Can an ice cream course change your life? Just ask Jerry Greenfield

October 03, 2014

A $5 Penn State correspondence course in ice cream making, which they split, changed the lives of Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen, co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. Talk about return on investment. After taking the course and doing some research, the pair set up their first Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor in a refurbished gas station in Burlington, Vermont, and it was a hit.

Greenfield will share his philosophy on business, and a little ice cream, during a free presentation, "An Afternoon of Entrepreneurial Spirit, Social Responsibility, and Radical Business Philosophy with Jerry Greenfield," at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21. The program, in the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center at Penn State York, is free and open to the public.

Greenfield was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 14, 1951, at the same hospital where his future lifelong friend and business partner, Ben Cohen, would be born four days later. Little did they know they would create a business that would become one of the most talked about and least conventional success stories in American business.

In April 2000, Greenfield and Cohen sold their ice cream business to Unilever for $325 million, but Greenfield remains active in the company. The sales agreement had a provision through which Greenfield and Cohen could maintain Ben & Jerry’s existing philanthropic apparatus and brand integrity, an unusual item to be included in a deal of this magnitude. Beyond his continuing work with Ben & Jerry’s, Greenfield is involved with the Institute for Sustainable Communities (with a seat on the board), Businesses for Social Responsibility and TrueMajority.

Greenfield has helped to build a store front venture into an ice cream and business marvel by making social responsibility and creative management strengths, rather than weaknesses. His presentation delivers a rousing tribute to America’s entrepreneurial spirit, full of anecdotes and radical business philosophy. It also addresses the great sense of fun that is the company’s hallmark, illustrated with the serving of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for the entire audience.

Later in the evening on Oct. 21, Greenfield is the featured speaker to more than 200 guests at a sold-out wine and dine fundraising event to benefit the Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies. The leadership program provides an opportunity for Penn State York to partner with industry and help prepare students for jobs once they graduate. His evening presentation is part of the Graham Program’s speakers series.

Greenfield’s presentation is a fitting topic for the audience gathered to support the Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Studies since Greenfield is a successful entrepreneur.  

Donald Graham, founder of the Graham Companies, provided the guiding vision for the program: “Not everyone can be an entrepreneur, but it is important to be exposed to entrepreneurial thinking. Students who learn to understand entrepreneurial thinking will be positioned well to help the U.S. rebuild the economy and create jobs whether they do so by starting businesses or playing a key role in helping to bring products and services to the market for an established organization.”

The Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies coordinates the efforts between faculty, corporate mentors and Penn State York students to develop a tool box of skills for each student, designed to support the host company’s culture and the unique demands of their particular workplace. Student interns receive performance appraisals and continuous feedback from the company, through their company mentor, that is shared and discussed with their Penn State York faculty member. Students in this leadership program experience company culture and work on real projects to benefit the company or organization.

Students from five disciplines: business, engineering, human development and family studies, information sciences and technology, and science; are involved in the program. Penn State York hopes to continue to expand the program to include other majors at the campus. Corporate partners involved in the program include Deloitte, Dentsply, GEA Refrigeration Technologies, Glatfelter, Glatfelter Insurance Group, Harley-Davidson York Vehicle Operations, New Standard Corp., SF & Co., Shipley Energy, Tekgard and The Graham Group

Learn more about the program by visiting the website at Companies interested in becoming a part of the Graham Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies should contact Dennis Baughman at 717-771-8413 or or Di Hershey at 717-771-4127 or  

For information on the academic side of the program, contact Ali Kara, professor of business administration, 717-771-4189 or; Harley H. Hartman, instructor in engineering 717-771-4097 or; William Cantor, senior instructor in information sciences and technology, 717-771-4143 or; JeanMarie St. Clair-Christman, instructor and field coordinator in human development and family studies at 717-771-4161 or; or Mary Ritchey, instructor in chemistry, at 717-718-6765 or

  • Jerry Greenfield 2014

    Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., will share his philosophy on business, and a little ice cream, in a free presentation at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21, at Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated January 09, 2015