Henry D. Gerhold

B.S. Forestry 1952; Master of Forestry, 1954

Henry D. "Hank" Gerhold completed the B.S. forestry degree in 1952, and spent two summers working in Montana and Idaho with the U.S. Forest Service. He returned to Penn State in the fall as a graduate student, studying herbicide controls of scrub oak. After completing the M.F. in 1954 he worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Pennsylvania and Maine.

Gerhold was soon enticed to start on a Ph.D. degree at Yale’s School of Forestry. After two years of doctoral studies, Penn State called him back in fall 1956 to conduct research on the genetics of Christmas trees. His responsibilities were such that he could complete his doctoral research (on genetics of needle discoloration in Scotch pine) part-time and embark on an academic career. He earned the Ph.D. in 1959, was soon appointed assistant professor, and moved up through the ranks to professor of forest genetics in 1969. He retired in December 2007 as the longest-serving faculty member in the School of Forest Resources to date.

Gerhold taught several courses over the years including Seeding and Planting, Forestry Careers, Dendrology, and Forest Genetics. He published widely on the genetic improvement of Christmas trees, landscape trees, and timber species. The improved varieties of Scotch pine and Douglas-fir he developed have been planted by Christmas tree growers in several states.

Gerhold served as the chairman of graduate studies from 1964 to 1985, as assistant director for research and graduate studies from 1985 to 1992, as chairman of the intercollege graduate program in genetics from 1978 to 1982, as interim director of the School in 1988, and as faculty representative on the SFR Alumni Group Board of Directors from 1999 to 2007. He provided major assistance in laying the groundwork for establishing a chair in urban forestry. Mr. Joseph Ibberson has willed two million dollars to fund the chair, which will allow Penn State to continue developing expertise in the field and offer students excellent opportunities.

Gerhold led the Extension program in urban and community forestry that started in 1990. He worked diligently with others in Pennsylvania to develop and implement programs in urban tree restoration and urban forestry. Street Tree Factsheets and Landscape Tree Factsheets, which he co-edited, and also the Landscape Tree Factsheets CD have been very popular throughout North America as illustrated guides for selecting species and cultivars for towns and cities.

He helped establish the Metropolitan Tree Improvement Alliance (METRIA), a national organization, in 1973 along with his Penn State colleague Dr. Kim Steiner. To this day, METRIA brings urban foresters, nurserymen, ecologists, arboretum staff, and geneticists together to improve the quality of landscape trees grown in metropolitan regions.

Gerhold was instrumental in starting the unique urban forestry partnership between Penn State and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, and in the creation of the Pennsylvania Urban and Community Forestry Council to implement the America The Beautiful Program. This partnership has enabled the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to make great strides in urban forestry research, education, and application.

Gerhold published two books in 2007. A Century of Forest Resources Education presents a detailed history of the School of Forest Resources, and A Forester’s Legacy explores the life of Joseph E. Ibberson.

Gerhold’s awards include the 1992 Pennsylvania Forestry Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Urban and Community Forestry, the National Arbor Day Foundation's 1995 Book Award for Street Tree Factsheets, the 1998 Education Award of the Utility Arborists Association, and the 2003 Dr. Joseph Trimble Rothrock Conservationist of the Year Award of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association. He was also honored as an Alumni Centennial Fellow of Penn State Mont Alto in 2003.

April 2008