In response to COVID-19, Penn State Berkey Creamery revamps outreach model

Amy Duke
January 08, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — One of the silver linings — or scoops, so to speak — of the coronavirus pandemic for the Penn State Berkey Creamery has been its growing outreach to the University community through virtual speaking engagements, team-building events and membership drives.

“Penn State Berkey Creamery is more than a dairy manufacturing facility; it is a philanthropic landmark promoting hope, joy and richness throughout the entire University and greater community,” said Jim Brown, manager of sales and marketing. “This past year tested our mettle, but we pulled together to bring a part of Penn State to every corner of the country.”

Before the pandemic, Brown and creamery staff engaged with clientele in the retail store and through in-person speaking engagements. In the wake of COVID-19, academic units, clubs and organizations transitioned from physical to virtual events.

“These groups were looking for ideas to make their remote get-togethers feel not so remote,” Brown said. “They turned to us for inspiration.”

With that, the creamery brain-trust developed a virtual speaking/tour program and expanded its e-commerce product offerings, including custom product boxes and electronic gift cards, to complement online events.

One of these happenings — a virtual ice cream party hosted by the Penn State York Women’s Philanthropic Network — took place in August. Attendees and their families enjoyed their favorite creamery ice cream flavors, which were shipped to their homes in advance, while listening to Brown’s presentation via Zoom.

“The Women’s Philanthropic Network prides itself on providing members the opportunity to learn and network together while having fun, and Jim Brown’s presentation was a perfect match for those three ingredients for success,” said Di Hershey, director of alumni relations and development at Penn State York. “We received great feedback from our members, and we are looking at opportunities with campus community cohorts to ask Jim to present in the future.”

Another example is the creamery’s support of the Penn State Alumni Association’s 150th-anniversary celebration this past year. Staff members from each organization brainstormed ideas on how to combine that celebration with another love of alumni, creamery ice cream.

The collaboration resulted in the “150th Alumni Anniversary Mini Edition,” which features the creamery’s Alumni Swirl flavor. Initially, the plan was to distribute the minicups at alumni events and gatherings, explained Tom Hammond, executive director of engagement for the alumni association. However, a few months into 2020, in-person events were no longer a reality, so the association and creamery reshuffled their plans. They decided to offer the special edition minis for purchase in packs of 16, 32 or 64 on the creamery’s e-commerce site. The packs also can be found in the retail store.

Alumni Swirl

Penn State Berkey Creamery and the Penn State Alumni Association teamed up to develop the 150th Alumni Anniversary flavor pack in celebration of the association's 150th anniversary.

IMAGE: Michael Houtz

“There are few things that resonate more with Penn Staters than creamery ice cream, and it is always a staple at alumni association events and gatherings,” Hammond said. “We will continue to explore partnerships and collaborative activities with the creamery. When you combine the power and pride of the Penn State network from the alumni association with the creativity and joy from the Berkey Creamery, you cannot go wrong.”

When planning its virtual “Cheese and Thank You” donor recognition event, Penn State Dickinson Law decided to leverage the creamery’s know-how and asked Brown to talk about the facility’s cheese-making process and products. Brown also was a guest judge for a cheese display competition among the attendees featuring creamery cheeses. Alumna Denise Foster, of Lexington, Kentucky, took the “Best in Show” award.

“The creamery delivered on its promise to help us create a memorable and engaging experience for Dickinson Law donors,” said Robin Langhans, director of alumni relations. “They created custom cheese gift boxes, which were shipped directly to registrants’ doorsteps. Not only was the quality of the cheeses outstanding, but Jim’s participation made the event a huge success. We already are brainstorming concepts for a future event with the creamery.”

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to outreach, said Brown, who pointed to ongoing projects with the Nittany Lion Club, Bryce Jordan Center, Schreyer Honors College and Dairy Science Club, to name a few.

“Despite the pandemic, we are continuing the creamery’s mission to support Penn State academics and provide the University community with a viable outlet for communal gatherings and terrific products,” he said.

Penn State’s Berkey Creamery, the largest university creamery in the United States, produces ice cream, cheese, milk, yogurt and sour cream, as well as a variety of other products, such as juices, lemonade and iced teas.

Cows from Penn State’s dairy herd provide milk for the creamery’s fresh dairy products, averaging about four days from cow to creamery treat. For more information, visit To schedule a virtual presentation, contact Brown at

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 08, 2021