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Weather Center Dedicated For Joel Myers As Penn State Meteorology Turns 75

on July 31, 2010 6:00 PM

It started in 1935 with a single course, then expanded into an undergraduate major by 1947.

Now celebrating its 75th anniversary, the meteorology program at Penn State has grown into one of the largest of its kind. A recent review conducted by department head William Brune suggests that Penn State confers at least 15 percent all bachelor's degrees in meteorology in the U.S.

In fact, Penn State produces more bachelor's degrees in meteorology than any other program in the country, Brune said in an interview. The Penn State undergraduate program counts roughly 3,500 alumni and confers about 60 new degrees each year.

"Clearly, we are a large program, partly because of places like the Myers Weather Center," Brune said. "We're a large program with a small-college feel."

In addition to an early start in meteorology (the Penn State class offerings were among the first at U.S. universities), the program has found success because of its "excellent faculty" and focus on "the cutting edge ... of research and education," Brune said.

That's where the Joel N. Myers Weather Center fits in. Dedicated in July in honor of Myers, the founder of State College-based AccuWeather Inc., the $1.5 million center is located on the sixth floor of Walker Building at University Park. The weather center reopened in January 2009 after a seven-month renovation-and-overhaul project.

Outfitted with high-end forecasting computers and a variety of meeting spaces and computer labs, the center melds advanced technology with human collaboration, relationship-building and practical applications. Brune said a $2 million endowment established by Myers will enable the center to continue its activities, finance its administration and steadily update its technology with the times.

Myers earned bachelor's, masters and doctoral degrees in meteorology from Penn State. He founded AccuWeather in 1962 and has led it to international prominence in private-sector forecasting. Its bulletins and forecasts reach more than 110 million Americans each day; the company counts more than 250,000 clients in media, business and government, among other institutions.

Myers also has served as a Penn State trustee for nearly three decades and is a former faculty member.

"AccuWeather's success has been tied to the Penn State experience in many ways and for many decades," Myers said in an article released by the university. "What I learned from this great university as an undergraduate and graduate student, as a faculty member for 17 years, and then for the past 28 years as a member of the Board of Trustees has been a major factor in my success, in AccuWeather's success and in the success of many people who have been affiliated with Penn State."

He called his $2 million contribution "one way in which I want to say, 'Thank you' for what Penn State has meant to me through my life."

The Joel N. Myers Weather Center, which includes a plaque in his honor and memorabilia chronicling his professional achievements, is an open space with dramatic panoramic views of the Centre Region -- and the sky above. A bank of 36 monitors showcases a variety of weather data and imagery, including live aerial images from major U.S. cities.

A high-tech classroom, a student lounge, a graphics area and conference rooms are incorporated into the new weather center, as well, along with a computer lab featuring 36 individual workstations. The Campus Weather Services and the Weather Communications Group are have headquarters there.

"It's now extremely well-positioned to benefit from the kind of dependable endowed support that Joel's gift will provide," said William Easterling, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, quoted in a university news report.

"One of the most critical needs is to keep up-to-date with technology," Easterling said. "That means replacing computer and other information systems every three or four years, just to keep pace with changes in the state-of-the-art."

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