New chair takes personal approach to healthy aging

The new Jo Anne Leonard Director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research (CHAR) and a nationally recognized leader in her field, Karen Hooker explores how personality affects mental and physical health as people face life-altering experiences such as retirement, launching young adult children, providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease and transitioning into long-term care.

Hooker, professor of Human Development and Family Sciences, believes personality is a driving force behind successful aging, which is becoming incorporated into public health approaches as prevention and healthcare become increasingly tailored to the individual. “We’re on the threshold of an aging world, and we are going to need more people in multiple disciplines looking at aging-related issues,” Hooker said. “This gift is crucial for the long-term viability of our work at CHAR.”

Jo Anne “Jody” Leonard Petersen ’47

Hometown: Silverton, Ore.
Interesting fact: A Home Economics alumna, Jody met her husband-to-be, Donald, at an OSU student dance. He eventually became chairman of Ford Motor Company.
Why gerontology? Jody became interested in gerontology when caring for her own aging parents. “At that time, I found very little research anywhere in the country,” she says. She soon set about changing that by supporting her alma mater.
The endowments: The Jo Anne Leonard Petersen Chair in Gerontology and Family Studies was established in 1995 and is held by Alexis Walker. In 2011, the Jo Anne Leonard Director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research was established, funded by proceeds from two gift annuities valued together at $2 million.

For further reading: Alumna’s gift helps prepare for graying society