Anonymous $1M gift creates food science fund in honor of professor emeritus

November 04, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Professor Emeritus Phil Keeney has been intimately linked with Penn State's Department of Food Science since its establishment in 1975. Now, an anonymous $1 million gift will ensure that his name is connected to the department's programs in perpetuity.

The donation will establish the Philip G. Keeney Food Science Department Head Excellence Fund. Proceeds from the endowment will be used at the discretion of the department head to support programs and new initiatives in food science research, extension and teaching.

"It's hard to overstate the impact that Phil Keeney has had on a couple of generations of this department's faculty, staff, students and alumni, not to mention our food industry clientele," said Robert Roberts, professor and head of food science. "The establishment of an excellence fund in his honor is a fitting tribute to his dedication and long-time service to food and dairy science programs in the College of Agricultural Sciences."

Keeney perhaps is best known for his research and teaching related to ice cream. Once called the "Emperor of Ice Cream" by People magazine, he was director of the Penn State Ice Cream Short Course from 1955 until his retirement in 1985. The short course, which expanded during Keeney's tenure, attracts ice cream professionals from all over the United States and from many foreign countries. Until recently, he continued to help teach the course every year.

Throughout his career, he also was involved with the direction of Penn State's Berkey Creamery, the largest university creamery in the nation. Keeney Beany, a chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks and vanilla bean, was named for him and is part of the creamery's "hall of fame" lineup of flavors.

A native of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, Keeney served as a U.S. Army Air Corps B-24 bombardier from 1943 to 1945 in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He received a bachelor's degree in dairy technology from the University of Nebraska in 1949 before working for two years as an assistant manager of a milk-drying plant in Winthrop, Minnesota. He then entered graduate school, earning a master's degree in dairy technology from Ohio State University in 1953.

After receiving his doctorate in dairy science from Penn State in 1955, he joined the Penn State faculty as an assistant professor of dairy science, rising to the rank of full professor in 1966. He became a member of the food science faculty when Penn State designated the dairy manufacturing major as part of the food science program in 1975. He served as head of the Department of Food Science from 1980 to 1985.

In addition to his ice cream expertise, Keeney also directed Penn State research on the chemistry of the cocoa bean and other chocolate-related projects from 1962 until his retirement. His research -- which took him to such countries as Honduras, Brazil and Malaysia -- focused on how post-harvest processing of cocoa beans affects chocolate flavor.

Keeney developed and taught introductory undergraduate food science courses and developed graduate courses on product development and ingredient technology. He advised 16 doctoral and 20 master's degree students.
Since his retirement, he has served as a consultant on various industry projects and initiatives and has remained active in departmental and University affairs. In 1998, he was named a Penn State Distinguished Alumnus, the University's highest alumni award.

Penn State's alumni and friends are invaluable partners in fulfilling the University’s land-grant mission of education, research, and service. Private gifts from alumni and friends enrich the experiences of students both in and out of the classroom; expand the research and teaching capacity of our faculty; enhance the University’s ability to recruit and retain top students and faculty; and help to ensure that students from every economic background have access to a Penn State education.

Penn State's third and most ambitious University-wide fundraising campaign, For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, concluded on June, 30, 2014 with a total of $2.188 billion. The University's colleges and campuses are now enlisting the support of alumni and friends to advance a range of unit-specific initiatives.

  • Philip Keeney, professor emeritus of food science

    Philip Keeney, professor emeritus of food science

    IMAGE: Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences

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Last Updated September 04, 2020