Our Founder

Professor Irving Hand initiated the development of the Economic Development Course in Pennsylvania in 1979 (then known as the Basic Economic Development Course). Professor Hand also established the Institute of State and Regional Affairs and the Pennsylvania State Data Center, both of which are still thriving today. 


Professor Hand had more than 60 years of nationally recognized accomplishments in planning. He began his career as City Planner and planning advisor for the City of Yonkers in New York. In 1950, he was recruited to be the first Planning Director of the Tulsa County Oklahoma Planning Commission where he provided leadership in dealing with the growth and development of Tulsa, OK following World War II. Mr. Hand then went on to work for planning commissions in both Nashville, TN and Davidson County, TN. Prior to 1962, in Davidson County, Tennessee, the legislative delegation was elected as a whole until the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Baker v. Carr in 1962 known, in case law, as “one man – one vote.” Hand played a critical role in developing supporting demographic and reapportionment documentation for these proceedings.


In 1964, Hand came to Pennsylvania, appointed by Governor WIlliam Scranton as the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania State Planning Board. While in that position, Professor Hand carried forward the leadership essential to bringing about the State Legislature’s adoption of the Municipalities Planning Code in 1968.  That Code remains in effect today. Professor Hand then joined the faculty of Penn State Harrisburg in 1973 serving as a Professor of State and Regional Planning and chairing the Graduate degree Program in Urban and Regional Planning, as well as, chairing the School of Public Affairs.   


He held a Master of City Planning degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and completed graduate work with the Institute of Public Administration at New York University. He also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in social sciences from the City College of New York. Professor Hand passed away on May 14, 2016 at the age of 94. 


The image below shows the first class of participants at the Basic Economic Development Course in 1987.