2010-2011 Featured Alumni

2010 College of Health and Human Development Emerging Professional Graduate Degree Award – Dr. Gerard Kyle

Gerard Kyle received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from our department. Following the completion of his Ph.D. in 2001, he became an Assistant Professor at Clemson University and he is currently an Associate Professor at Texas A&M University.

According to PSU Faculty member Dr. Andy Mowen, “Dr. Kyle has made significant contributions to the profession since he graduated Penn State. Since that time, he has demonstrated excellence in research, teaching, advising, and service to the profession. Dr. Kyle was instrumental in developing (and is the Co-Director of) the Study Abroad in Natural Resources Program at Texas A&M.. Through this experiential learning program, he has actively engaged students to understand natural resource management issues particularly as they relate to meaning of these places for recreationists and how these meanings influence resource management decision-making.”

Dr. Kyle is the Director of the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Lab at Texas A&M University. His leadership in this role involves contributing to extramurally funded research examining the role of place attachment and social bonding in understanding issues such as crowding, user conflict, and carrying capacity. Dr. Kyle is known as a leading expert in understanding commitment and attachment as they relate to recreational settings, activities, and participants. By way of example, Dr. Kyle has funded and supervised the research of numerous graduate students and has published more than 40 peer reviewed articles in prestigious journals based upon his work with these research projects.

Gerard and his wife Kelly, who is also a graduate of our program, remain closely tied to the PSU-RPTM family. They have 2 small children, Henry and Isabelle. Congratulations Gerard!

2010 College of Health and Human Development Alumni Recognition Award - Dr. Ralph Smith

Ralph Smith is a well respected and much admired Professor Emeritus in Recreation Park and Tourism Management department at Penn State. He joined the faculty in 1987, receiving rank of Associate Professor in 1993 and retiring in 2009. Ralph came to Penn State with undergraduate teaching experience from the University of Maryland as well as previous lecture experience as a Masters student at Penn State. From 2000-2005, Ralph served as the Professor in Charge of the undergraduate program in Recreation, Park and Tourism Management. (He was also on my thesis committee and as the PIC was the person to call me to offer me a teaching position so I have Ralph to thank for this brilliant career move).

Ralph has a distinguished career in the field of Therapeutic Recreation. Through teaching, research and service, Ralph has lived his life in support of the provision of recreation services for people with disabilities. Based on his many years as a practitioner, Ralph’s professional focus on inclusion and awareness of disability and as well on helping students evaluate their own attitudes and the attitudes of others about disability. In the early 1980, Ralph wrote a document that first used the phrase “inclusive programming.” That term and the concept of inclusive programming have served as the basis for opening opportunities for all people for decades. Ralph is famous on campus for teaching the “wheelchair” course in which students spend a day in a wheelchair and then to write about experiencing activities from the perspective of someone with a disability. Ralph used guest speakers in class, letting students hear first hand, how people experience living with a disability. In addition to RPTM 277, Ralph was instrumental in the supervision and administration of RPTM- Therapeutic Recreation option.

Ralph is a member of numerous professional organizations. He has served the community by volunteering and/or serving on the organization boards for Special Olympics, Little League – Challenger Division; Eastern Amputee Golf Association, League for the Handicapped; and was inducted into the Wheelchair Basketball Hall of Fame for his considerable service to the sport of Wheelchair Basketball.

Recently, Ralph has been a leader in providing diversity and inclusion training as an extension of Penn State through his work with the Military Morale Welfare and Recreation program. He has been a key contributor to the MWR Academy which trains recreation professionals to facilitate the inclusion of Wounded Warriors into recreation and hospitality programs. Working with other members of the RPTM team, Ralph is a key contributor to three year training program being held for Department of Defense, Veteran’s Administration and Military/MWR as a “certificate” program for professionals who are welcoming back the wounded warriors from our war efforts abroad. Ralph’s leadership and expertise, particularly as a wounded Viet Nam Veteran, offers professionals who work with our soldiers and their families the tools to include everyone.

