New professorship will support research to help vulnerable children

November 09, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Through a $1 million gift, Penn State alumnus Ken Young, of Tampa, Florida, is creating a professorship to support a faculty member focused on enhancing the health and well-being of vulnerable children, especially survivors of child maltreatment.

Young plans to add another $1 million through his estate to ultimately elevate the Ken Young Family Professorship for Healthy Children in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) to a chair.

“As I have gotten more involved in the college in recent years, I have had the opportunity to meet faculty members and listen to them talk about their work,” Young said. “I have been so impressed with the people I have met and their dedication to their research. Jennie Noll, director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network and professor of human development and family studies, was especially impressive. I thought a lot about what she said about the science of resilience and how it is influencing recovery for survivors of child maltreatment. Then I was able to meet with her and learn more about the work she and others are doing to make children healthier. I decided I wanted to contribute to that.”

Young graduated from Penn State in 1972 with a degree in food service and housing administration and began his first managerial job in the food services industry at the Providence Civic Center. His early career saw him directing food and beverage services at preeminent sporting events such as the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Series and major political conventions. In 1997, Young, along with Todd Wickner, began a food and beverage company, Ovations (now Spectra), which has grown into one of the most successful in the industry. Young’s love of sports and sporting events also led him to acquire ownership of five minor league baseball teams.

“When you have the ability I feel it is important to give back to the community. Maybe we can start a new cycle where troubled children get the help they need, they see the impact, and their own children will someday benefit."

—Ken Young, Penn State alumnus

Young’s involvement with HHD goes back nearly 20 years and includes many visits to speak to hospitality management classes, recruiting for his former employer, and establishing the Ken and Mary Young Trustee Scholarship for students majoring in hospitality management. 

“I am thrilled and grateful to Ken for his decision to fund this professorship that addresses such a pressing need in society,” said Ann C. Crouter, Raymond E. and Erin S. Schultz Dean of the College of Health and Human Development. “To continue the visionary work that is underway here, we need the resources to attract and retain the very best scholars. Competition with other universities for top people can be intense, but the Ken Young Family Professorship for Healthy Children, and the discretionary funds it brings for research and curriculum development, will make a direct impact on the future of this critical work at Penn State.”

The College of Health and Human Development is a core contributor to the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network, a growing group of researchers and practitioners developing innovative approaches to the prevention, detection, and treatment of maltreatment.

The Network, led by Noll, successfully competed for a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Schriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, to create the Center for Healthy Children, a national resource for research and training. Young thought the Center’s overarching goal of translating research into solutions for families was compelling. He encourages alumni who are not up-to-date on all that is happening at HHD to reengage and see how far the college has come.

“This has been a real source of pride for me,” Young said.

“When you have the ability I feel it is important to give back to the community,” he added. “Maybe we can start a new cycle where troubled children get the help they need, they see the impact, and their own children will someday benefit. And, it is such a great feeling when you can help other people.”

Endowments like the Ken Young Family Professorship for Healthy Children have been essential to the success of the University’s historic land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University's capital campaign, "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," is focused on the three key imperatives of a public university. Private support will keep the doors to higher education open and enable students to graduate on time and on track to success; create transformative experiences on Penn State campuses and around the globe that tap the full potential of Penn Staters to make a difference; and impact the world through discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship.

To learn more, visit or contact Kathleen Rider, director of development in the College of Health and Human Development, at 814-863-1064 or

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 09, 2017