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Paul R. Blankenhorn

Ph.D. Forest Resources, 1972

Paul R. Blankenhorn earned a B.S. in aerospace engineering (1966), an M.S. in nuclear engineering (1968), and a Ph.D. in forest resources (1972), all at Penn State. His doctoral degree was the first-ever awarded by the graduate program in the School of Forest Resources. His dissertation research addressed the dynamic mechanical behavior of black cherry (Prunus serotina) and received the Wood Award from the Forest Products Research Society for outstanding research in forest products.

Paul joined the Penn State faculty in the Wood Products program in 1975 with responsibilities in research, teaching, and industry outreach. He taught courses on the anatomical properties of wood, physical and mechanical properties of wood, moisture movement in wood, drying of wood, and wood products environmental pollution control. His drew on his expertise in these areas to develop the Kiln Operator’s Short Course for industry personnel.

Throughout his career, Paul assisted Pennsylvania’s wood products industries with their research and production needs, particularly in gaining efficiencies in the lumber drying process, evaluating wood emissions, and gaining greater yields from the timber resource. As a measure of his continued ties to industry, with the completion of the Forest Resources Building in 2006, Paul was recognized by the Weaber Corporation by the naming of the Wood Physics Laboratory. 

Paul’s research efforts resulted in three patents and the publication of more than 100 refereed publications in the areas of kiln drying of wood, wood polymer composites, wood processing, preservative treatment of wood, physical and mechanical properties of wood, wood cement composites, evaluation of wood biomass as an energy source, and evaluation of hardwoods and preservative-treated hardwoods in timber bridges.

In July 2004, Paul was appointed associate director for academic programs in the School of Forest Resources, and provided leadership on all matters relating to School’s undergraduate degree programs until his retirement.

He received the School of Forest Resources Outstanding Faculty Award in 2005.

He served as a formal member of the BLT Architects/Gilbane Engineering planning and building committees during the construction of the Forest Resources Building, 2003 to 2006.

Paul served the profession in various capacities. He is a past president of the Society of Wood Science and Technology. He has also been active in the Forest Products Society (FPS) as the Fundamental Discipline Technical Division Coordinator, chair of technical committees, member of the FPS Annual Meeting Committee, and a member of the Board of Trustees for the FPS Northeast Section. He was a member of the U.S. EPA Review Board on Approval and Use of Wood Preservatives, and a member of Major League Baseball’s Select Committee on Durability of Wood Baseball Bats.

His public service in the State College region includes Scout leader; competitive swimming official for YMCA, PIAA, NCAA, U.S. Swimming, and Pennsylvania Special Olympics; and president of the State College YMCA AquaLions Swim Team Parents Association. He was one of four founding members of the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of Trout Unlimited and has served the chapter in various officer positions.

Paul, now professor emeritus of wood technology, retired in June 2008 after 36 years of service at Penn State. He and his wife Janet enjoy residences in the State College area and in North Carolina; they have two children and four grandchildren.