 27 to 73 and represent 59 disciplines from 65 different academic institutions. The full list of 2010 fellows is at online.

Freeman is a leading scholar of organic compounds preserved in ancient soils, sediments and oils. With her Guggenheim fellowship she will study molecules from ancient plants and the linkages between carbon and water in hot, high-carbon dioxide climates of the past. Since 2004, Freeman has been the associate head of Graduate Programs and Research in Penn State's Department of Geosciences. Prior to that, she was director of a graduate program in biochemistry and helped establish two interdisciplinary degrees at the University involving life sciences and geosciences.

Freeman received her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College and a doctoral degree in geological sciences from Indiana University. She joined the Penn State faculty in 1991 and has been recognized by the University with its Graduate Faculty Teaching Award. Her research has been recognized by the European Association of Organic Geochemists with the Peters Schenck Award and by the Society for Sedimentary Geology with its James Lee Wilson Medal.

Artist and painter O’Leary was selected as a Guggenheim fellow to research Irish writer Samuel Beckett and create an exhibition that expresses Beckett's writing through her interpretation. O'Leary grew up in Wexford, Ireland, and Irish writers Beckett and James Joyce influence much of her work, which has been exhibited in Chicago, New York, Denver, Australia and various cities throughout Ireland. She also has been invited to serve as Irish Fellow in Residence at the Irish College in Paris, where she will spend the first three months of a yearlong sabbatical. Living in Paris will give her the opportunity to immerse herself in the community where Beckett lived. Following her stay in Paris, O'Leary will apply her Guggenheim fellowship toward participation in the GlogauAIR Artist in Residence Program, which offers open studio and exhibition possibilities and interaction with other artists in Berlin, Germany.

O’Leary joined Penn State in 1992. She earned undergraduate and master of fine arts degrees at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, Ireland. She has received numerous awards, including the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching, a 1999 Joan Mitchell Foundation award for painting and two Pollock-Krasner Foundation awards.

United States Sen. Simon Guggenheim and his wife established the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1925 as a memorial to a son who died April 26, 1922. The foundation offers fellowships to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts. Past fellows include Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners and prominent achievers such as Langston Hughes, James Watson, Paul Samuelson, Isamu Noguchi and Martha Graham.

  • Katherine Freeman, right, Helen O'Leary, left

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated November 18, 2010