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Norman Freed Retires After 46 Years of Service to Penn State

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7 June 2011

Norman Freed, professor of physics and associate dean of the Eberly College of Science at Penn State University, will retire after 46 years of service to the University. In addition to initiating many of the college's most innovative academic programs, Freed is known for his extensive research in theoretical nuclear physics, high-energy electromagnetic interactions in pion physics, and nuclear systems.

A reception honoring Freed will be held on Monday, 27 June 2011. For details contact Sandy Murray at (814) 863-8467 or slm4@psu.edu.

Throughout his time in the Eberly College of Science, Freed has played a major role in establishing many of the college's flagship programs. "One of my proudest accomplishments is the creation of the Penn State Forensic Science Program in 2005," Freed said. The program, which offers bachelor's and master's degrees in forensic science, houses state-of-the-art criminalistics laboratories and facilities and rapidly has become one of the top forensic-science programs in the nation. "Several years ago President Spanier approached the college about starting a program in forensic science. I thought it was a great idea and I simply ran with it," Freed said. "I put together a committee that outlined a draft of what such a program might look like, a draft that included bringing to Penn State the nationally renowned forensic scientist, Robert Shaler, as the founding director."

Freed also is proud of his role in establishing the Penn State University Park campus as the official venue for the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) -- an annual scholastic competition in which students in grades 9 through 12 submit and present science projects in fields such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, and physics. "In the past, PJAS students were giving their science presentations in the corners of hotel lounges across Pennsylvania. Those certainly were not appropriate places," Freed said. "Eventually, in 1991, I was able to get the whole program transferred to our campus, and since then it has grown tremendously, with up to 5,000 teachers and students attending every year. Now, Penn State provides an important community service to these junior scientists by giving them a great venue in a safe city to learn about science and to share what they've learned with their peers and teachers."

Another of Freed's innovations was a study-abroad program, which he began over 20 years ago. Thanks to this program, Eberly College of Science students at Penn State now have a number of options via exchange relationships with seven British universities; the University of Marburg, Germany; the University of Strasbourg, France; the National University of Singapore; and Wellington University in New Zealand.

In addition, Freed has been instrumental in developing many other initiatives in the college, including the Academic Advising Center, which has grown over the years to include nine staff members, and the Cooperative Education Program, which began as a computer-science-focused program and grew to become a career-development and international office serving the college as a whole. "The Cooperative Education Program helps students see beyond academia to how things operate in the real world," Freed said. "It has helped many students secure employment even before they leave the University." Another brainchild of Freed's was the Penn State Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Certificate Program -- a non-degree program designed for academically talented, highly motivated graduates in fields other than science who need to complete additional science coursework to apply for admission to degree-granting programs in such health-professional areas as medicine, dentistry, optometry, veterinary science, podiatry, and physical therapy. Freed also worked closely with former Dean Thomas Wartik to develop the prestigious Braddock Scholarship, which is offered to 10 exceptional students per year, and he has been a key player in expanding and promoting Penn State's online-education program and other outreach initiatives.

Over the years, Freed has published 65 papers in science journals, mentored 11 doctoral students, and given invited talks and lectures at universities and conferences in 23 countries. Freed is a member of many professional societies including the American Physical Society, the American Association of University Professors, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Freed has received numerous fellowships throughout his career, including a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowhip, an Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship, a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, several fellowships from France's Atomic Energy Commission and the National Center for Scientific Research, a Nordita (Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics) Fellowship, and a Ford Foundation Fellowship.

Freed received a doctoral degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1964 and a bachelor's degree from Antioch College in 1958. He joined Penn State's Eberly College of Science as a faculty member in the Department of Physics in 1965. He was named associate dean for resident instruction in 1978 and associate dean in 1979.

Before joining Penn State, Freed was a postdoctoral fellow at universities and institutions in Denmark, Finland, France, Sweden, and the United States.

Freed's retirement plans remain wide open, although he is certain that international travel will occupy much of his free time. "My wife and I are thinking about living in France during the summers or for a few months out of the year," Freed said. Freed and his wife, Trygve Freed, who is fluent in French, have spent many vacations mountain climbing in the French Alps and touring the small, charming cities of that region, and they hope to make one of these cities a part-time residence.

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