Five College of LAS faculty members have been named as university endowed chairs or professors, an honor awarded to the highly distinguished scholars for their excellence and prominence in research, teaching and service. They are among nine professors chosen across campus.
“An endowed chair is among the highest honors bestowed to faculty at our university,” said Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost John Coleman. “The remarkable accomplishments of these scholars make them leading and field-shaping voices in their respective fields. We are grateful for their role in making our university one of the best in the world and for the societal impact of their work across the nation and across the globe.”
Christopher Freeburg, a professor of English, was selected as the inaugural Presidential Humanities and Social Science Chairs. The endowment, with funds invested by the University of Illinois System president, is intended to support humanities and social sciences scholars whose research focuses on innovation and discovery.
Freeburg is the former John A. and Grace W. Nicholson Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences and has an appointment in the Unit for Criticism & Interpretive Theory. He is a distinguished critic of African American literature and culture. His recently published book, “Counterlife: Slavery after Resistance and Social Death,” advances the position that the last half-century of scholarship on slavery in the Americas is rooted in emergent sociology and social theory of the 1950s.
Charles Gammie, a professor of astronomy and physics, has been named an Ikenberry Endowed Chair. Established in honor of Stanley O. Ikenberry’s tenure as the 14th president of the university, the Ikenberry Chair honors a distinguished faculty member. Gammie is a leading theoretical and computational astrophysicist and is distinguished in the field for his command of both the theory of general relativity and mathematics. He formerly held the Donald Biggar Willett Chair in Engineering.
James Imlay, a professor of microbiology, is a newly appointed Swanlund Endowed Chairs. The Swanlund Chairs recognize current faculty members who have made exceptional contributions in their fields. Imlay’s research has led to a greater understanding of oxidative stress in bacteria.
Oxygen is a reactive chemical that was absent when life evolved, and its presence poses a problem for contemporary organisms, many of which are poorly equipped to cope with its toxic effects. Studies of the model bacterium E. coli have identified the molecular injuries that oxygen and its derivatives, superoxide and hydrogen peroxide, can create.This work has also revealed a wide variety of strategies by which cells defend themselves against it.
Andrew Leakey, a professor of plant biology, was named the Michael Aiken Chair. Established in honor of former Illinois Chancellor Michael Aiken for his devotion to enhancing the quality of teaching, research and service across campus, the chair honors a distinguished faculty member. Leakey is an internationally recognized leader in genomic ecology and global change biology. His research focuses on plant water use efficiency and photosynthesis; plant responses in natural and agricultural ecosystems to global environmental change; and adaptation of food and fuel crops to global environmental change.
Brent Roberts, a professor of psychology, has been named Gutgsell Endowed Chair/Professors. Gutgsell endowed appointments were established by Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell to promote faculty development and to ensure high achievement.
Roberts is a foremost expert on personality and its development in adulthood. His three major lines of research, considered to have fundamentally changed the field, are clarifying when and how personality traits change; identifying individual differences in personality traits impact on key life outcomes; and providing a comprehensive understanding of conscientiousness.
Other honorees on campus included D. Fairchild Ruggles, a professor of landscape architecture, inaugural Presidential Humanities and Social Science Chair; Klara Nahrstedt, a professor of computer science, newly appointed Swanlund Endowed Chair; and Cynthia Oliver, a professor of dance and special advisor to the chancellor for arts integration at Illinois, and Chrystalla Mouza, a professor and dean of the College of Education, named Gutgsell Endowed Chair/Professors.