UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Patrick Mather, a Penn State alumnus and the Richard E. Garman Dean of Engineering and professor of chemical engineering at Bucknell University, has been named the dean of Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College, effective Aug. 16.
Mather succeeds Peggy A. Johnson, who will retire from the University on Aug. 15 after serving as dean of the Honors College since July 2017 and as a Penn State faculty member for the past 25 years.
“I am delighted that Patrick has decided to return to his academic ‘home’ at Penn State to lead the talented students, faculty and staff who comprise our Schreyer Honors College,” said Nick Jones, Penn State executive vice president and provost. “Patrick brings an impressive record as an administrator, educator, mentor and researcher to this role, and he also possesses a vision and passion for honors education — drawn from personal experience — that inspires excellence. I look forward to our honors scholars achieving even greater heights of academic, civic, personal and professional success under his leadership, and to the college continuing to find new and innovative ways to enrich our students’ lives both in and out of the classroom.”
Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College enrolls nearly 2,000 students — representing 3% of the University’s undergraduate population — across all Penn State campuses and offers more than 300 honors-level courses. Drawing upon select faculty from across the University who offer small classes and seminars, the Schreyer Honors College provides students with extensive opportunities for undergraduate research, study abroad, professional internships, alumni mentoring, and a national forum for innovation and best practices in learning methods. Each year, the college receives more than 4,000 applications for 300 first-year student openings, and there is an additional admissions option for continuing Penn State students.
Reporting directly to Jones, Mather will serve as the college’s academic leader and executive officer, and will be a member of the University’s Academic Leadership Council and the University Park Council of Academic Deans. In addition to providing leadership for the college’s planning, budgeting, fundraising, and student recruitment and retention activities, Mather will oversee the Presidential Leadership Academy, which provides opportunities for select groups of Penn State students to develop leadership fundamentals and critical-thinking skills through classes taught by the dean of the Honors College and the University president. The dean also accompanies students on multiple field trips each year to sites across the country to gain broader perspectives on sociopolitical issues and leadership styles.
“As the next dean, I will embrace the opportunities and challenges I learned about as I met with current scholars, staff, faculty and advisers, and I will do so as a relational leader, investing first in connections I would like to build with others,” Mather said. “Viewing the Schreyer Honors College as a ‘horizontal college’ — one that spans campuses and disciplines — I am excited to lead community-building efforts that draw together students and mentors alike through shared purpose and to partner with all of our campuses and community partners to build pathways to the college for students from diverse backgrounds.”
Mather, who graduated from Penn State in 1989 with a bachelor of science degree in engineering science and in 1990 with a master of science degree in engineering mechanics, said his own experiences as a first-generation student in the College of Engineering and the University Scholars Program — the predecessor to the Schreyer Honors College — significantly influenced his career trajectory and inspired him to remain connected to his alma mater.
“I was drawn to the position by the college’s global excellence, coupled with my own transformative experience in the University Scholars Program,” said Mather. “Since those formative years, I have watched the program grow into the truly distinguished college that it is today — thanks to the generosity of many individuals and the wise leadership of its deans — with activities and a tight-knit community that helps each student achieve ambitious learning outcomes and positions them well to become ethical agents of positive change.”
Mather is returning to Penn State after serving as dean of Bucknell’s College of Engineering for the past five years. Prior to his arrival at Bucknell, Mather was the Milton and Ann Stevenson Professor of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering at Syracuse University from 2007 to 2016. At Syracuse, Mather created and served as founding director of the interdisciplinary Syracuse Biomaterials Institute, and he held the position of faculty chair at Syracuse’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.
From 2004 to 2007, Mather was a tenured associate professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve University, where he established a research program on functional biomaterials. Mather began his academic career in 1999 at the University of Connecticut, where he studied liquid crystalline polymers, hybrid inorganic-organic polymers and fuel cell membranes as an assistant professor before being promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2003. After earning a doctorate in materials engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1994, Mather worked for the Air Force Research Laboratory until 1999, focusing on polymeric nanocomposites.
Mather’s scholarly interests and expertise center on smart materials, including shape memory polymers, self-healing materials, polymeric nanocomposites, and biodegradable polymers for medical devices. He remains active as a researcher and is the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed papers, an inventor on more than 35 patents, and a fellow of both the Society of Plastics Engineers and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.
He is the editor-in-chief of the journal Polymer Reviews and former associate editor of Polymer Bulletin. Mather has won three student-nominated teaching awards, directed more than 100 undergraduate research projects, and prides himself on innovative and engaging teaching methods. He also enjoys traveling to give scientific lectures and has delivered 200 invited lectures to date.