Ralph has received numerous professional and teaching awards in his tenure as a faculty member in Recreation Park and Tourism Management. He has written several textbooks to further extend his teaching impact on students in the field of Therapeutic Recreation and through internship. Ralph’s wife, Tammy Smith, is also a member of the RPTM faculty. He remains committed to his Washington Redskins even in the face of extreme adversity. Ralph has 5 children and 6 grandchildren to keep him busy during retirement. Congratulations Ralph!

2010 College of Health and Human Development Alumni Service Award – Joanne Finegan

Since graduating from Penn State in 1983, Joanne has taken on positions with increasing responsibility and profile in the field of Therapeutic Recreation. She has worked her way up from a staff therapist to CEO of ReMED, a nationally known program serving the re-integration needs of people with traumatic brain injuries. Under Joanne’s direction, the programs at ReMED have developed a reputation as state of the art in the provision of services for people with disabilities in a community based, least restrictive environment. While working full-time, Joanne completed her Masters in Administration at West Chester University.

As a professional in the field, Joanne has been an advocate for both the field of Therapeutic Recreation and for people with disabilities. She has served on the board of the Commission for the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals Organization (JCAHO). She has given dozens of presentations within the field of TR as well as to other health professionals about treatment considerations for individuals with disabilities. Joanne has served our profession by lending her expertise to the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) and has served as an adjunct professor in the TR program at Temple University.

Joanne has earned numerous professional awards at the state and national level and is recognized as a leader in the field. In 2007, she was selected as the RPTM Alumni Recognition Award winner.

Joanne Finegan is a strong supporter of Penn State and the RPTM program. ReMED is frequently selected by TR students as an internship site because the students understand they can learn so much about their field at any of the ReMED sites. She has facilitated a strong internship program and accepts our students almost every semester. There are also several of our graduates who are working at ReMED, further evidence of her support for our program. Joanne has also supported the program by encouraging class visits, interview opportunities for class assignments, etc. by her professional staff. In the past, she has approved the use of ReMED staff and patients visiting classes (with transportation costs covered by ReMED) to lend first person accounts of living with a disability. Joanne has also served in an advisory board role for activities at University Park and at the commonwealth campuses.

Joanne has recently offered her service to Penn State as a member of the Inclusive Recreation for Wounded Warriors training team. In conjunction with faculty in the RPTM department, Joanne has been part of a three-year training project that was awarded to Penn State in combination of the Department of Defense, Veterans Administration and Armed Services Morale, Welfare and Recreation. The project provides training to managers in recreation and hospitality on the military installations to assist in the inclusion of veterans and active duty soldiers, sailors and airmen in programs. The goal is to help staff facilitate inclusion of those with disabling conditions into activities of daily life. Joanne is the SME (subject matter expert) in the area of traumatic brain injury. Her presentation (supplemented with a question-answer period of a person living with traumatic brain injury) is always reviewed as one of those most important to the success of the overall presentation. Joanne’s comfort, experience and ease of presentation as well as her obvious knowledge of the topic make her key to the program. Congratulations Joanne!

2010 Emerging Professional Undergraduate Degree Award – Jennifer Bean

Jennifer Emigh Bean is a 2001 graduate of Penn State in RPTM – Outdoor option. Jen was a counselor for Outdoor School while a student and upon graduation accepted a position as an on-site assistant and assistant Program Director at Shaver’s Creek focusing on the environmental and adventure based teaching areas.

Jennifer left Penn State and Shaver’s Creek to return to school. She completed her MS in Environmental Studies in 2007 at Antioch University New England. After working as a Green Design Educator at the Tin Mountain Conservation Center, Jennifer accepted her current position as Corporate Program Director at The Browne Center, University of New Hampshire. In her capacities as Director, Jen works with her staff to develop management and leadership training for corporate clients to facilitate their organization’s goals. Jennifer is widely respected in the field and is recognized as a contributor to the field of teambuilding and leadership and as an alum of Penn State. She has also contributed to the field through articles and guest teaching.

Jennifer Bean personifies the PSU RPTM graduate; committed, caring and giving back to her community. Jennifer and her husband Jeremy, also a Penn State RPTM, met in their RPTM 236 group, live in New England and remain tied to the Penn State Community. Congratulations Jennifer!