Posted: March 1, 2023

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences alumnus Doug Peck has committed $200,000 from his future estate to create the Douglas R. Peck Food Packaging Endowment in Food Science.

After a successful career in food packaging, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences alumnus Doug Peck has committed $200,000 from his future estate to create the Douglas R. Peck Food Packaging Endowment in Food Science. The program endowment will support opportunities and efforts in the Department of Food Science related to food packaging programming.

“Over the years Doug has been tremendously generous with his time, talent and treasure,” said Bob Roberts, professor and head of the Department of Food Science. “He has taught hundreds of students the fundamentals of food packaging and has been a stalwart member of the department’s alumni Food Industry Group. The endowment he is creating will generate funds to support innovative and exploratory work in food packaging.”

Peck, who earned his undergraduate degree from Lock Haven University, had planned to go to dental school. After changing course, he was exploring graduate science programs at Penn State when he heard some people discussing food science while sitting in the old creamery in the Borland Building. They directed him to the department head, and his future in food science began.

He earned his master’s degree in food science from Penn State in 1977 and started work towards his doctorate but was offered a job by the Heinz Company in Pittsburgh. It was there that his career in food packaging began. It was a career that would take him all over the country and the world.

While at Heinz, Peck was part of the team that created the first plastic ketchup container.

“It was a major technological breakthrough with six different layers of material,” said Peck. “We developed a new plastic with an oxygen barrier and another that kept the ketchup from drying out. Another material gave the bottle its squeezability, while yet another prevented the bottle from losing its structural integrity at high temperatures.”

Following his time at Heinz, Peck spent 15 years with American Whole Foods, a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods, as director of packaging, before moving to Silgan Containers, from which he retired in 2021. In addition, for the past 20 years, Peck has taught food packaging in the Department of Food Science, developing his own textbook.

“I really enjoy teaching food packaging to students,” said Peck. “It’s a field they usually don’t know anything about. They go to the grocery store and see all the packages, but they really don’t have any idea what they’re looking at. I enjoy transmitting the information to the students, who are often just in awe of what they learn.”

Peck is passionate about educating students in food packaging and hopes this program endowment will ensure that students have continued opportunities to explore this ever-changing field. His ultimate wish is that additional funding from other donors one day will provide for a full-time faculty member, under whose teaching and research students can explore new materials and learn about the interaction between food and packaging.

“Whenever I teach at Penn State, students always come up and ask me how they can get into food packaging,” said Peck. “The lectures I give are often their only exposure, so I hope this endowment will help broaden the offerings.”

In addition to this food packaging program endowment, Peck previously committed $50,000 from his estate for an undergraduate scholarship in food science.

“I want to help students along,” said Peck. “Not everyone has the financial means to pursue a college education. If I hadn’t been a scholarship recipient, I wouldn’t have been able to go to college. It’s important to me that the scholarship I create goes to a student who needs the financial assistance, not necessarily a student with the highest GPA.”

Peck is also making an impact in Penn State Extension. He’s currently working on a second edition of the textbook he uses to teach food packaging and is recording lectures that will be available through extension’s online programming.

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